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The new Law of the Sea, which has now been accepted in principle, can be interpreted as the first successful attempt to share world fishery resources between countries. The increasing scarcity of as yet partly exploited and easily valorized stocks played a large part in this development. With a total of 75 million t in 1979, the present world production probably represents three-quarters of what fishery resources could produce in the present economic and technological context (FAO, 1979a and 1981). Even so, this prospect has already been reduced due to delays in setting up appropriate management schemes in the most heavily exploited fisheries and by the increase of the relative cost of energy.

The drop, starting in 1972, of the rate of expansion of world production from an average figure of about 6.5 percent per year to an average percentage of the order of one percent shows that, in global terms, the period of abundance has now been passed. The limited character of the resources is not the only factor to have become a reality. Other limiting factors have also become obvious or better appreciated, particularly population pressure and the low mobility in the artisanal fisheries of a number of developing countries (Panayotou, 1982), the cost of energy or the slowness of the progress achieved in transfers of technology and gains of efficiency in the fisheries of various developing countries (Troadec, in preparation).

The impopularity of political decisions changing the distribution of profits, the technical and administrative complexities of management (especially those resulting from the apparent discrepancy between its macro and microscopic aspects), and the coercive aspects of the application of regulations explain why there are some who doubt its usefulness. However, the benefits which can be expected from management certainly outweigh those of development. The gross economic value of the potential still to be developed in the present technical and economic context is small overall1 compared to that of the catches obtained previously. The difference is even more marked when we compare net profits. In fact, the stocks to be developed add, to a lower average market value, fishing costs which are higher on the average because they are more dispersed in the sea. By comparison, the net profits which can be derived from better management of the existing fisheries are several times higher. The full realization of fishery potentialities therefore depends on management. The acuteness of the conflicts which are arising in the fisheries of a number of countries (depressed situation of certain artisanal fisheries in the developing countries, conflicts between artisanal and commercial fishing, etc.) make the problem even more urgent.

The authority the countries have now acquired makes it possible for them to go beyond the simple conservation of resources to which management was confined under the old system. The countries can now consider ways to reduce the considerable economic and social losses which go with full access to resources and the resulting excessive competition, and can work to improve the distribution of the benefits thus obtained between the different components of their societies.

This will probably involve considerable changes in management practices. The system of catch quotas, both global and national, commonly used in the international fisheries should be replaced by other more complete methods (limitation of total catch capacities through issue of fishing licences and control over gains of efficiency, direct allocation to fishermen of individual sections of stocks which are only slightly mobile or of individual catch quotas - for stable stocks whose catches can be controlled). In the selection of these methods and their application special attention should be paid to obtaining the direct participation of fishermen in the management of the fisheries which provide their livelihood.

Such participation depends on creating sufficient economic incentives to reduce excessive competition. To achieve this it is advisable that the allocation of resources should go beyond the network established by the EEZ and also be applied inside national sectors. Such measures as the assignment of sections of stocks, exclusive fishing rights in determined areas, or catch quotas to individuals or to specific fishermen's communities are undoubtedly limited in application. Nevertheless, they constitute a highly promising strategy to offset the harmful consequences of the free exploitation of resources. This is one of the basic principles of the regulatory system of the Japanese coastal fisheries, and has undoubtedly contributed to its success even if it is still far from perfect (Herrington, 1971). In line with this reasoning, it may be worthwhile to examine, among the various traditional customary rights, the systems which could be usefully revised and legalized. Indeed many traditional societies - even in technically advanced countries - have developed over the centuries very useful solutions to the difficult problem of control over fishery and the distribution of the fish resource among fishermen (Cordell, 1981); these are schemes whose advantages modern fishery science and administration, being more concerned with that aspect of the problem which is ultimately specific to the time and space scale of international fisheries, have often overlooked.

