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6.1 States and users of living aquatic resources should conserve aquatic ecosystems. The right to fish carries with it the obligation to do so in a responsible manner so as to ensure effective conservation and management of the living aquatic resources.

Responsibility for management Inland waters differ from most marine environments in that in that the primary responsibility for decisions affecting the environment and it living aquatic components rarely lies with the fishery authorities but with some other agency. Fisheries interests are therefore peripheral to the policy making and allocation process in most countries. The following remarks expand on the consequences of this line of responsibility for conservation and management of the fishery.

The value of aquatic ecosystems lies in the sustained net benefits derived from the many goods and services they supply including various ecological functions, products for direct and indirect human consumption, energy, aesthetic and recreational benefits, and assimilative capacity of residues of human activities. Trade-offs between the net benefits of one use vis-à-vis those that can be derived from other uses are usually necessary. Ideally, the preferred combination of the various uses would result in the optimization of sustained aggregate net benefits over time from the ecosystem. In practice, our understanding of complex ecosystems is insufficient to predict all present and future impacts of changes in the uses of different components of the ecosystems. As an essentially non-polluting and non-degrading activity, well managed capture fisheries do not usually subtract from the benefits which other users can derive from inland aquatic ecosystems. On the other hand, maintaining the integrity of these fisheries may place constraints on alternative uses of the aquatic ecosystem such as the generation of energy, sinks for pollutants, and abstractions for irrigation. Frequently, fisheries have been accorded lower priority because of the perception that alternative uses contribute more to society’s welfare.

Conservation of the aquatic ecosystem: Conservation of inland aquatic resources should be viewed within the multi-purpose use of river and lake basins. In most inland waters the principle constraints on the system and its living components come from human activities other than fishing. Government, at all levels from central to local authorities should set up mechanisms to conserve living aquatic resources compatible with the sustainable use of the basin, the aquatic ecosystem and the water for the whole range of economic and social purposes.

User pays principle: Users of the water and the basin should minimize any deleterious effects and contribute to the mitigation of any impacts of their activities and to rehabilitate the systems when the need for their activity has ceased. The OECD definition of the polluter pays principle is as follows:

1. The Polluter-Pays Principle constitutes for [OECD] Member countries a fundamental principle of allocating costs of pollution prevention and control measures introduced by the public authorities in Member countries;

2. The Polluter-Pays Principle, ....., means that the Polluter should bear the expenses of carrying out the measures, as specified in the previous paragraph, to ensure that the environment is in an acceptable state. In other words, the cost of these measures should be reflected in the cost of goods and services which cause pollution in production and/or consumption;

3. Uniform application of this principle, through the adoption of a common basis for Member countries’ environmental policies, would encourage the rational use and the better allocation of scarce environmental resources and prevent the appearance of distortions in international trade and investment.

In principle the contribution by those damaging the resource should be total but this is rarely realizable. Government contributions to mitigation should be seen as a subsidy to the industry. Another generally undesirable form of subsidy is to allow the environment either permanently or temporarily, to bear the cost of the abuse, in which case the cost of the degraded state of the environment will be reflected in the lessened value of the aquatic system for society and a delayed bill for the rehabilitation of the system in the future.

Participation of fishers in the policy making process: Fishers or their representatives should participate in the setting of priorities for basin use representing the interests of the fishery and contributing to the mitigation of any undesirable effects of their own activities.

6.2 Fisheries management should promote the maintenance of the quality, diversity and availability of fishery resources in sufficient quantities for present and future generations in the context of food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Management measures should not only ensure the conservation of target species but also of species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target species.

The nature of inland fishery resources: Fundamental differences exist between fisheries in lakes and reservoirs compared to those in rivers. Lake fisheries tend to be more independent of short term climatic effects, to be based on a relatively small number of target species and to be located in closed systems. Rivers are highly influenced by year-to-year variations in rainfall, the fisheries are based on large numbers of species and the systems are open. Reservoirs cover a range of possibilities intermediate between rivers and lakes. Management strategies should reflect these differences.

