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It has been made clear throughout this document that great concern has been expressed by nations, and international organizations over the size of the world’s tuna fleets. The problem of excess capacity in the fishery of the EPO was discussed at some length. The severe economic situation caused by excess capacity during the late 1970s gave clear evidence of how conservation programmes can fail as a result of too much fishing capacity. Just how an appropriate level of fishing capacity can be defined and measured is not an easy task. The DEA results presented earlier in this report, did not give a clear picture of the level of excess capacity currently existing in the EPO fishery. This was due in part to the unprecedented high catches of skipjack made during 1999 and 2000. Likewise, the data were not available to examine trends in fleet size, using these sorts of analyses, for fleets in other oceans. Even though there is little irrefutable, quantitative data showing that overcapacity in tuna fisheries exist, other than for the EPO, and, if it does, by how much, most governments with tuna fleets (and their scientific advisors) believe that there is too much capacity and are initiating action in the different regional tuna bodies to do something about it. The member governments of the IATTC, and the other countries with fleets fishing in the eastern Pacific, have initiated action to limit the capacity of the fleets fishing in the EPO.

Most of the other international tuna bodies have called attention to the need to control the growth in tuna fleet capacity, and, indeed, some have also expressed the need to reduce the existing capacity. There have been some limited attempts to do this, but so far these have not been very effective. (Apparently the most effective action taken has been that of the longline industry, rather than governments or regional tuna bodies.) Heretofore, the problem of too much fishing capacity, fishing effort, or fishing mortality has been addressed mostly through the application of catch quotas, closed areas and seasons, gear restrictions, etc. Some management schemes for tuna employ all of these methods, and more, to control fishing mortality for a single species. This sort of micro-management is often confusing, complex, and difficult for fishermen to comply with, not to mention the heavy implicit and explicit costs of management, and is not always effective in achieving the desired conservation objectives. Such management approaches can frequently end up reducing vessel efficiency and productivity per vessel. As pointed out earlier in this document, these sorts of events cause conservation programmes to fail. Setting capacity limits would mitigate many of these problems, but could introduce others, such as how to increase the catch of underexploited species while protecting overexploited species, determining optimum fleet size, allocating fleet capacity among participants, measuring and monitoring vessel efficiency, accommodating the desires of states without fleets to acquire them, etc. All of these issues, and others, must be considered in any attempt to effectively control capacity.

7.1 Controlling Catch

The problem of allowing catches of underexploited skipjack to increase, while limiting the catch of fully-exploited yellowfin and bigeye in a mixed-species fishery (Squires 1994), was described earlier in this paper, but how such a situation could be handled under a limited entry programme was not. There are two obvious approaches. One approach might be to limit the fleet to a size capable of generating the amount of fishing effort needed to take the allowable catch of yellowfin and bigeye over the period of a year. In this case the full potential of the skipjack catch might not be realized, but in an economic sense this could be beneficial to the vessel owners and to the nations under whose flag these vessels fish (but perhaps not to consumers). For example, as has already been noted, in recent years, because of the record high catches of skipjack as a result of increased fleet size and FAD fishing, prices paid for raw tuna dipped to the lowest levels they have been in 30 years. If skipjack catches were to decrease, prices would likely increase. Otherwise, for prices to increase in face of increased skipjack production, demand would have to outstrip the increasing supply of skipjack, or catches of the other tuna species would have to decrease proportionately. This approach of limiting fishing capacity to that necessary to take the available yellowfin while foregoing some potential for increase in skipjack, catch could be employed effectively in the EPO, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean purse-seine fisheries, but not very well in the western Pacific fishery, where skipjack makes up about 75% of the total tuna catch made by purse-seine vessels. Another approach might be to allow the fleet to increase to a size capable of taking the full potential of the skipjack resource. In this case the fleet would be larger than needed to harvest the other species of tuna, i.e., there could be excess capacity relative to yellowfin and bigeye. Catch quotas would have to be placed on the other species to prevent them from being overexploited. Alternatively, gear research might lead to a method to harvest skipjack from around FADs without harvesting the other species. If this were possible, then vessels could continue to fish for skipjack after the catch limits for the other species were filled. (This could be fraught with the economic problems just described.) Currently no such methods exist. However, if fleet size was allowed to grow because of greater potential skipjack catches, leading to excess capacity with regards to yellowfin, it is possible that industry would pressure their governments to lift restrictions on the higher-priced yellowfin, resulting in overfishing of that species.

