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Massimo Spagnolo


The paper analyses on the basis of Italian coastal fisheries, management procedures and tools, referred to trawlers and polyvalent trawlers, within the four components of sustainability. Difficulties and obstacles in the management of trawler and polyvalent trawler fisheries targeting demersal, crustaceans and molluscs stocks are considered.

The four dimensions of sustainability, bio-ecological, social, economic and institutional, are reviewed as part of the management process and factors affecting the achievement of policy targets are identified. Paths to solutions are addressed with a view to assessing the level of difficulties limiting the achievement of a sound management fishery policy in a context where stocks have been for a long time considered in an acceptable shape.


This paper intends to contribute to the understanding of the four components of sustainability which have been identified by the Bangkok Workshop: bio-ecological, social, economic and institutional. For each of the four components the main tools and measures adopted by management bodies will be presented in order to assess the achievements of foreseen policy goals.

The main factors of unsustainability will be addressed and some paths to solution will be individuated as indicated by the following table:

Mains factors of unsustainability

Paths to solutions
(with indicative linkage to relevant factors)

Inappropriate incentives
High demand for limited resources
Poverty and lack of incentives
Complexity and lack of knowledge
Lack of governance
Interactions of the fishery sector with other sectors and environment

Rights (1)
Transparent, participatory, management (1,2,5)
Support - science, enforcement, planning (4,5)
Benefit distribution (1,3)
Integrated policy (1,3)
Precautionary approach (4,6)
Capacity building and public awareness building (5)
Market incentives (1,2)

The analysis will consider a strong multispecies, multigear fishery, as the trawler and polyvalent trawlers fishing demersal species, crustaceans and molluscs in the Mediterranean. It will briefly cover Mediterranean fisheries and the Italian institutional setting. Some peculiar patterns of Mediterranean fisheries will be stressed in an introductory section. The key features of Italian fisheries will further be outlined. Finally, factors of unsustainability and possible solutions will be analysed.

1.1 Mediterranean fishery: the key characteristics

For many centuries Mediterranean fisheries have played an important role in economic, social and cultural terms in the area. Fish production and trade have flourished all over and for millennia this activity contributed to the development of bordering nations. Nevertheless, there is no experience of a high level of overexploitation or overcapacity as occurs in large parts of the world’s fisheries. This can be viewed as an unexpected outcome considering that more than one 100 000 vessels are registered for fishing, more than 430 000 fishermen live on capture fisheries and more than 1,5 million tonnes are produced each year in the area with a market value much higher than the average European and international price.

The structure of the fishing industry in Mediterranean fisheries is rather homogeneous and most of the key features of the Italian industry, noted below, are similar to most Mediterranean countries.

The previous key features, characterising an artisanal fleet with respect to an industrial one, avoided the occurrence of dramatic stock crisis experienced in other fisheries, and allowed, together with management policies, for a substantial sustainability of the Mediterranean fishery resources.

This has been true over time, even if fishing effort has recently increased in the area having a slow, but progressive, impact on some fish stocks. The usual and well known impact on demersal species occurring when overexploitation starts has been experienced in the Mediterranean area, as in many other fishing grounds. Catch composition is changing and species having a lower recruitment age are slowly increasing, while fish size is slowly, but progressively, reducing.

It can therefore, be argued that overfishing in the Mediterranean is not yet a major problem and demersal fish stocks have been for a long time considered in an acceptable shape despite the increasing capacity which has been deployed by different nations participating in the exploitation of the basin. Structural and socio economic reasons allowed for the maintaining of an equilibrium over time, but in recent years showed some deterioration of technical and economic parameters asking public management bodies to pay a greater attention to protect fish stocks.