General impacts of fishery management: It is impossible to operate a fishery without affecting the original equilibrium of the native stock of fishes. Furthermore much of modern management practice deliberately seeks to influence the composition of the fish fauna to correspond to the requirements of society by introducing new species, eliminating those that are considered undesirable and stocking with those seen as valuable.

The types of fishery: Fisheries with simple gears targeting resources with few species and stable hydrological regimes can be assessed using simple, conventional dynamics models. Regulations can therefore be based on traditional criteria such as limitations on mesh size, length at first capture, numbers of fishers, quotas etc. The multi-species, multi-gear fisheries pursued in waters with the unstable hydrological regimes characteristic of many tropical waters are not amenable to such models and require more flexible approaches, usually by limiting access, that adapt to fluctuations in the stock and the environment.

6.3 States should prevent overfishing and excess fishing capacity and should implement management measures to ensure that fishing effort is commensurate with the productive capacity of the fishery resources and their sustainable utilization. States should take measures to rehabilitate populations as far as possible and when appropriate.

Overfishing: Biologically it is relatively easy to judge the exploitation status of single species fisheries in terms of maximum sustainable or maximum economic yield. This process becomes more difficult in the case of multi-species fisheries where the same level of catch may be sustained over a wide range of effort but where characteristic changes occur in exploited fish assemblages whereby the larger species and individuals are progressively eliminated from the fishery and there is a resulting downward drift in the size of fish caught. When this happens the fact that more effort is expended to produce the same catch indicates that there is economic overfishing. The extent of rent dissipation would depend on the comparative values of the catch comprising different species of either mostly large or mostly small individuals as well as the cost of redundant fishing effort. In artisanal and subsistence fisheries, the latter may be small because of the low opportunity cost of labour, much of it of a part-time nature, and the inexpensive nature of the fishing inputs. The change in the value of the catch may also be small as consumers shift their preferences in line with the available fish species and size classes. Therefore, rent dissipation in such circumstances may be limited and, in any case, often costly to avoid because of the difficulty of either defining, allocating and protecting well-specified rights over the fishery resources or to limit fishing effort through administrative means. The most cost-effective management regime may often be to assign rights to groups or communities of fishers which may guarantee that some resource rent can actually be captured. With regard to biological overfishing, this can be determined using conventional models for single species fisheries. In multi-species situations overfishing can only be determined with respect to assigned target groups. Only when effort reaches such a level that there is an overall decline in catch can the assemblage as a whole be considered to be overfished. However, before reaching this stage, economic overfishing is likely to occur in the form of redundant fishing capacity and decreased net benefits.

Productive capacity: In many inland waters fisheries are enhanced with the express intention of exceeding natural carrying capacity. This may either be done by creating artificial faunas (by introductions, stocking and elimination of unwanted species), that utilize the available food resources more efficiently, through the fertilization of the water or through artificially engineering the environment to correspond better to the needs of the fish. Developers should apply such methods with caution and initially confine them to enclosed areas where there is little danger of damaging non-target ecosystems. In other areas efforts in support of endangered fish populations should be made to rehabilitate ecosystems damaged by pollution and environmental modification, by physical interventions or by systematic stocking using established protocols.

6.4 Conservation and management decisions for fisheries should be based on the best scientific evidence available, also taking into account traditional knowledge of the resources and their habitat, as well as relevant environmental, economic and social factors. States should assign priority to undertake research and data collection in order to improve scientific and technical knowledge of fisheries including their interaction with the ecosystem. In recognizing the transboundary nature of many aquatic ecosystems, States should encourage bilateral and multilateral co-operation in research, as appropriate.

Scientific evidence available: The present general state of biological knowledge of the functioning of inland aquatic systems for fisheries is more than adequate for the formulation of generalized policies for conservation and management. Because of the fragmentary and dispersed nature of inland systems knowledge of individual systems is far from complete, however. Acquiring full information on the numerous water bodies in existence would be prohibitively expensive and limnologists and fishery biologists have elaborated generalized models that are adequate for broad decision making at the capture fisheries level. As inputs into any system increase or where the impacts of a management intervention external to the fishery need to be established there will be a need to verify generalized models in the case of the individual water body or water course concerned. Knowledge of the social and economic factors regulating the fishery are generally less available because there has been a far shorter tradition of investigation into these concerns.

