Workshop to scope and preselect indicators for criterion D3C3 under MSFD decision (EU) 2017/848 (WKD3C3SCOPE).

The workshop to scope and preselect indicators for Descriptor 3 criterion 3 under MSFD Commission Decision (EU) 2017/848 (WKD3C3SCOPE) provided a platform for experts from the EU member states and relevant regional bodies to meet and support development and progress the assessment methodology, based on a request by the EC (DGENV). WKD3C3SCOPE is the first of a series of three workshops (WKD3C3THRESHOLDS and WKSIMULD3) to provide guidance in relation to operational indicators for MSFD D3C3.

The workshop was organized as a series of presentations with intermittent group discussions. On the first day of the workshop the participants discussed what defines a ‘healthy population structure’ for species with different life history traits (ToR a). During the following days, the group discussed and identified relevant D3C3 indicators (ToR b) and developed criteria to select among the identified D3C3 indicators to allow further testing and setting of thresholds at WKD3C3THRESHOLDS (ToR c).

The participants found that overall, healthy fish stocks are characterized by high productivity, wide age and size structuring in the population, and the ability to quickly recover from disturbances. The groups noted that environmental factors, along with stock biomass and fishing pressure, influence the productivity and health of a stock, with environment playing a particularly large role in the recruitment of short-lived stocks. It was suggested that the age structure of a stock might be more relevant for evaluating the health of long-lived stocks. However, it was acknowledged that not all stocks have sufficient data to evaluate all proposed indicators, and a single indicator is unlikely to suffice for all stocks. Data availability, species-specific factors and regional or sub-regional variation are thus also important considerations.
In relation to ToR b, the participants presented their work on potential indicators including: recruitment time-series, proportion of fish larger than the mean size of first sexual maturation, Frec/Fbar, length distribution L90, relative proportion of old fish above A90, indicators of spawner quality, and SSB/R. A discussion on pros/cons, benefits to the population of high or low indicator values, benefits supported by empirical evidence, applicability to data-poor stocks and benefits supported by simulation/theoretical considerations followed the presentations.

Finally, in relation to ToR c, the difficulty emerged in ranking the indicators alone without considering the data used to estimate them and a new set of evaluation criteria for use in WKD3C3THRESHOLDS were defined.

Based on the outputs of the meeting a list of indicators to be further evaluated has been drafted, which also emphasizes the stocks for which studies have empirically demonstrated effects on productivity. In addition to the listed indicators, indicators of genetic diversity and proportion of fish with parasite infestation were mentioned but to the knowledge of the participants, widespread data for these are currently not publicly available.

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ICES (2023). Workshop to scope and preselect indicators for criterion D3C3 under MSFD decision (EU) 2017/848 (WKD3C3SCOPE). ICES Scientific Reports/Rapports scientifiques du CIEM. 5 (87). 37pp..,

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