The creation of localized territorial use rights can serve to meet efficiency criteria by producing a rent to the resource that, under the condition of free and open access, is generally dissipated. Who gets that rent or value is a different matter and should be considered in terms of equity rather than efficiency criteria.
Some territorial use rights have been, and are being, acquired by individuals. This is frequently the case for the culture of sedentary species -- either on the bottom or on rafts. It also appears to have occured with regard to fish aggregation devices (FADs) where individuals have protected, sometimes by force and without legal support, an exclusive right to determine who shall fish within a territory around the FAD.
If there is a widespread extension of localized TURFs in the hands of individuals, it could be detrimental to the welfare of small-scale fishing communities. It would reduce access to fishery resources. But it would also, and perhaps more significantly, make the fishermen dependent upon the TURF owner, or “sea lord”, whose interests would tend to be in reducing labour costs either by employing fewer fishermen or by paying low wages. Without satisfactory controls, the creation of exclusive rights in fishing areas could recapitulate the experience of inequitable distribution of land ownership.
Theoretically, it would be possible to provide some compensation to the fishermen or fishing communities by fully extracting the resource rents, by taxes or other means, that are created by the localized TURFs and by granting the rents, directly or indirectly, to the fishermen. In practice, however, this would be difficult to do. And, in addition, it is unlikely that economic compensation would be sufficient to make up for the loss of access to, or control over, the resources.
On the other hand, the creation of localized TURFs and the granting of the TURFs to fishing communities offers possibilities for significant increases in the welfare of those communities that acquire them. Under ideal conditions, the TURFs could provide for local control over the resources within the territory and could permit local determination of the objectives to be derived. The community, would be in a position to choose whether it wishes to extract resource rents, to increase the income levels of its fishermen, to increase employment opportunities, or to achieve some combination of these goals. It could also determine the kind of gear to be used, the technological innovations to adopt, the time and seasons of fishing, and other management measures. With exclusive territorial rights it would have a strong incentive for ensuring that the management measures are respected.
Although ideal conditions will never exist, the possibilities of partially achieving the above results are sufficiently high to warrant further studies of the concept of localized TURFs. Such studies should deal, in part, with further and more detailed examinations of the conditions permitting the creation of localized TURFs or the maintenance and enhancement of traditional territorial rights. The studies should also focus on the ways in which the benefits of traditional systems are shared or distributed and should seek to identify the kinds of controls over newly created TURFs that would ensure equitable distribution of benefits both within communities acquiring the rights and among neighbouring communities of small-scale fishermen.