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Elements of good management

A well-managed fishery is essential for long-term conservation and sustainability of inland resources. To encourage environmentally safe practices, all organizations (national, regional, local) including those of a non-fishery nature who use inland waters, should make their management policies known publicly. Laws and policies should be clearly thought out, with the views of all groups taken into account. Fishers should operate within the framework established by the environmental regulations and violators punished where laws or regulations are not followed. In extreme cases, people may have their fishing rights suspended.

Fishery management plans should include an organized way to handle conflicts regarding inland waters use. There can be conflicts between a fishery and other activities and directly between different fisheries. For example, disputes can arise between food, recreational, and commercial fishers. As new commercial and recreational fishers move in to an area, subsistence fishing communities can suffer. The important thing is to recognize the rights and responsibilities of all resource users and to involve all of them in working out conflicts.

In order to settle disputes and establish policies for sustainable fisheries, factual information about the environment and the resources is required. Many types of information are needed before appropriate methods for managing fisheries can be determined. For example, it is important to know how and by whom the waters are used, and how the fish are priced and sold. Such information is required before detailed fishery planning can be done or the impacts of other (non-fishing) projects can be evaluated. Once impacts have been determined, it is necessary to anticipate how people might adapt to changes in their communities.

Collecting and reporting information about the fisheries has become an important goal in many countries. However, inland waters are difficult to monitor because the streams, small lakes, marshes, etc. are so varied and spread out, and may sustain many different small communities of people. As a result, studies are often done only at the most significant landing sites on the largest rivers and lakes. This approach requires caution since it may not provide an accurate picture of distant fisheries and smaller communities.

An important aspect of monitoring is to collect and record information about fish catches in different regions. This information needs to be gathered at regular intervals, making it possible for authorities to eventually put together information (data) from different regions. A total picture of national and international fisheries can then be developed.

Often the best solution for environmental monitoring and for fisheries management is to set up local management groups in fishing areas. These groups allow people who live and fish there to regulate the fishing, keep records and make responsible decisions. To be successful, local communities need to establish among themselves a clear allocation of rights and responsibilities for keeping the waters and surrounding land healthy. Where appropriate, countries should set up training programmes and extension classes to help communities learn to make and carry out policies for their fisheries.

Another advantage of involving local management groups is that they have first-hand experience with the waters, the fish and the land. They know for example, how to pattern their fishing seasons around fluctuations in river water levels and around the times when fish breed. When fishing communities are organized as co-managers, it is easier to ensure that rules and regulations are followed.

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