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This FAO Fisheries Technical Paper has been compiled to complement the discussions of its companion volume: Case Studies on the Allocation of Transferable Quota Rights in Fisheries Management[1]. It thus provides a third volume of case studies on fisheries management practices published by FAO, which started with the collection of papers describing the management of elasmobranch fisheries[2]. Further, it continues the series of publications on the use of Rights-based fisheries management undertaken by FAO’s Fisheries Department, which, together with the publication of this volume brings these publications to six in total[3]. These reflect the growing importance of this topic to contemporary fisheries management.

The topic selected for this study, as with that for its companion volume, the Allocation of Transferable Quota Rights in Fisheries Management, arose from my oft-encountered experience when discussing this issue with fishermen and other ‘stakeholders’ in the fishing industry. Uppermost in the minds of fishermen facing this possible form of management is “How much quota will I get?” Immediately this question is resolved (of course providing an answer is never a trivial exercise!), the next most frequent question, “What is there to stop someone buying up all the quota and forming a monopoly?” Less frequent has been the question from administrators, “Will introducing transferable fishing quota into the fishery solve the fleet overcapacity problems?” Never heard from fishermen is a question, which I have always thought was emminently reasonable: “Will there be any constraints on my rights to sell my quota holdings, for example, to whoever I wish?”

One common response I have encountered from fishermen (which would perplex a strictly utility-maximizing economist) is that they do not think access to the fisheries they exploit should even be limited, though no such views on open-access existed, for example, in relation to their farms or woodlots whose potential harvests were obviously governed by a different cognitive rationality.

Another reason for compiling these case studies was to provide a factual basis for evaluating the claims, commonly made, that introducing individual transferable quotas (ITQs) leads to monopolies and the exclusion of small operators from fisheries. Often, these claims are made with little or no substantiation and in journals whose editors and referees should know better. In any event, the papers in this volume should partly remove the excuse for such non-substantiated claims. I say “partly remove” because what many of the papers show is the great difficulty in accurately identifying what happens in terms of fleet-capacity when a transferable rights-based management approach is adopted.

Much of what happens to the fleet depends on factors not directly associated with the fishery undergoing the management change. A further complication in determining whether all of the changes that occur in a fisheries after the introduction of a Rights-based Management system are the result of the new management regime is practically impossible. Fisheries, despite the suggestions of those who promote experimental adaptive management and because of their social and biological complexity, are too important to administer as an academic experiment. Demand changes, supply changes, resource productivity changes (with consequential changes in operator’s revenues), changes in factor costs (which usually only rise), superimposed on the business cycle and consumer product-substitution, make unequivocal conclusions about the effects of a particular management regime change a rarity. While some changes may be unequivocally attributed to a new rights-based management regime, many others, particularly those relating to efficiency, will not. However, it is clear is that without monitoring, or at least good documentation, of both the pre - and post-management situations, unequivocal assertions (positive or negative) about the effects of transferable fishing - rights, when based on subjective and personal values, can be dangerously misleading.

While the interest of FAO’s Fisheries Department in the costs and benefits of introducing rights-based approaches to fisheries management was a major stimulus for undertaking the compilation and publication of these papers, there was another compelling reason to address this topic. The twenty-second Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), held in 1997, had urged that the issues of excessive fishing-capacity and fishing-effort leading to overfishing should be given consideration by FAO. As a consequence the Fisheries Department organized a technical working group to review technical guidelines and consider an international plan of action for the management of fishing-capacity. As part of the process of addressing this issue much work was focused on how to determine the “capacity” of fishing fleets and detailed actions were identified as to how individual countries could address this issue.

Perplexingly, little or no detailed consideration was given to the role that rights-based approaches to fisheries management might provide in reducing fleet-capacity, though some countries reported at the twenty-third Session of COFI that individual transferable quotas were being used to reduce or prevent increases in fishing-capacity. By undertaking the documentation of experiences at the national and fishery level I hope this collection of case studies will provide a factual basis on which to consider rights-based management approaches as a possible solution for solving problems of excess fishing capacity. Indeed, in my view, for many of the cases examined, a rights-based approach will provide the most practical remedy to the problems that exist, and at the same time will contribute to other desirable management objectives.

