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The management of fishing capacity can be defined as the implementation of a range of policies and technical measures aimed at ensuring a desired balance between fishing inputs and production from capture fisheries.

In developing an appropriate framework for the management of fishing capacity, fisheries authorities should refer to the IPOA on the Management of Fishing Capacity and the documentation prepared by FAO and other organizations in the context of this international initiative.

Fisheries authorities should also give due considerations to the relevant articles of the CCRF (articles 6 and 7 in particular). The CCRF points to the need to establish clear reference points and to account for the economic dimension of the issue in relation to the reduction of economic waste and the promotion of a viable fisheries industry. The CCRF also points to the need to adopt an appropriate framework to assess and guide national policies on the structure of fishing capacity.

Fisheries authorities may find it useful to refer as well to relevant initiatives taken by FAO subsequent to the adoption of the IPOA, especially on the topics of economic incentives and of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

In countries where the management of fishing capacity has not been yet considered on a systematic basis, fisheries authorities may find it useful to organize a national review of the issue, with the aim of taking stock of its relevance to the sustainable exploitation of national fisheries resources and to the policy framework and methods used for fisheries management.


Fishing capacity can be estimated either on an input or output basis and with reference to a range of indicators. For the purpose of broad international comparison, the FAO Technical Consultation on the Measurement and Assessment of Fishing Capacity recommended that States express their national estimates on both bases.

Fisheries authorities should adopt a national definition of fishing capacity and select on this basis appropriate indicators for the purpose of its measurement. When the management of fishing capacity involves international cooperation in the context of regional fisheries organizations or agreements, fisheries authorities should agree on a common definition and on common indicators.

To gauge the extent of overcapacity, fisheries authorities must further decide on appropriate reference points and should consider the need to adopt a common reference point for international fisheries in which they participate.

For the purpose of broad international comparisons, the FAO Technical Consultation on the Measurement and Assessment of Fishing Capacity recommended that MSY be used by all States as a global reference point - in addition to the reference points that may otherwise be chosen for the management of fishing capacity at national or international levels.

As indicated in the IPOA, the measurement and assessment of fishing capacity should be addressed as a dynamic process of periodic diagnoses and methodological improvements. In keeping with the precautionary principle, fisheries authorities should not allow uncertainty as to the precise amount of capacity and eventual excess capacity to delay the implementation of policies to control capacity and reduce its level where appropriate.

Tools are progressively developed that may in the near future allow for more precise measurement and assessment of fishing capacity. However, given their relative complexity, fisheries authorities may find appropriate to proceed with a first assessment of capacity based on expert opinion, as done so far by many countries. This would involve, for major stocks and fleet segments, an estimation of possible deviations between existing and desired input-output levels.


The preparation of plans to manage fishing capacity involves the adoption of a sector-wide policy framework that will allow fisheries authorities and other stakeholders to seek more appropriate and sustainable levels of input-output. This framework should guide the adoption and implementation of any measures that may be required to control and adjust input-output levels, directly or indirectly.

Fisheries authorities not yet confronted with severe overcapacity situations should recognize that a precautionary approach requires that the management of fishing capacity be preventive and part of fisheries management rather than reactive and limited, ex post, to the reduction of excess capacity.

Fisheries authorities may need to undertake a major change in the focus of their fisheries policy, away from one concentrating upon physical production and towards one that takes into account the economic contribution made by fishery resources. The limits on production imposed by the finite nature of wild stocks and the fact that there is much scope for increasing the economic benefits that can be derived from the rational exploitation of available resources are crucial considerations for such policy re-orientation.

To assist with the design of appropriate policies, fisheries authorities may find it useful to undertake an assessment of the consequences of overcapacity for selected fisheries and fleet segments, with emphasis on production and economic performances and on the impact of overcapacity on major stakeholders.

Policy makers should recognize that overcapacity is a direct consequence of free and open access and address the management of fishing capacity in this context. An in-depth analysis of prevailing access conditions and possible alternative arrangements is considered essential to the design of a policy for the management of fishing capacity. Such analysis must incorporate the effects of the growing demand for fish products and possible increases in prices.

In developing policies, it is essential to recognise that fishing capacity is not fixed. It fluctuates. A better understanding of investment and fisher behaviour is required for capacity fluctuations to be better anticipated.

In line with relevant articles of the IPOA on this issue, fisheries authorities should proceed with an assessment of the types of subsidies and economic incentives being provided to their fishing industry and assess the eventual impact of such incentives on resource sustainability, current fleet capacity and expected investment decisions, starting with the fisheries and fleet segments that are showing signs of overcapacity.


Fisheries authorities should address the management of fishing capacity in relation to the main methods used in fisheries management for the direct or indirect control of fishing inputs and outputs. It should be recognized that the range of capacity management methods is limited and further constrained by socio-political and technical considerations. In general, authorities should recognize that some methods may be more appropriate for certain fisheries and seek to retain the option of applying different methods to various components of their fisheries.

Fisheries authorities that rely mostly on conservation measures for the management of their fisheries should assess their effect on fishing capacity. Authorities taking steps to introduce measures to control fishing capacity need to reassess existing conservation measures to ensure complementarity between the new and the old measures.

Some fishery management methods create an environment which removes incentives that lead to the creation of excess capacity and encourage industry-based capacity adjustments that tend to be more efficient and easier to implement. Wherever possible, it is recommended that the problem of controlling capacity be approached in this way.

