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This expert consultation was intended and designed to develop a set of general recommendations and guidance to assist in addressing the difficult subject of overcapacity in marine capture fisheries.

The result is guidance about a general, flexible process for assisting the transition of fisheries that are characterized by overcapacity into fisheries that are characterized as fully utilized, economically efficient[1] and that meet the management objectives and goals of the agency or group that has fisheries management responsibility.

The transitional procedure described in Part I: Results of the Expert Consultation on Catalysing the Transition away from Overcapacity in Marine Capture Fisheries, Final General Recommendations and Guidance is intended to assist managers, administrators, decision-makers and others to overcome some of the constraints that currently can inhibit or slow the introduction and implementation of capacity reduction programs.

The procedure is intended to facilitate the transition from the existing management approaches that create incentives to increase overcapacity to management approaches that generate incentives to eliminate overcapacity and also prevent its reappearance. The approach is one that involves building understanding and consensus regarding various goals and objectives.

While supportive quantitative or qualitative analysis is recommended, the guidance can be implemented without extensive data collection or analysis.

Both excess capacity and overcapacity in the fish harvesting sector have long been recognized as serious fisheries management problems. Studies - of both the short-run problem of excess capacity and the persistent, longer run problem of overcapacity - indicate that excessive levels of fish harvesting capacity exist in many fisheries.[2]

Furthermore, the negative impacts of such excessive levels of harvesting capacity are not limited to the financial well-being of participants in fisheries in terms of their over-investment in the capital and labor used to harvest fish. Excessive levels of harvesting capacity also have substantial social costs for fishing nations. These social costs can include serious ecological, human, and food security impacts.

Both excess and overcapacity have been cited as the primary cause of overfishing of fish stocks globally. Similarly, the practices of discarding of incidentally caught marine mammals, turtles, and finfish have also been attributed to excess and overcapacity in directed fisheries. Habitat degradation caused by the excessive use of superfluous fishing gear has been attributed to excess and overcapacity in the fishing industry. Still another type of these social costs is the impact on different groups of participants in the fisheries - such as the displacement of artisanal fishers by industrial fleets in coastal waters.

Part II - Report of the Expert Consultation on Catalysing the Transition away from Overcapacity in Marine Capture Fisheries includes a synthesis of the expert consultation discussions that formed the basis of the recommendations and guidance.

The synthesis includes some of the major social, management, legal, financial, political issues that were identified by the experts as potentially creating barriers to capacity reduction programs. The synthesis also includes some of the potential solutions that were suggested for overcoming these barriers.

The expert consultation reaffirmed the need to take into account social, economic, financial, management, political, and legal concerns of stakeholders in the fishery or fisheries - not only by providing information and education to the stakeholders, but also by providing for stakeholder input and feedback into the management process.

Long lasting regulatory solutions to these problems, to these symptoms of excess and overcapacity in fisheries, have been developed by a number of experts in the fields of fisheries sociology, marine policy, economics, biology, and anthropology, and these solutions have been categorized as either ‘incentive blocking’ and ‘incentive adjusting’ to reflect their likely impact on participants’ behavior.[3]

Typically, these solutions involve a change from open access, regulated open access, or common property fisheries where ‘incentive blocking’ measures are used to fisheries management programs where ‘incentive adjusting’ measures are used to strengthen participants’ harvesting rights by setting up community development quotas, territorial use rights, or even individual transferable quota systems. Very basically, this is because management systems that cause participants to behave as if they have strong property rights for fish in the sea will help eliminate overcapacity in the fishery. The weaker the property right for the in situ resource, the less likely that overcapacity will be eliminated and not reappear.

Even though the fundamental fishery management problem has been identified, capacity reduction solutions have been proposed, and solutions for resolving overcapacity problems exist, the transition process itself is not well understood and a procedure to implement the solution has not been previously identified. Both disbelief in the usefulness or efficacy of incentive adjusting management approaches and concern about intermediate financial, social and political issues prevents their adoption. In the interim, incentive blocking regulations continue to be used as temporary measures to control overcapacity.

The experts recognized that different fisheries will likely require different capacity reduction programs that reflect particular social, management, economic, and other needs.

Individual management authorities have different long term objectives and goals for their fisheries. Because there is no single solution, capacity reduction programs will likely be a combination of some of the issues and approaches that are outlined in Part III: Background Paper and Provisional Discussion Issues, the background documentation to the Expert Consultation that includes III-1. Fish Harvesting Capacity, Excess Capacity, and Overcapacity: A synthesis of measurement studies and management strategies; and III-2. Provisional Discussion Elements.

It is the hope of the participants in the Expert Consultation that their efforts to provide practical guidance about an issue that is confronting many today will be useful.

[1] The phrase ‘economic efficiency’ is used here in the broadest sense to mean the maximization of the net present value of benefits net of costs of a management program. Thus, benefits include quantitative as well as qualitative values held by stakeholders such as, but not limited to, quality of life in a fishing-dependent community, dissatisfaction from knowing highly prize species are being harvested and discarded (such as in the case of endangered species), and food security.
[2] For example, Garcia and Newton (1995) estimated that world fishing capacity should be reduced by 53 percent for revenues to cover total costs of harvesting fish. Hsu (2000) also found substantial levels of excess capacity in world capture fisheries. In addition, Hsu found that the Canadian Atlantic inshore groundfish fishery had excess harvesting capacity in a study conducted between 1984 and 1991. Excess capacity was identified in the Malaysian purse seine fishery by Kirkley, Squires, Alam, and Omar (1999). The government of Japan (2001) determined that excessive fishing capacity was present in its coastal fisheries and in the large-scale purse seine and offshore trawling fisheries. Studies of overcapacity in fisheries are limited in number, but indicate that overcapacity can exist separately from excess capacity. Kirkley, et al. (2002) found high levels of overcapacity in five federally managed U.S. fisheries.
[3] FAO, Technical Working Group, La Jolla, CA, USA.

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