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This pilot study on the construction of socio-economic indicators was initiated by the Sub-Committee on Social Science, Scientific Advisory Committee, of the GFCM. It was carried out in collaboration with FAO/FIPP and COPEMED. The study focussed on a particular GFCM management unit, the Alboran Sea, in the hope that results would be applicable to other GFCM management units and the Mediterranean as a whole. The Alboran Sea was selected because it encompasses stocks shared between a developing (Morocco) and a developed (Spain) country, as well as a wide range of fishing operations typical of what can be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

Several unexpected constraints arose in the course of the pilot study. The main difficulty was unavailability of certain data necessary for a thorough elaboration of the indicators. The accuracy of results could have been improved, for example, if data on sales in Spain could have been obtained. In addition, corroborative data related to some fleet segments in Morocco were not available. The study was also hindered by delays in the development of sampling schedules. It nevertheless yielded some useful outcomes, showing that it is possible to use indicators to build a picture of main socio-economic trends within Mediterranean fisheries management units.

Analysis of national indicators confirms that fishing plays a different role within the respective economies of Spain and Morocco. Although both countries are quite open to the world market; Spain is clearly an importer country, while Morocco is an exporter country. At another level, indicators applied to particular local operating units (LOUs) yield new information about modes of fishery resource exploitation. They demonstrate, for example:

Analyses reveal which segments and which LOUs are in better and/or in worse conditions, thus providing information of paramount importance for management decision-makers. Highly diverse situations can be found, and each of these situations may require a specific approach and solution of its own.

The pilot study methodology and the indicators used do represent one line of approach to the general problem of indicator construction. Other approaches are possible. For instance, social indicators could be developed more extensively, with reference to such variables as mean age of fishers, number of children, level of education, etc. The challenge is to strike a balance between the types of information that it would be useful to assemble and the effort required to assemble it. All in all, the most demanding task studies of this sort is that of information compilation.

Based on the pilot study experience, the following recommendations are put forward as points to be considered should follow-up work on socio-economic indicators be undertaken:

  1. In order to improve information reliability, thoroughly review sample survey data with data available from fisheries administration and research agencies and fishing sector stakeholder organisations.
  2. Apply a similar analysis to other management units of the GFCM. The characteristics of the Gulf of Gabes would make it a suitable candidate unit for study to further development the pilot methodology.
  3. Further socio-economic indicator studies should involve sampling that is sufficiently extensive to identify the most meaningful fleet segments This would entail trying to respond to questions such as: what is the minimum number of segments required? can the results of analysing those segments be extrapolated to other areas of the Mediterranean? how could the concept of `fleet segment' be made compatible with its meaning in biological studies? how could a multidisciplinary database be jointly designed to making the best use of that information in fisheries management?
  4. A time perspective should be incorporated into the database established under the pilot study, in order to be able to ascertain if national administrations can ensure a systematic compilation of the information needed for database continuity.

It should finally be stressed that the indicators herein could eventually enable the development of a simulation methodology. In fact, the information that is available at the moment makes it possible to perform simulations on the basis of alternative scenarios (for instance, on the productivity of capital or of manpower). Hence, the next step would be to develop simulation systems that make it possible to anticipate how different management alternatives may help communities to adjust their fishing capacity so that fisheries become sustainable both in economic and in biological terms.

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