European as well as national policies have recently become more active and substantial reduction in fishing effort has been reached. Permanent withdrawal, together with other measures have been used, such as temporary withdrawal, protecting fish spawning and nursery areas, moratorium on new fishing licences, moratorium on new capacity to be introduced in the area. New tools now being considered by the management authority. In particular, given that capacity cannot be improved in anyway, limiting days at sea and additional territorial user rights, are discussed for allocation to cooperatives fishing in coastal areas. Introduction of property rights in other segments of the fleet, mainly molluscs dredgers, have been experienced in past years allowing for the full recovery of the resource.

In fact, while conflicts are always possible at local level, the number of interacting fisheries in the area is very low and restricted to a few species, apart from a few shared fish stocks. Each fishery is exploited by fleets of a single country given the limited dimension of the continental shelf; and extra-Mediterranean fleets are extremely rare and limit their interest to bluefin tuna and sword fish only. The previous considerations lead to the conclusion that, apart from specific cases, each fleet works “in isolation” and react to management rules imposed by its own management authority.

The European Union has extended its management role in the area only in 1994, adopting a rule (Rule 1626/94) aiming at the harmonisation of conservation technical measures. Unfortunately, this rule has never been entirely enforced due to some of the factors of unsustainability listed above. Only recently, in September 2000, the European Commission produced a Plan of Action for the Mediterranean fisheries where a comprehensive strategy is outlined for the forthcoming years. Unfortunately, this strategy still relies on a north European stock approach more than on a multispecies effort approach, even if the latter is considered by the EU Commission. The Plan is now under scrutiny by Member States, but it is already clear that, as it is, the strategy does not fit the structure and the culture of Mediterranean management approach. Following the 1982 Convention for the Law of the Sea (article 64), the EU Commission could have instead taken steps to sign agreements with other Mediterranean countries in the field of international cooperation for conservation and management of fish stocks in the area. However, at EU level, the reinforcement of the international cooperation has been limited for the time being to:

At national level consistent financial support has been given to Mediterranean subregional programmes, such as Adriamed for the Adriatic countries and Medsudmed for the Sicily Channel. Technical support has been secured to Copemed programme which refers to Western Mediterranean countries. The aim of these programmes is to contribute to scientific strengthening of countries adhering to the programmes, establishment of cooperation network and support fisheries management in the Mediterranean.

1.2 Italian fisheries: key features

Italian fishing areas are scattered along the 8 000 km coastline while production is landed in more than 800 landing sites. The fleet is widely distributed and therefore, not concentrated. Only a very few ports show a concentration rate higher than two percent of the national fleet. Flexibility and diversification in fishing gear are typical of the Italian small scale fishing fleet (accounting for more than 80 percent of the fleet). Following the EU strategy aiming at the permanent withdrawal of fishing vessels, in the period 1999 - 2001, the Italian fleet faced an important reduction in number, tonnage and power (-16 percent, -19 percent -15 percent respectively) bringing the fleet at little more than 16 000 boats, 183 000 GT and 1 300 000 Kw, at the end of 2001.

In the period 1996 - 2001, total effort decreased by 15 percent, while global CPUE by 12.2 percent The latter shows a decreasing rate of reduction and in the period 1999 - 2001 it amounted to 3.5 percent while effort reduced by 16.7 percent These figures clearly indicate the existence of a positive path to solution of the conservation of fish resources emerging from the measures undertaken. In case of fleet segments analysed in the paper, it will be shown that the positive impact is much higher.

1.2.1 Legal and Institutional Framework

Act 41, which came into force in 1982, represents the normative reference which, parallel to EU regulations and structural funds programmes, has allowed for sector management through the enforcement of Triennial Plans. The authority responsible for monitoring and enforcing EU and national conservation policies is the General Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture, which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies. Three Committees have been established, responsible for Fish Industry Management, Research and Financial issues. All the stakeholders involved in the industry are institutionally represented in each Committee, and play an active role in the decision making process.

