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1.1  Manpower Shortages in Data Collection

The manpower and budget for covering all aspects of the fisheries sector available to the relevant government departments of developing countries is usually very limited, reflecting in part the governmental priorities in fisheries relative to other sectors of the economy, and in part, the total size of the budget itself. Because of these limitations, economics of scale are impossible, and often one, or only a few officers are provided to cover all of the many functions coming under the heading of fisheries; e.g., registration of fishermen, fishermen's affairs, fishery regulations and their surveillance, advice on resources and their assessment, marketing, as well as on fisheries development issues. Collection of basic statistics will often be perceived to be low in the order of priorities, and may be neglected, particularly since the collection of data is seen to be mainly useful for long-term planning. In the absence of staff and facilities to properly record, store and analyse the data, collecting statistics may seem at first sight, to be less important than the day-to-day priorities with which the officer is faced. An approach that takes account of these limitations is illustrated with particular reference to small island states, but has obvious applications elsewhere.

While suggesting that such an approach is mistaken, it is recognized that because of the small-scale of the population under investigation and the limited staff, many statistical survey techniques applicable to large countries are inapplicable to many small states. Some approaches to cost-effective and statistically efficient survey techniques are suggested here, while recognizing that the priorities suggested in this document will still in many cases, require administrators to reprioritize activities from their own local perception of available objectives and resources. Nonetheless, the systematic application of effort towards developing sources of information outside the Fisheries Department, especially with cooperation of fishermen and industry, will ensure that the officers do not depend exclusively on first-hand collection of information, but spend more time on checking the quality of the produced statistics, and the processing, presentation and interpretation of the results for government policy-making.

Although very precise statistical estimates of magnitude expressed by their sampling variances will not usually be obtainable, it seems likely that important trends, problem areas and opportunities will still be identified by a limited, but integrated statistical service, and can be the basis of informal action by administration.

Collection of statistics is not an end in itself, but is essential for well-informed policy decisions taken by government or the fishing industry. This information may be used by policy-makers, or as necessary input to various specialized analyses. Just what these analyses should be is beyond the scope of this document, but an attempt has been made to suggest what type of information is required, with what frequency it is needed in each case, and how it should be collected. The main questions underlying these applications are considered to fall under the following headings:

1.2 What is the Present State of the Resources?

Will increased fishing pressure produce more food, and if so, at what cost? Alternatively (as is the case for many island shelves) will the yield only decline with further effort? Determining which of these alternatives applies is crucial to deciding what proportion of investment should be in the catching sector, are in other sectors, including management. We need here current data on catch rates by key species, on species composition, and current estimates of total landings by area captured, in order to make an assessment of the state of resources. Current estimates are also needed on the number of boats actively fishing (both foreign and domestic), the number of days fishing per trip by the fleet, and the number of trips per month, as well as the gear vessel type used.

Transshipments and imports of fish need to be distinguished from those locally caught to avoid double counting. Some data are needed on size and distribution for properly identified key species and their catch rates.

1.3 What is the Economic Performance of the Primary Fishery Sector?

Some of the questions that will require special information to answer in this sector are: How is the economic performance assisted or otherwise affected by various actions of the government and private sector? What is the ratio of return to input of private and government investment in the fisheries sector? For these purposes, information is needed on fish prices (at various levels of transaction) for the various categories of fish, and how these respond to changes in supply, and on the prices received at landing points and on costs of catching, processing, and distribution of locally caught fish, both in the country and for export. In many cases it will prove advantageous to consider different approaches to information collecting for artisanal versus industrial fisheries.

1.4 What are the Fishermen's Earnings?

What are the impacts of government policies on the fishermen, e.g., in enabling them to finance purchase and replacement of equipment, boats and fishing gear? Are these materials in good supply at reasonable prices? Are suitable sources of credit available? Data on these points need to be collected and maintained in the Fisheries Department's records.

Cost-earnings data are required for assessing the economic viability of the operating fishing units and the provision of information on gross revenues, operating costs and earnings of the fishing units.

1.5 What do Fisheries Contribute to the National Food Supply?

Are all sectors of the population receiving supplies of fresh, processed or frozen fish and how much is being consumed of local versus imported fish? Building of an information base of this type may not be solely the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Agriculture, and will often need to be tackled in cooperation with other government sectors.

1.6 What are the Net Earnings of Foreign Exchange from Fisheries?

Here we must include expenditures of foreign exchange for importation of boats, engines, fuel, fishing gear, etc., as well as of fish imports (canned, dried, fresh or salted), and foreign exchange earnings from fish exports in order to arrive at a proper balance for the sector. Unrecorded sales (over the side) or national landings in adjacent territories need to be included here, even if such estimates are very provisional.

All of the above questions are interdependent, and the answers to some of the later ones will depend on knowing the state of the resources. For example, the effective economic returns to the national economy as a whole from investment in new vessels depends not only on costs and earnings of these vessels, but also the degree to which their catches (by competing for limited resources) will cause changes in catch rates, and hence changes in income plus economic performance for existing vessels. Reference is made to Troadec (1983), MacKenzie (1983), Christy (1982) and Panayotou (1982) for more background on considerations related to the economics of fisheries.

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