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Adaptive Harvest Management

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Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) is the tool for selecting duck hunting regulations used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the flyways and states. Key components of AHM are agreement on goals of mallard harvest management, a limited number of regulatory alternatives, and alternative models of population dynamics. The alternative models reflect disagreement among managers regarding effects of hunting regulations on harvest and population size.

With AHM, the setting of hunting regulations involves a repeating process:
  1. each year, an optimal regulation is identified based on mallard population size and habitat status, and on the relative ability of alternative models to mimic population dynamics
  2. after the regulatory decision is made, each population model is used to predict mallard breeding population size the following year
  3. when monitoring data become available, models that more accurately predict observed population size gain credibility, while those models that are poor predictors lose credibility
  4. the new assessments of model credibility are used to start another repeat of the process.

AHM has reduced some of the contentiousness with setting duck regulations and focused discussions on learning and improving our understanding of mallard population dynamics. AHM has already increased our understanding of how hunting affects mallard populations and has lead to some stability in annual hunting regulations.

Major challenges to AHM in the near future are incorporating or accommodating other duck species into the process, understanding and deciding how the North American Waterfowl Management Plan goals should be used or not used in the AHM process and if hunter satisfaction should take a role in determining which regulatory alternative is selected by the AHM process.

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