The management of the sector occurs through a twofold programming level. On the one hand, the national programming activity has the Triennial Plan as its reference operating document. Since 1982, the Triennial Plans have included a detailed analysis of the sector. They are used to define policy objectives and to introduce a variety of measures in different areas of the industry: administration, cooperatives, production at sea, aquaculture, trade and processing, promotion, research. A large set of detailed bio-economic data and information allow for the forecast of future trends of the industry and are used for the drawing of the Plan.

All stakeholders involved in the industry take part in the process and, through their participation in the National Resource Management Committee, approve the final draft, which, afterwards, is signed by the Ministry and enforced.

The Code of Conduct, biodiversity and sustainability approach included in international documents which Italy has subscribed and is committed to observe, have been in place well before their introduction. Several tools have been used for many years and different measures have been introduced in order to achieve these goals. In particular:

and many other measures have been applied.


2.1 Bio-ecological component of sustainability

The main bio-ecological aim is to protect fisheries resources, environment and biodiversity. In this context, measures undertaken by the Italian management authority are set in order to fulfil international commitments and to avoid overfishing, while protecting the resource and fishers’ income. In the case of strong multispecificity of the resources, the target is no longer stated in terms of Maximum Sustainable Yield, but concerns the global protection of different stocks.

According to European and Italian legislation, resource management is achieved through the introduction of a mix of different measures aiming at the best possible equilibrium between fishing effort and resources. This target has been pursued through the introduction of an increasing number of measures and tools.

In 1982, a generalised licensing scheme was introduced and all vessels authorised to fish at that time were given a licence. Following the licensing scheme the next step was the introduction of technical measures based on the Italian legislation. The measures were those supported by traditional biological schemes, as minimum mesh size and minimum fish size. The minimum mesh size (40 mm) took some time to be enforced, but compliance was finally secured by fishers. The same result did not apply in case of minimum fish size rule. Of course, given the high level of multispecificity, the latter measure was rather ineffective and hard to enforce, confirming the outcomes of main studies on the issue (OCDE 1997). Compliance, as a consequence, has been low for many years.

At the same time, the role of bio-economic research was strengthened and important financial resources were allocated to research fisheries institutes. Between 10 and 15 percent (five to seven million Euros) of the whole national budget of the fishing industry has been used for research for the last twenty years. At the moment, time series concerning all economic parameters and the main biological parameters are available in Italy. In particular, socio economic parameters are currently used for the drawing of national and European planning documents. Biological parameters have not always been able to be translated into management language and sometimes, due to the multispecificity of resources, they showed to be less effective then economic and technical information for management purposes. In fact, management of strong multispecies stocks can be seen more as an integrated planning exercise, where the type and number of variables increase the complexity of the management model, which will include eco-biological as well as economic, social, technical and other possible disciplines contribution, all of them bringing to the solution of the sustainability target.

Several other measures have been introduced since then. In particular, the following measures were enforced for the specific fleet segments, with the support of fishermen and their association:

Other measures were considered important and introduced such as seasonal temporary withdrawal for trawlers and pair trawlers together with time limits in the period following the closures, and where there is interruption of any activity in the main spawning and nursery areas. Allocation of territorial use rights to local communities and cooperatives and limits on the use of days at sea, successfully experimented for other segments of the Italian fisheries (molluscs), have been recently discussed.

All these measures have been discussed and have been approved by all fishing industry stakeholders, in particular by fishermen’s’ associations. It is also of some importance that output measures, individual quotas or any ITQ or multiannual quotas, have never been considered as a tool to enforce in the multispecies multigear Mediterranean fisheries. For different reasons, quotas have been enforced in case of bluefin tuna and clam fisheries. Where quotas have been decided with the participation of fishermen themselves, the resource has completely recovered and significant improvement has been registered in term of income. Where quotas have been decided without the fishermen participation, in particular within a multilevel decision making process (bluefin tuna), a series of problems arose.