1 Obviously there are major differences in the respective prospects of different regions

By delegating to fishermen a share (which varies according to the characteristics of the stocks, their fishing and the legal system of the fisheries) of the responsibility for the application of regulations, one would at the same time substantially reduce the cost and complexity of the tasks of monitoring and control. This is an acute need, especially in the developing countries whose administrative capacities are still small.

Unfortunately, the mobility of resources which characterizes sea fisheries limits these prospects. Even if in many cases one could reduce the size of the exploitation units to which specific resources can be assigned, a large part of the stocks will always have to be exploited jointly. The rationalization of their fishery will therefore depend on the possibilities of obtaining a consensus and exercising a central authority.

In many developing countries the traditional fishermen's communities need special attention.

The fact that their income has remained lower than that of other comparable socioprofessional categories is due, rather than to lack of management to their scarce mobility, which itself is due, among other things, to their high specialization. In order to correct these disparities and involve the fishermen in management (which is the condition of progress in this sector) the State could envisage giving up part of the income from the resource for their benefit with the aim of increasing their mobility through improvement of their income.

To develop their fisheries, countries also have the possibility of using control of fishing, and particularly that of catch capacities and their distribution among the various national fisheries, as the foremost tool of development. Bearing in mind the dynamic of fisheries which encourages both present and potential participants to invest when and as long as they obtain net profits, one can imagine that the national administrations and both the national and international development agencies have attached too much importance in the past to the direct promotion of investments (particularly in the production sector) and not enough to the improvement and control of the environment and the conditions in which each fishery operates (Troadec, in preparation). In this respect it is significant that the establishment of a system for licensing vessels and controlling fishing capacities of fisheries which are still only partly developed (Japanese deep sea fisheries, Kasahara, 1964; Western Australia shrimp fishery, Meany, 1978) should be cited as a major contributing factor of their expansion (through the guarantees of stability and security which the control plan offered the fishermen and shipowners). The same dynamic could be used to promote the development of as yet little exploited stocks. The administration could offer potential investors a limited number of fishing licences so as to assure such investors that newcomers will not come in too large numbers to further reduce the profits they can expect from their development effort and the risks they have agreed to take.

In fact, development and management should be considered simultaneously and should stem from a long-term view of the improvement of national fisheries considered as a whole. The advantage of a global approach covering all the components (stocks, fleets, fishermen) constituting fisheries within sufficiently large management units appears, at the operational level, to be a condition of progress. Otherwise, it will be difficult to offset the losses of efficiency which have been common with past approaches that are too fragmentary or too specific in view of the very great difficulties raised by the application of regulations. To formulate more effective development and management strategies it is necessary to start from a global balance (even though it may be cursory) of national fisheries. Such evaluations are important in order to accurately assess the respective prospects of the different fisheries, the options their development offers in the context of the main objectives of national economic development, the conflicts between objectives and the possibilities of reducing them, and the major constraints. These evaluations could subsequently consider the following aspects:

  1. inventories of fisheries and their structure: fleets, fishermen, utilization of their production, markets, etc.;

  2. the links between these elements, so as to identify the fisheries which could be administered separately, their relationships and the connections between groups of fishermen and the various resources within each fishery, and what possibilities the fishermen have of changing them;

  3. clarification of objectives and reduction of the possible conflicts between them;

  4. analysis of development and management options, i.e., of the constraints and risks attached to them;

  5. the formulation of a global fisheries policy (Doucet, Pearse and Troadec, 1981).

When this framework will have been created, a plan of actions (investments, management schemes, training, etc.) can be set up efficiently and implemented. Obtaining a consensus of the parties concerned at the different national management plans will give national administrations the reference frames without which it could be extremely difficult for them to adopt and apply the decisions necessary to the sound utilization of national fishery resources. In view of the tendency toward over-capitalization and over-exploitation to which fisheries are subject due to the common nature of the limited character of resources and the difficulties of regulating access to them, without such an overall view and such a consensus the evolution of national fisheries will probably continue to be difficult to control.

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