Drawing on traditional knowledge: One solution to the constraints imposed by the diffuse nature of the resource is to use local and traditional knowledge. Most rivers, reservoirs and lakes are fished and the fishers are well aware of the general biology of the fish species involved, their breeding seasons, migration patterns, responses to fishing methods, etc. Equally traditional systems have been developed in many parts of the world for management of fisheries, integrating local experience and needs of various participant groups. Unfortunately, the pace of change over the past decades has destroyed many of the traditional management and knowledge systems. Efforts are needed to study and document surviving local management systems and knowledge bases so that they can be improved, adapted and applied to the changing conditions within the individual basin.

Multinational rivers, reservoirs and lakes: Many lake, reservoir and river basins lie within the jurisdiction of more than one country, or within countries more than one administrative unit. In such waters agreements should be reached for common research programmes, standardised systems of reporting, exchange of information and, where possible, common approaches to management.

6.5 States and subregional and regional fisheries management organizations should apply a precautionary approach widely to conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources in order to protect them and preserve the aquatic environment, taking account of the best scientific evidence available. The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take measures to conserve target species, associated or dependent species and non-target species and their environment.

Impacts of external influences on the fishery: In inland waters, where the major impacts arise from activities outside the fishery, the precautionary approach should be extended to all developments within the basin. This means that careful impact assessments should be made of non-fishery projects. Unfortunately major damage does not always arise from a single project whose effects can be readily identified but from a series of minor interventions whose cumulative or antagonistic impacts can be enormous. It is thus relatively easy to quantify and compensate for the impact of a single large dam or irrigation project. It is much less easy to quantify and rectify the diffuse pollution caused by widescale agriculture.

6.6 Selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices should be further developed and applied, to the extent practicable, in order to maintain biodiversity and to conserve the population structure and aquatic ecosystems and protect fish quality. Where proper selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices exist, they should be recognized and accorded a priority in establishing conservation and management measures for fisheries. States and users of aquatic ecosystems should minimize waste, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, and impacts on associated or dependent species.

The nature of fishing gear: Some inland fisheries depend on a relatively small range of mesh selective gears, for example gill nets or seines. In these cases the progressive reduction in mesh size as a reponse to falling catches is the most common problem which can be resolve through clear setting of mesh limitas accompanied by education and extension. The situation is not so clear in many other fisheries, and river fisheries in particular, which use a wide range of fishing gear adapted to the need to capture many different species and life stages of fish during very differing seasons of the year. Some of these gears are judged to be damaging by administrators and fishers and traditional and formal administrative regulations frequently seek to ban such methods. Fishing gears in multi-species systems are usually linked to social structure and it is difficult to ban or suppress certain gears without disturbing the balance of the society. Any decisions of prohibition of gears should therefore be based on sound biological, social and economic advice, taking into account local views, rather than a reaction to hearsay (see also 7.2.2 g).

6.7 The harvesting, handling, processing and distribution of fish and fishery products should be carried out in a manner which will maintain the nutritional value, quality and safety of the products, reduce waste and minimize negative impacts on the environment.

Preservation of fish in inland fisheries: Inland water fisheries are characterised by numerous small craft usually undertaking short journeys from the nearest landing. In other cases the fishers migrate away from their base to remain in temporary camps for considerable periods. Because of the artisanal nature of the fishery it is rare for there to be systematic attempts to preserve the fish on shorter trips and it frequently arrives at the market in poor condition. On longer trips or in fisheries where there is a valuable product involved ice is used in some areas. Smoking, and sun drying are, however, the commonest approaches although this implies considerable losses in quality and quantity of the product. The extensive use of wood for smoking has been implicated in deforestation, especially of riparian areas. It is a matter of high priority to develop improved systems for the adequate conservation especially in view of the growing lack of wood for smoking in many areas.