In 1994, aiming at the harmonisation of conservation technical measures in the Mediterranean, the EU introduced a rule (Reg. CE 1626/94) where a set of technical measures, most of them similar to those already existing, were established. It emerged that the new fish size limits were lower than those being fished by the allowed mesh size. On the other side, the rule called for substantial moratoria on some coastal traditional fisheries, in particular those having a strong social impact. The above considerations did not allow the enforcement of the rule, which has been subject to continuous derogation since its introduction.

All measures noted above have been taken within plans aiming at protecting, conserving and restoring biological resources within a strategy of bio-ecological sustainability, which is a priority for authorities managing the fisheries in the area. Yet, this goal, which is formally stated as a foreword in every document issued by the authorities, has not always been achieved.

2.1.1 Factors of unsustainability

The factors of unsustainability are at work indeed and management authorities have not always been able to incorporate them in their strategies offsetting the possible negative impact emerging from their action. In particular:

2.1.2 Complexity and lack of knowledge

Lack of knowledge is not a major problem in the Italian fishing industry in general and in the trawling segment in particular. The state of the biological resources in the area has been studied for a long time within national and European research programmes. Detailed economic performance of the fleet has been continuously monitored in last twenty years.

Complexity of the process is something to further explore, as it could contribute to unsustainability. Among other things, the following represent perhaps some of the most relevant problems which require further investigation:

Paths to Solution

In the cases noted above, paths to solution can be found in the following measures:

Support - science, enforcement, planning.

Support in science, enforcement and planning encompasses the strengthening of the planning approach in all its dimensions, eco biological, economic, social, technical, and dissemination to different actors of the industry.

Scientific research needs to get out from the academic approach and face the concrete needs of management in order to protect, conserve and restore fishery resources. Auto referentiality, in this case, is a limit to overcome.

Public administration has to play a pro active role in the path to solution. Target identification, measures identification, drawing up the program/plan, enforcement, control and compliance have to be considered as part of a unique planning exercise. Sometime, different administrations are in charge of a single part of the process and interaction is not always granted. Reduced responsibility and passive attitude could be the result.

Fishermen and their associations should play an active role in the process as the other part of the chain. Sometimes they are called only in the final step where decisions need to be enforced. This brings a loss in efficiency for individual measures and tools, and increases difficulties in compliance with the rules.

Capacity building and public awareness building

All cases noted above require the clear definition of a process, institutional procedures and training wherever behaviours have to be modified.

Some of the previous limits emerge due to the lack of reciprocal capability in understanding each others’ tools within the management procedure. As an example, part of the scientific information is not properly channelled because of some difficulties in dealing with a large mass of bio-economic information and models. This will also limit governance ability, but in most cases it is matter of reciprocal ability to “read” each others’ needs. In general, the more sophisticated the management process, the more demanding the procedure will be in terms of quantity and quality of information. In such situations, the administration in charge of resource management should be commensurately more qualified.

2.1.3 High demand for limited resources.

Demand for fish products in Italy is sustained with respect to internal production. After a long period where internal demand has been steadily increasing, recent years show a constant trend of around 22/kg per capita. Sea food self sufficiency is limited to about 48-50 percent. On the other hand, landings of species caught by trawlers and polyvalent trawlers, following the decommissioning scheme which allowed the reduction of 24 percent of gross tonnage and 13 percent of nominal Kw[101] of the corresponding fleet continuously decreased (Fig.1). In the period 1996/2001 the reduction in landings registered by these segments resulted in more than 50 percent, depending both on reduced capacity and reduced global days at sea (Fig.2). It is worth noting the trend has been downward sloping even if demand pressure increased due to the reduction in landings. The rigidity of structural productive parameters and the management authority stepping up the decommissioning scheme did not allow effort to increase[102].

