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Growing concern has been expressed in recent years about the existence of excess fishing capacity in an increasing number of fisheries and eventually at the global level. The persistent absence of property or user rights in the fisheries sector, inappropriate management schemes and past policies of heavy subsidization are the main causes of excess fleet capacity. In recognition of this concern, FAO organized a Technical Working Group (TWG) to discuss issues related to the management of fishing capacity.

The Technical Working Group met in La Jolla, USA, from 15 to 18 April 1998. It discussed, inter alia: definitions, measurement, control methods, reduction, and specific high seas aspects. The documents presented in the first three chapters of this publication served as reference material for discussions at the TWG meeting. They provide for a better understanding of the overall problem, its dynamics and the many difficulties that arise in monitoring, assessing and controlling fishing capacity in national jurisdiction and on the high seas. The last chapter briefly discusses the difficulties associated with the assessment of fishing capacity at global level. It was prepared after the TWG meeting to provide background information on global estimates of excess fishing capacity.

The report of the TWG provides useful insights and policy recommendations (FAO, 1998). The work of the TWG has been most useful in the development of a first set of FAO technical guidelines for the management of fishing capacity1. It also served as a basis for the elaboration of an International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity (FAO, 1998a; FAO, 1998b). This International Plan of Action was adopted by the FAO Committee for Fisheries in February 1999, focusing, inter alia, on the development of mechanisms for the monitoring and assessment of fishing capacity, the preparation of national plans, and international cooperation (FAO, 1999). In relation to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the International Plan of Action constitutes, in itself, a first and extremely important international statement on the importance of controlling capital inflows into fishing activities and, in more general terms, a recognition that the management of fishing inputs is a fundamental step in fisheries management and conservation.

1 The preparation of such guidelines was an on-going activity of the Fisheries Department at the time of this publication.
The management of fishing capacity closely relates to many issues and concepts of conventional fisheries management and conservation. In general terms, issues raised are often quite similar to those relating, for example, to the management of fishing effort. It is interesting to note, however, that upon closer investigation the management of fishing capacity raises many new issues and conceptual or technical difficulties. Many of these are discussed in this publication, opening new avenues for further research and analysis. The document clearly indicates that much work remains to be done to get a better understanding of fishing capacity, its assessment, and the dynamics of its management.

If only because of the mobility of fishing fleets and the wide distribution of many fish stocks, extensive international cooperation will be a key requirement both for the implementation of the International Plan of Action and for undertaking supporting research. As stated in the International Plan of Action, important follow-up activities would need to be organized to facilitate implementation such as, for example, the elaboration of guidelines on the measurement of fishing capacity aimed at facilitating monitoring and assessment work at national and international levels.


FAO, 1998. Report of the Technical Working Group on the Management of Fishing Capacity. La Jolla, USA, 15-18 April 1998. FAO Fisheries Report. No. 586.

FAO, 1998a. Report of the Consultation on the Management of Fishing Capacity, Shark Fisheries and Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, Rome 26-30 October, 1998. FAO Fisheries Report. No. 593.

FAO, 1998b. Report of the Preparatory Meeting for the Consultation on the Management of Fishing Capacity, Shark Fisheries and Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, Rome 22-24 July, 1998. FAO Fisheries Report. No. 584.

FAO, 1999. Report of the Twenty-third Session of the Committee on Fisheries. Rome 15-19 February 1999. FAO Fisheries Report. No 595.

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