7.2 The World Tuna Fleet

There are now four Article 64 type regional tuna organizations, and soon there will be five. Each of these four organizations has instituted conservation controls of one form or another because of heavy exploitation of the resources falling within its responsibility, and each has expressed the need to limit fleet capacity. Because many of the vessels that fish tuna move from the jurisdiction of one body to those of others, it would be ideal to set a limit on size for the global fleet. However, it is probably not practical to attempt to set such limits at the outset, because each of the regional bodies sets different forms of conservation controls based on its understanding of the dynamics of the fisheries for which it is responsible. It would make more sense at the outset to approach the setting of capacity limits on a regional basis, relying on each regional body to determine how this could best be achieved. However, it will be necessary, because of the tendency for tuna vessels to move from fishery to fishery, and from ocean to ocean, that the various regional bodies work closely together, exchanging information and ideas, to ensure their activities are coordinated and complementary to each other’s programmes. Such coordination is extremely important with respect not only to the vessels that move from fishery to fishery, but also to the resources that inhabit the waters of more than one organization, particularly if total fleet capacity is to be determined on the basis of the total allowable catch of a species or group of species. Two approaches for coordinating the efforts of the regional bodies have already been mentioned.

Although the subject of this document is the limitation of fishing capacity, such capacity limitations are fundamentally based on catch. For example, when the size of a fleet is limited by either carrying capacity or numbers of vessels, assuming no changes in vessel efficiency nor in the number of days fished, the level of harvest for that fleet is also fixed, falling within a range determined by natural fluctuations in the abundance, availability, and/or vulnerability of the stock of fish being fished. A prerequisite to setting reasonable capacity limits is a determination of total allowable catch levels. Once these catch levels are determined, efficiency changes notwithstanding, capacity levels can be fixed accordingly. For most multinational tuna fisheries, as soon as limitations in fleet size are fixed, efficiency changes notwithstanding, catches will correspondingly be fixed.

The distribution of vessels among flags will determine, to a large extent the distribution of catch among the nations representing those flags. The issue then becomes one of allocation, that is who gets what share of the available resource. This issue of allocation is at the heart of nearly all fisheries controversy, and in multinational fisheries there has been little success in resolving it. If a resolution to this sort of problem is to be found, there must first be a series of criteria defined, and agreed to by nations, for partitioning the catch or in this case the allowable fleet capacity, among participants. This would include not only the nations currently having vessels operating in the fishery, but also other states with the desire or intention of entering the fishery to be controlled. The problem of new entrants into a controlled fishery is as contentious a problem as allocation of the catch or fleet size is among the nations already participating in the fishery. This problem was recognized nearly 25 years ago by Joseph and Greenough (1978) when they wrote:

As fleets increase beyond the capability of the tuna stocks to fill their holds, disputes over who should get what share of the available harvest could intensify to the point where they become so dominant in everyone’s mind that finding solutions to other important problems becomes impossible. To prevent this from happening, there is a strong need to limit the number of tuna vessels being built. Though most agree that such a need exists, it will be extremely difficult to control fleet size because of conflicting interests among nations.

There has been little progress in developing fleet limitations and catch allocations for tuna fisheries since this statement was made. There are a few exceptions, however: (1) The total catch of southern bluefin tuna has been partitioned among three nations, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, that have historically accounted for nearly all of the catch of that species, or in whose waters the species is fished. However, there are new entrants in the fishery, and these have not been allocated quotas, which has caused the catch limitations set by the CCSBFT to be exceeded. This, coupled with increasingly more intense disputes among the original three nations over the levels of allocation, place the continuation of the conservation programme in jeopardy. (2) For the Atlantic tuna fishery, ICCAT has adopted catch allocations for swordfish and northern bluefin tuna. The allocations were based mostly on historical catch records, and once again the lack of a clear set of criteria for making allocations has lead to disputes and disagreements among the Parties. (3) Capacity limits have been allocated for only one tuna fishery, that of the eastern Pacific Ocean. However, this programme has not been very successful so far. After reaching agreement to allocate the fleet capacity limitation for 1999, the nations of the region failed to continue the agreement for 2000. On a more positive note, the recent action taken by the tuna longline industry to reduce and limit fleet size bears close watching, and may offer hope that something meaningful can be accomplished in other tuna fisheries. The initiative of WTPO is also encouraging from this respect as well. The common thread leading to the difficulties encountered in the efforts of the regional organizations to limit capacity has been the lack of a set of realistic criteria for making acceptable allocations for the present participants in the fishery and for new entrants. Defining these criteria is a necessary prerequisite to resolving the capacity issue.