Figure 1. Internal Consumption, landings and ex vessel prices - base 1996 - Italy-

Source: IREPA Observatory

Of course, ex vessel prices grew constantly from €/kg 3.40 in 1996 to €/Kg 4.3 in 2001, more than covering the costs increase, fuel in particular. (Fig.3)

While it is true that the price trend has allowed more fishermen to stay in the fishery, it is also true that those remaining in the fishery slightly increased the number of days at sea, thus increasing individual fishing effort. Yet, global fishing effort was strongly reduced in the segment and outcomes have been satisfactory. The incentive to increase fishing effort[103] due to demand in excess of supply had only a little effect and measures introduced brought the fleet on its path to protect and restore biological resources.

Figure 2. Fishing Effort and CPUE - Trawlers and Polyvalent Trawlers

Source: IREPA Observatory

2.1.4 Lack of governance.

The model of governance in Italy is based on tight cooperation among administration, research and industry, all of them institutionally participating in the decision making process and planning. This approach allows for decisions to be undertaken with a strong consensus from each part of the process. Validity and efficiency of the measures to be introduced can be checked against experience in a concerted procedure. It is understandable that vested interests tend to defend their own associates’ positions trying to circumvent the procedure and, when considered necessary, establish a direct connection with the political level, thus overcoming the management authority. It will be the responsibility of fishery managers to incorporate, as in a game theory, reactions of stakeholders to policy measures and to apply a fine tuning approach to the greatest possible extent.

But, it is also evidently clear, so far, that the alternative approach, i.e., to exclude the industry from the process while relying on it for enforcement, would bring more difficulties and obstacles when introducing new rules. Experience has shown the importance of the consensus-based approach.

The Regulation (CE) 1626/94 noted above is a clear demonstration of those limits where all paths to the solution of this factor indicated in the Bangkok Workshop are relevant. Lack of participatory involvement and limited support from science brought an unfortunate outcome. The establishment of bluefin tuna quotas has been a failure in many ways. The procedures involved in the setting of quotas, at each different level of decision, do not grant at all as meaningful a role to stakeholders as they should in the full range of management. Those who have to secure compliance with the quota system do not take part in the process. Science has never been able to provide models meeting the support of fishermen. Further, it is a widespread feeling that data and information needed to run models have little reliability. Potentially more restrictive measures to protect fishery resources could have been introduced with the consensus of fishermen, but they are not allowed to participate in the process.

Previous examples show that lack of governance or weakness in governance is experienced every time multi level decisional system is in place in fisheries management, in particular, in case of international procedures. Each level, in fact, will utilise the uncertainties of the system, interpreting the outcomes following its own social and economic interest, and not necessarily assigning priority to protecting, conserving and restoring fishery resources.

In what has been said above, some paths to solutions are apparent. Actions and institutional procedures allowing a more transparent, participatory, management of all the stakeholders involved should be stressed together with the need for science to better support the process.

Figure 3. Average fuel cost and added value per vessel, 2 000 Euros

Source: IREPA Observatory

2.2 Social component of sustainability

The social aims of fishery management will consider three different sets of measures as stated below.

Those aiming at a better utilisation of the fisheries resource, ensuring safe, healthy and fair working conditions. All of them can play an important role in the development of a sound strategy aiming at increasing the efficiency of resource utilisation and quality of work on board. In Italy, these measures fall within the EU policy regulations and, at a more or less homogeneous level, have been introduced in the industry. Concerning fish utilisation, in particular, it is true that discards and by-catch are rather limited and unimportant.

Those aiming at alleviating the impact of measures necessary for the modernisation and rationalisation of the fishing industry. Protecting, conserving and restoring fisheries resources, improving the efficiency of the industry, granting a sustainable income to participants, are, all together, part of a planning exercise and are often factors conflicting with the social component of sustainability. In most cases reduction in fishing effort is required and buy back schemes are introduced, other times specific gears are forbidden, or protected marine areas as well as closed fishing grounds introduced. All are examples of measures which have been undertaken by the management authority in Italy. All of them have a negative impact from a social point of view in term of employment, income and livelihood of communities depending on fisheries.

