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Government officials and fishery scientists from around the world long ago recognized that unrestricted entry into a fishery would result in fishing fleets having the ability to harvest in excess of sustainable levels. Overcapacity is now recognized as a major and global problem for maintaining socially and economically viable fisheries (FAO, 1999). In the absence of appropriate restrictions on harvesting activities, fishing fleets could easily deplete valuable fishery resources and generate considerable economic waste. These are the basic problems - resource depletion and economic waste - created by overcapacity in fisheries.

Managing fishing capacity first requires information on current levels of overcapacity and underutilized capacity in the fisheries. This Fisheries Technical Paper provides guidance for measuring and assessing fishing capacity. It is primarily intended for use by fisheries managers, economists, and multi-disciplinary research teams interested in the management of fishing capacity and related measurement issues. The Technical Paper provides a discussion and overview of the various concepts of capacity and capacity utilization and potential methods for estimating capacity discussed at the Mexico City Technical Consultation in 1999. The Technical Paper also introduces some more recent methodologies for examining capacity in fisheries. The major objectives of this Technical Paper are to provide the following: (1) information necessary for developing a widely accepted definition of capacity for fisheries; and (2) sufficient detail about various methods for estimating capacity to permit an empirical assessment of fishing capacity conditional on the types of fisheries data typically available. Initially, the Technical Paper discusses concepts and issues necessary for understanding capacity and capacity utilization in fisheries. It then discusses the various methods frequently used to estimate capacity. Empirical examples also are provided to illustrate how various approaches may be used to estimate and assess capacity and capacity utilization in fisheries. Last, a potential framework for assessing overcapacity is presented and discussed.

Although economics serves as the principal analytical framework used by the authors, the concepts, approaches and methods proposed reflect a rather general approach to the measurement, assessment and management of fishing capacity.

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