6.8 All critical fisheries habitats in marine and fresh water ecosystems, such as wetlands, mangroves, reefs, lagoons, nursery and spawning areas, should be protected and rehabilitated as far as possible and where necessary. Particular effort should be made to protect such habitats from destruction, degradation, pollution and other significant impacts resulting from human activities that threaten the health and viability of the fishery resources.

The conservation of the aquatic environment: Responsibility for the protection of aquatic ecosystems usually lies outside the fishery. States should, therefore, plan for the conservation of aquatic environments in the context of their multi-purpose use. Activities such as dam construction for water supply and power, channelization for navigation and flood control, land drainage and wetland reclamation for agricultural and urban use, waste disposal from urban, mining, industrial and agricultural uses, abstractions for agricultural, industrial and urban supply all have a profound impact on the aquatic ecosystem. Many of these activities are fundamental to the functioning of modern society and are economically of such importance that their limitation in the interests of conservation become hypothetical. All that can be done in many cases is to keep the number of such interventions to a minimum and to limit their impacts. Users of the aquatic system inflicting damage should contribute to the mitigation of the effects of their activities (See also 6.1).

Elements for conservation: Certain basic elements are required of an aquatic system so that it can retain its functionality.

a) The maintenance and restoration of longitudinal and lateral connectivity in rivers in the interests of conserving fish migration patterns through removal of transversal (dams) or lateral (levees) obstructions or the provision of fish pass mechanisms.

b) Restoration or maintenance of main channel diversity in rivers including meanders, point bars, bottom structure, vegetation etc.

c) Maintenance or restoration of floodplains and riverine wetlands. This does not have to be continuous along the river but provision should be made for reserves at intervals along the river where normal flood regimes are maintained.

d) Removal and control of all point-sources of pollution including industrial, urban and mining wastes. Control of diffuse pollution particularly of nutrients into lakes and rivers.

e) Control of processes at basin level particularly deforestation, mining operations in rivers and changes in agricultural practice that can lead to massive siltation which can shorten the lives of lakes and reservoirs and destabilize river channels and floodplains.

6.9 States should ensure that their fisheries interests, including the need for conservation of the resources, are taken into account in the multiple uses of the coastal zone and are integrated into coastal area management, planning and development.

See 6.8 above. The articles addressing coastal zone management (see Section 10) also apply to river basin management in inland waters. Many of the issues of conservation in rivers and lakes occur in international basins and require negotiation between states to ensure that damaging practices in states upstream are not transmitted downstream to other riparian countries.

6.10 Within their respective competences and in accordance with international law, including within the framework of subregional or regional fisheries conservation and management organizations or arrangements, States should ensure compliance with and enforcement of conservation and management measures and establish effective mechanisms, as appropriate, to monitor and control the activities of fishing vessels and fishing support vessels.

The provisions of this article apply particularly to large lakes and to river systems where there are a few large, centralized landings. More generally ensuring compliance with fishery regulations in inland waters is particularly difficult in view of the linear dispersion of the many small fisheries and landings along rivers and the diffuseness of individual fisheries on small and scattered lakes and reservoirs. The cost and practicability of surveillance by a centralised organization become prohibitive and it is usually advocated that these functions be incorporated into co-management agreements so they are undertaken by the fishery communities themselves.

6.12 States should, within their respective competences and in accordance with international law, cooperate at subregional, regional and global levels through fisheries management organizations, other international agreements or other arrangements to promote conservation and management, ensure responsible fishing and ensure effective conservation and protection of living aquatic resources throughout their range of distribution, taking into account the need for compatible measures in areas within and beyond national jurisdiction.

International basin authorities: Most lakes, rivers and reservoirs lie within the jurisdiction of one administration. However, many major rivers and some large lakes are international. In such cases States are urged to establish international mechanisms for planning for fisheries management and aquatic conservation in the river or lake basin or to use existing basin regulatory mechanisms established for purposes other than fisheries.