Those aiming at assisting developing countries. Initiatives in this field have been undertaken through regional assistance and scientific cooperation programmes in order to allow an increasing attitude towards responsible fishing in the Mediterranean. Three regional projects are in place, ADRIAMED, MEDSUDMED, COPEMED, and they seem to fulfil expectations. They are operating through FAO/CGPM agreements.

2.2.1. Factors of unsustainability

Inappropriate incentives

The choice of incentives available on the basis of the national and European tools in order to achieve the fishery policy targets has not been always appropriate. In particular, in case of small scale artisanal fisheries, financial incentives to reduce vessel management and capital costs have been widespread and utilised by fishermen, bringing distortions in wealth allocation and rent distribution. In most cases, this allowed a trade off between employment and resource protection through an increase of fishing capacity or, at least, maintaining an effort which would have otherwise been deployed. In case of small scale artisanal fisheries the possibility of building a strategy based on the introduction of property rights could contribute to the solution of the problem in a more consistent way, lowering the impact in terms of social unsustainability. Examples are available in different areas and, with excellent results, this has been applied in some cases in Italy as well, but not in the case of trawlers to date.

Complexity and lack of knowledge

In many cases, the wrong choice of incentives depends on the lack of knowledge or lack of capability of the administration in dealing with the complexity of specific reconversion or diversification plans. A Community Initiative, “PESCA” was introduced by the EU a few years ago as an attempt to balance the unemployment generated by the Multi Annual Guidance Programme. In fact, very little benefit has been gained from the large amount of money spent in the programme. Of course, capacity building and public awareness building could have helped the public administration in its effort to limit social shortcomings. Anyway, it is a widespread opinion that this would have not been enough, since an initiative like this requires the participation of beneficiaries and appropriate support in terms of planning, science and enforcement.

Lack of alternatives (more than poverty)

As almost everywhere, fishermen do not have easy access to alternative employment outside the fishing industry. Enforcement of management measures would possibly increase the rate of unemployment in a fishing area and diversification policies have to be considered. The Italian planning policy has introduced for a long time now a multispecificity approach, allowing for income integration and employment diversification. Appropriate incentives and priorities have been considered for specific activities. Aquaculture is one of the possibilities, but activities within the environment protection and control, fish tourism, artisanal activities like shipyards and vessel maintenance, have been supported in case of fishermen reconversion.

It must be admitted that aquaculture has not proved to be a successful alternative as a means for increasing social sustainability. Cases where fishermen, individuals or cooperatives have been able to diversify or reconvert to aquaculture are rare. When activity actually started, it has not always been carried out on a sustainable economic base. Of course, appropriate incentives could include support for tutorship avoiding the experienced shortcomings, but it is the complexity of the activity and its interaction with environment and other productive activities (tourism, industry) and many different public administrations, which makes it the alternative difficult to pursue. In the case of the Mediterranean, it is also true that profits have been very low in recent years and, of course, this is not an incentive to enter fish farming.

2.3 Economic component of sustainability

The main economic aim of fishery resources management, concerning Italian fisheries, is limited to matching fishing capacity to the productive capacity of the resource, the environment and the ecosystem. The other possible aims, such as conducting trade according to WTO rules including the elimination of subsidies and preventing illegal fishing, are of little importance in the national context. Concerning trade, Italy is playing its role on the international market as a strong consumer heavily relying on imports.

Rules and laws for preventing illegal fishing and control by the Port Military Authorities are active. Subsidies are considered of particular importance for social and economic reasons. In terms of IPOA Capacity it is true that subsidies contribute to the worsening of sustainability and the EU which is responsible for these subsidies has tried to cancel out all of them at once at last Ministry Council meeting in December 2002. The EU Commission had to retire its own proposal and transfer the ultimate date for eliminating subsidies for capacity to 2004, when there would be no subsidy left. Why this happened is easily explained. Transparent, participatory management, planning ability, concern about benefit distribution, capacity building and public awareness building were not at all considered.