7.3 Possible Criteria for Allocating Fleet Capacity Limitations

Both the IATTC and ICCAT have dealt extensively with the issue of defining a set of criteria, which could be used as a basis for making allocations. For the IATTC the allocations would be for fleet capacity limits, whereas for ICCAT they would deal with catch allocations. Regardless of the objective, catch or capacity, the issues are very much the same, and the results determine to a high degree the levels of catch that could be taken by the respective fleets.

The IATTC has held three meetings of a working group that deals with the issue of allocation of the fleet capacity limits, the first in September 1998, the second in October 1999, and the third in July/August 2000. ICCAT held two such meetings as well, the first in the summer of 1999, and the second in the spring of 2000. Although none of these meetings ended in an agreement as to specific criteria to use for determining allocations, they did identify a number of criteria, which might be considered. Some of these criteria are:

Interests, fishing patterns, and fishing practices of parties to the regional organization and other participants in the fisheries governed by the regional body;

Contributions of parties and participants to conservation and management of the stocks, including control mechanisms and compliance with regional management recommendations, to the collection and provision of accurate data, and to the conduct of scientific research on the stocks;

The needs of coastal states whose economies are overwhelmingly dependent on the exploitation of living marine resources, particularly resources falling within the responsibilities of the regional body;

The economic importance of the fishery to the state in terms of fleet sizes, catches and landings, and processing facilities;

The importance of ensuring equitable fishing opportunities for all members;

The interests of developing states from the region in whose areas of national jurisdiction the stocks occur;

Historical catches taken by parties and participants, both on the high seas and in the EEZs of the nations bordering the convention waters;

Interests of artisanal, subsistence, and small-scale fisheries;

The need to minimize economic dislocation in states whose fishing vessels have habitually fished in the zone;

The respective dependence of the coastal states and the states fishing on the high seas on the stocks concerned;

Dependence on the fishery for direct domestic consumption;

Fishing traditions;

The status of fish stocks relative to AMSY and the existing level of fishing effort in the fishery.

This list of criteria is broad and all encompassing. It reflects the interests, desires, and aspirations of all states, but is so broad that to attempt to include all of these criteria in any scheme to allocate fleet capacity, or catch, would spell certain doom for an agreement. Obviously, these various points should be kept in mind by states while formulating allocation schemes, but to quantify parameters based on “interests,” “desires,” “needs,” etc., would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Data for some of these criteria, such as current and historical fleet capacity, current and historical catch, and current and historical shore-side processing facilities and infrastructure, and also demographics and economic data, is readily available, and parameters for these can be easily quantified in any allocation formula that might be developed. However, weighting of each of these criteria will be the result of negotiation among governments, and at present there is little concrete guidance from international law for doing this. Another difficult problem is how to handle the desires of nations that currently do not have fleets fishing in the region, but that wish to enter the fishery. For most of the tuna fisheries being considered in this study, there are fleets that are larger than needed to harvest the allowable catch. The problem is how to reduce these fleets, not how to increase them. Therefore if new vessels flagged under previously non-fishing nations are to enter the fishery, then either fleets of other nations will have to be removed from the fishery, or the fleet capacity in the fishery will grow even larger. This problem of new entrants will not be easy to resolve. Article 116 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea speaks of the rights of states to participate in fisheries on the high seas, and many would interpret that to mean that a fishery cannot be closed to new entrants. At the same time, Articles 117, 118, and 119 speak about the obligations and responsibilities of states respecting the conservation of these living resources, and calls on them to cooperate with other states and appropriate regional bodies, to manage and conserve the resources. However, Article 119 goes on to say that there shall be no discrimination in form or fact against the fishermen of any state. Just how to address this conundrum is perplexing, but it very likely will have to involve some aspect of assigning property rights in the fishery, and may require revisiting some of these articles in the Law of the Sea Convention, and also the instruments creating the regional tuna bodies.

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