In countries where they have been implemented, right-based methods, such as individual quotas (ITQs) have clearly changed the incentives in a way which brings the fishing industry to resolve the capacity problem of its own accord. This advantage is significant and authorities should very carefully consider the use of ITQ-type systems to manage their fisheries wherever possible.

Fisheries authorities should consider exclusive zones as a robust approach to managing fishing capacity in certain fisheries, especially for coastal and relatively sedentary fisheries. The application of this approach to small-scale fisheries generally deserves fuller investigation, especially in instances where traditional management systems are still being used. Where a co-management approach is to be used in this context, fisheries authorities will have to decide precisely what rights and responsibilities are being transferred to each group, and about how the management of fishing capacity will be made effective.

Limited entry and input licensing constitute the major alternative to incentive-based methods. In considering the implementation of limited entry programmes based on licences it is essential to evaluate the potential for input substitution. If the potential is high then such programmes will need to be more specific (and more difficult to enforce) to succeed in controlling fishing capacity. Even if the potential is currently limited, the programme will still be likely to establish incentives for increased input substitutability in the medium to long term. In the context of controlling fishing capacity therefore it may be wise for fisheries authorities to view limited entry licensing as one step towards the establishment of an effective management regime.

When more restrictive input licensing is to be used, serious attention should be paid simultaneously to: which inputs to restrict; the kind of access to be granted (sector, fleet segment, range of fisheries, specific fishery); the duration of the licences granted; and the conditions of their initial allocation and eventual reallocation. Experience suggests that many of the problems are related to poor initial design. Fisheries authorities contemplating the introduction of such a system should draw on this experience to ensure that its specifications are sufficiently robust. The system could be made even more robust if based on active industry participation and could evolve towards co-management.

In the case of a developing fishery sector, the early introduction of licence limitation may prove a valid alternative to incentive-based measures, especially if the latter are not readily applicable. Fisheries authorities contemplating the introduction of licence limitation schemes should take advantage of experience gained elsewhere and remain aware that many of the difficulties associated with such schemes actually result from delayed introduction, lax implementation and insufficient industry participation.

The political acceptability of using taxation and resource rental charges must be judged by each State. However, there is no a-priori reason why taxation could not be used to deal with overcapacity and fisheries authorities should give serious consideration to its use.

Buy-back of excess capacity has been undertaken in a number of countries, with mixed success. Before undertaking buy-back schemes, fisheries authorities should ensure that the conditions of their long term effectiveness are fulfilled, giving due consideration to the issue of vessel disposal. Fisheries authorities also need to fully consider the effect of capacity reduction schemes on labour in general and on the livelihood of small-scale fishers in particular.

Fisheries authorities should assess the impact that a significant reallocation of their over-capacity to the EEZ of another State may cause and, if potentially detrimental, should take steps to discourage such transfers whenever possible.

For many stocks and fleets, the management of fishing capacity would need to be addressed at the international level, in particular through regional fisheries organizations. This points to the need for strengthening such organizations and their ability to address fishing capacity issues, with emphasis on participation and on the mandate of these organizations.

Fisheries authorities should also assess the effect of any possible transfer of fishing capacity to the high seas which may result from measures taken to manage capacity at national level. Close attention is particularly called for when significant buy-back schemes are undertaken.

As indicated in the IPOA, States should endeavour to participate in the 1995 UN Fish Stock Agreement and in the Compliance Agreement. Fisheries authorities should also take steps to collaborate effectively in addressing the management of fishing capacity in the high seas, inter alia, through active participation in regional fisheries organizations and through the creation of additional organizations, where needed.


Fisheries authorities which are contemplating the introduction of new measures to manage fishing capacity should assess and, if required, redefine the prevailing management segmentation of the sector (in stocks or groups of stocks and fleet segments) - in relation to the management of fishing capacity in general and as appropriate to the specific management methods to be used.

Most countries have historically developed monitoring systems and complementary research facilities that emphasize improved knowledge of catches and the status of the resource base. Fisheries authorities may consider it useful to develop similar systems to monitor their fleets and improve knowledge of their characteristics and dynamics - both at sector-wide and fishery levels and in relation to changing resource, economic and regulatory conditions.

Fisheries institutions should provide more adequate support to research on issues related to the management of fishing capacity. Coordinated international research is also required, especially with regard to the development of tools and policy instruments which may be more appropriate for use by developing countries.


It is essential that interests and problems of the small-scale sector (subsistence, commercial and recreational) be addressed from the very outset when formulating fishery management plans. Two major issue areas require attention from the part of fisheries authorities. First of all, the interest of small-scale and industrial fisheries need to be balanced, especially if they interact. Secondly, for developing countries in particular, there is a need to avoid conditions of free and open access that invariably leads to the pauperisation of small scale fishers, when faced with very limited alternative employment.

In many countries, a first step for fisheries authorities would be to strengthen the organisation of small-scale fishers, to design thereafter possible management schemes in close cooperation with these organizations, and to agree on experimental implementation. Developing countries where artisanal fisheries prevail are usually confronted with growing overcapacity but face severe lack of financial and technical means to address the problem. In these countries, donor assistance may prove highly useful.


In developing policies for the management of fishing capacity, fisheries authorities should undertake extensive consultations with the industry and other stakeholders, and seek consensus on capacity management issues and methods. In general terms, fisheries authorities should consider a strong involvement of the industry in the management of fishing capacity process as essential.

In many instances, the effective participation of the industry in the management of fishing capacity may require that industry and fisher organizations be strengthened. The introduction of new management methods may further require adjustments in the way the industry and fisher organize themselves, as well as the development of a new institutional interface between the fisheries authorities, the industry and other stakeholders.

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