6.13 States should, to the extent permitted by national laws and regulations, ensure that decision making processes are transparent and achieve timely solutions to urgent matters. States, in accordance with appropriate procedures, should facilitate consultation and the effective participation of industry, fishworkers, environmental and other interested organizations in decision making with respect to the development of laws and policies related to fisheries management, development, international lending and aid.

Allocation of the inland water resource: Given the multi-purpose nature of inland water resource management consultation and negotiation between the various parties is essential in establishing a coherent resource use policy. Such a policy should centre on the definition of clear allocation of water and the aquatic environment among users as well as a definition of the benefits and responsibilities of each in maintaining the aquatic resource in good health. In actual management regimes one or a few uses of the water tends to assume dominance and other uses have to adjust to its exigencies. This means that the other sectors are in effect involuntarily subsidising the primary use by loss of direct or indirect benefits (opportunity costs).

6.15 States should cooperate in order to prevent disputes. All disputes relating to fishing activities and practices should be resolved in a timely, peaceful and co-operative manner, in accordance with applicable international agreements or as may otherwise be agreed between the parties. Pending settlement of a dispute, the States concerned should make every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature which should be without prejudice to the final outcome of any dispute settlement procedure.

Disputes: Most disputes in inland water fisheries derive from conflicts between the fishery and other interests such as farming, flood control and land drainage, navigation, power generation etc. Disputes can also arise among different groups of fishers one of the most fundamental of which is that between recreational and commercial fishers. However, differences also arise between subsistence and professional fishers, between resident and migrant fishers or between groups using different types of gear. In the past such conflicts have tended to have been resolved within the traditional framework of the fishing communities but as such frameworks have broken down mechanisms for conflict resolution have declined. States can contribute to the resolution of such differences by making clear regulations and decisions as to resource allocation among the various interested parties within the fishery.

In international water, disputes are likely to arise where fish migratory pathways are interrupted, ecological disturbances are transmitted from upstream, breeding sites are destroyed etc. Problems will also be experienced with regard to the cost - benefit distribution of enhanced fisheries where more than one state is involved. In such cases international agreements within the river basin framework are needed to protect all parties.

6.16 States, recognising the paramount importance to fishers and fishfarmers of understanding the conservation and management of the fishery resources on which they depend, should promote awareness of responsible fisheries through education and training.

They should ensure that fishers and fishfarmers are involved in the policy formulation and implementation process, also with a view to facilitating the implementation of the Code.

Education and training: Training and extension in inland water fisheries is universally important to allow the fishers to participate more fully in the negotiation and decision making processes that are a feature of modern inland fisheries management especially under devolved and co-management regimes. It also becomes more important as the sophistication of management increases with the adoption of enhanced systems where the cost-effectiveness of practices like stocking and fertilization become critical. Where appropriate, States should therefore establish training and extension schemes to assist fishers in making the transition from centrally administered capture fisheries to locally managed enhanced systems.

6.19 States should consider aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, as a means to promote diversification of income and diet. In so doing, States should ensure that resources are used responsibly and adverse impacts on the environment and on local communities are minimized.

The nature of enhancements: A range of practices are deployed in inland waters to raise productivity and in particular production of selected species. These include:

The balance between conservation and management: It is clear that enhancement methods of this type are deliberately aimed at changing the productivity of the water and the nature of the fish stock. As such they conflict with the conservation-oriented requirements of the Code. However, these techniques, in common with aquaculture, are aimed at increasing net incomes, as well as, secondarily, the overall supply of fish available for human consumption. As most of them require high levels of inputs of fish seed, feed, fertilizers etc. they can only be regarded as sustainable in the sense that any agricultural activity is sustainable. That is that the practice may continue from year-to-year at the same levels of input and offtake without noticeable degradation to the natural support system. Furthermore every attempt should be made to isolate the waterbodies which are subject to enhancement so that nutrient-rich effluents or escapes of stocked fish are kept to a minimum.

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