As those involved in managing fisheries are aware, day-to-day exigencies rarely allow the luxury of collecting detailed data that will permit the proper evaluation of new programmes (much less their soon-to-be-replaced predecessors) and, as the papers in this volume show, this situation has been the norm. Yet further, characterizing the “capacity” of a fishing fleet is a complex and difficult[4], if not fruitless, task. And, rarely have the authors had access to the detailed fleet-registry records that provide sufficient details on year of vessel construction, dates of vessel conversions or upgrades, design changes, engine upgrades, etc., all of which change the fishing capacity of individual vessels and thus the total for the fleet. As has been well documented[5], statistics based on aggregate fleet statistics can be meaningless in trying to predict the changes that may occur when individual vessels enter or leave a fishing fleet. These vessels usually are the statistical outliers - those from the lower tail of the distribution of fishing success for vessels of similar dimensions. Not surprisingly, the challenge of obtaining these detailed data has proven difficult for many of the studies and authors have often been forced to rely on other approaches.

Of great interest will be the accounts that relate to fisheries where the measure of effort has not been most appropriately a number of fishing vessels or a corresponding proxy. Transferable quotas have also been introduced into other fisheries such as those for abalone where the effort is indicated by the number of divers. Readers should be interested to read of the experiences in these fisheries, which are most notably found in Australia.

The challenge of discerning overall or sectoral trends from the information provided in these papers is left to the reader. But, so diverse are the fisheries that now use transferable quotas as a management tool, that no longer can writers be excused for making simplistic assertions based on poorly-conceived and subjective opinions derived from one or two examples of such management. Such analysis ought be fisheries-specific and based on sector-based examination. Enabling this is one of the objectives of this Technical Paper.

The contributing authors were asked to follow a common format so as to facilitate comparative analysis of different practices. But, at the same time they were asked not to let this request limit their treatment of the topic. I emphasized that I would rather receive an appropriate treatment of the topic justified in terms of the problems of the unique fishery they were describing, than an account that was limited by attempting to follow my suggested structure of the paper. Readers must understand the various conceptual elements that were involved and interpret for themselves the individual accounts in this light.

Observant readers of the companion volume, Case Studies on the Allocation of Transferable Quota Rights in Fisheries (FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 411), will note that some fisheries covered in that volume have, for various reasons, not been addressed in this volume. Among these lacunae is that for the South East Fishery of Australia. However, I can direct interested readers to a recent publication, “Indicators of the effectiveness of quota markets: the South East Trawl Fishery of Australia”, in Volume 52(4) of, Marine and Freshwater Research. This paper by Robin Connor and Dave Alden should provide much of the information about that fishery, which this volume attempts to address in other fisheries.

Once again, I must thank my secretary, Marie-Thérèse Magnan, for her enormous effort in preparing this paper for publication - her fourth in this series; my colleague, Mike Mann, in ensuring that the editorial quality of the papers is again of the highest standard, and Françoise Schatto, Publication Assistant, Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit for the difficult and unenviable responsibility of transforming the manuscript into the final document. I also thank those who have generously made photographs available, usually to illustrate a paper that is not their own - I believe that these illustrations have done much to bring these reports “to life”. Credit for the design and preparation of the cover goes entirely to Emanuela D’Antoni of our Service.

Ross Shotton
Marine Resources Service
FAO, Rome.

[1] Shotton, R. (Ed.) 2001. Case studies of the allocation of transferable quota rights in fisheries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 411.
[2] Shotton, R. (Ed.) 1999. Case studies of the management of elasmobranch fisheries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 378, Vols 1 and 2.
[3] Earlier FAO publications are:

Christy, F. 1982. Territorial use rights in marine fisheries: Definitions and Conditions. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No 227.

Morgan, G.R. 1997. Individual quota management in fisheries. Methodologies for determining catch quotas and initial allocations. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 371. 41pp.

Shotton, R. 2000. Use of property rights in fisheries management. Proceedings of the FishRights99 Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia. 11-19 November 1999. Vol.1: Mini-course lectures and Core Conference presentations. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. 404/1 (342pp). Vol 2: Workshop presentations. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. 404/2 (468pp).
[4] For example, see Gréboval, D. 1999. Managing fishing capacity. Selected papers on underlying concepts and issues. FAO Fish. Tech. Paper No. 386. 206pp.
[5] For example, see Shotton, R. 1989. An Analysis of Factors Affecting Catch Rates of Sub-65’ Groundfish fishing vessels in 4X/Sub-Area 5 of Southwest Nova Scotia. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 1707. 129pp.

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