2.1 POLICY AND MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES
2.2 THE PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH
Fisheries policy and management objectives need to be based
upon analyses of reliable data. Policy and management issues can be broadly
divided into food security, socio-economic and environmental concerns, each of
which need certain types of information for decision-making. While the
precautionary approach could be used when information is insufficient,
management in general should be based on the "best scientific information
available" and this has important implications in terms of type, quantity and
quality of data to be collected.
2.1.1 Fisheries contribution to food supply
2.1.2 Fisheries contribution to the economy
2.1.3 Fisheries impact on the ecosystem
"In order to ensure sustainable management of fisheries and to enable social and economic objectives to be achieved, sufficient knowledge of social, economic and institutional factors should be developed through data gathering, analysis and research." (CCRF 7.4.5)It is essential to have adequate data to formulate a useful policy for the whole fisheries sector and effective management plans for particular fisheries. Fishery policies and management plans should address the fishery sector as a contributor to the food supply and economy at local and national levels, and as a critical component of the ecosystem. Hence, data collection should cover all aspects of a fishery, from the natural resources, via exploitation to the local consumers, industry and trade.
The formulation of detailed policies and management plans for fisheries are outside the scope of this document. However, some examples of common areas of concern for policy setting and management are given.
Food security is an over-riding concern for natural living resources policy-makers, planners and administrators, especially in many developing countries. Fish may be the major source of animal protein for many communities. Small island developing states are often particularly dependent on fish as a food source. It is essential to be able to quantify the dependence on fish as a food source, so that policies and management ensure sustainable use and sufficient access for dependent communities.
For national and local policy-making and planning, it is essential to describe the contribution of fisheries to the economy. If managed effectively, fisheries are able to generate substantial economic benefits to the national and local economies. Assessments of the economic contribution of fisheries need to take into account the generation of income in the local community, of returns to the broader community and of foreign exchange from export earnings. Various countries also obtain revenue from charging fees to non-national fishing boats for access to the resource within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This is a significant source of national income for many small island economies. In addition, assessments should include a measure of economic and social dependence. This requires estimates of the numbers of people employed in the harvest, processing and other sectors, and the total numbers dependent on fisheries for their livelihood (workers plus dependants).
Fisheries reduce wild fish populations, decreasing the population sizes below that of the unexploited stock. This may not only affect the exploited population but also the interrelated species, which are predators, preys or species in competition with the target species for food resources. It is therefore important to monitor changes in the fish community as well as the exploited stock, to ensure the ecosystem is not damaged by the fishery. Catch, effort, discards and biological data are required to monitor the direct effects of exploitation, and fisheries-independent and environmental monitoring may also be necessary to track all ecological changes.
For inland fisheries, the creation and loss of habitat is often a determining factor in production. Seasonal and long term changes in the area of flooding need to be monitored alongside fishery activities to account for different factors influencing fish stocks. In some cases, special environmental monitoring may be necessary where an inland or marine fishery may cause significant changes to the underlying habitat. This is of special concern for conservation as habitat change is the primary cause of species extinction. Gears that have a physical impact on benthic habitats, such as bottom trawling and dredges, may require special monitoring.
The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries emphasises the obligation on States to conserve stocks and avoid over-exploitation.
"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 living aquatic resources." (CCRF 6.1)To achieve this they are required to collect data so that decisions are based on the best scientific evidence available.
"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 environmental, economic and social factors... States should assign priority to undertake research and data collection to improve knowledge of the fisheries..." (CCRF 6.4).Fisheries management has so far generally failed to prevent overfishing and rehabilitate depleted resources. This has led to a reappraisal of the fisheries management process, including the basis for all management, the gathering and analysis of information.
One manifestation of this reappraisal is the requirement to adopt the precautionary approach to fisheries management. The precautionary approach requires fisheries managers to be cautious when the state of a resource is uncertain, such as when fishery data are insufficient or unreliable. The past practice in fisheries management has generally been that restrictive measures had to be justified by sound data, analysis and interpretation. Under the precautionary approach, the burden of evidence is reversed so that it is necessary to justify that it is safe for a fishery to proceed. In the absence of such evidence, the fishery is restricted to a minimum level. The precautionary approach is, therefore, a powerful incentive for the collection of reliable and relevant fisheries data.
The precautionary approach has been embodied in two important international initiatives: the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Article 7.5).
"States should apply the precautionary approach widely.... The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures." (CCRF 7.51)When data are insufficient, as in the case of new or exploratory fisheries, the Code provides that
"States should adopt, as soon as possible, cautious conservation and management measures.... Such measures should remain in force until there are sufficient data to allow assessment of the impact of the fisheries on the long-term sustainability of the stocks." (CCRF 7.53)The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement is a binding instrument, which applies the precautionary approach both on the high seas and within EEZs for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. It specifies the roles and responsibilities for regional fisheries agencies and Flag States in the collection and exchange of data necessary to meet stock assessment requirements, and support management objectives for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. Annex I of the Agreement, titled Standard Requirements for the Collection and Sharing of Data (see Annex 1), specifies the minimum data requirements for the conservation of fish stocks. Article 48 of the Agreement specifies that the Annexes to the Agreement may be revised from time to time based on scientific and technical considerations or may be elaborated by regional fishery organisations or arrangements. Importantly, Flag States are charged with ensuring that vessels flying their flag report the necessary fishery data, irrespective of where the vessels are fishing, and are required to verify those data.
Furthermore, the FAO Compliance Agreement, which is part of the Code of Conduct, states that all parties will provide information to assist in identifying those fishing vessels engaged in undermining international conservation and management measures.