2.3.1 Factors of unsustainability

Interactions of the fishery sector with other sectors, and the environment

The strategy reported in section 2.1 concerns the attempt of the national management authority to address the capacity of trawlers and polyvalent trawlers with demersal, crustacean and molluscs resources.

The national planning approach has taken as a priority the fulfilment of the principles stated in the UNCLOS and Agenda 21, the IPOA on the capacity of fishing vessels, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Compliance Agreement and, as already illustrated, the whole strategy which has been in place for last twenty years, is committed to this scope.

Capacity reduction has been carried on within the EU framework aimed at regulating fishing effort. MAGP objectives fixed by Community rules have been pursued and a strong reduction in capacity has been reached meeting the targets.

In the period 1996-2001, effort registered a reduction of 16 percent, against a much higher reduction of CPUE, estimated around -42 percent, denoting a deterioration of the exploitation pattern. As it is evident from the figure 2, CPUE shows a continuous downward slope for the whole period. But, as for the period 1999-2001, there is an inversion and the rate of reduction of CPUE is strongly decreasing, showing that measures introduced in the industry proved to be positive and can be considered as a contribution to the solution of the bio ecological component of sustainability due to an efficient management action, involving a high participation from fishermen.

As above reported, capacity reduction has been only one of the many measures which have been operating. It must be stressed that capacity alone could have hardly been able to have a concrete and definitive positive impact on resources. Temporary withdrawal closed spawning and nursery areas, financial assistance for reconversion and income integration and the like played, perhaps, a much more important role in the process of rehabilitating stocks. It is well known that in other EU countries the fulfilment of capacity objectives, even in single species fisheries, did not have any positive impact on resources.

Figure 4. CPUE and Gross Profit per CPUE - Trawlers and Polyvalent Trawlers

Source: IREPA Observatory

CPUE and effort variations over time have been shown above and it is evident that an inversion of the trend has been registered in 1999. It is of some importance to see that also Gross Profits per CPUE, due to the increase in prices more than covering the increase in costs, show an inversion in the tendency and become positive in the same year (Fig. 4). Considering that no expansion of capacity is possible and the scrapping programme will continue in next years, stock as well as economic indicators improvements are foreseen.

Average days at sea have increased and are now at the average traditional level of 180 days per year which is considered as a standard allowing for economic sustainability in the area. In fact, past years have been characterised by many closures not depending on management schemes (war in Balkans, post war closures due to the finding of non exploded air bombs on fishing grounds, algal bloom in the Adriatic), lowering the number of days at sea. Since 1999, the fleet has recovered and reached its standard 180 days of activity at sea. In the same period, fishermen benefited from the good financial results increasing the Capacity Utilisation Rate of their vessels. This has been possible since days at sea for this segment is not yet regulated, but the dimension of the increase is not comparable with the global reduction determined by the reduction in capacity.

Figure 5. Trawlers and Polyvalent Trawlers Segment - Average Days

Source: IREPA Observatory

Concerning factors of unsustainability it is hard to see any drawback from the introduction of the strategy which has been implemented. Of course, it must be kept in mind that the whole approach is based on two cornerstones. The first is the importance of the mix of measures, while the second, and perhaps more important, is the institutional setting of the fishery management in place.

2.3.2 Paths to solutions

The lesson that can be learned from this experience is that most of the elements considered as path to solution have been active. In particular:

2.4 Institutional component of sustainability

From what has been said above, it is the institutional component of sustainability which plays a major role in the framework of a multispecies fishery. Many components bringing to the solution are at work here and only a brief overview is possible.

2.4.1 Paths to solutions

Use of the best scientific and economic information. The General Direction for Fisheries and Aquaculture supports stock assessment surveys and fleet economic monitoring. Annual fisheries statistics are provided regularly for economic information, while scientific biologic information from research is now undergoing a process of diffusing its results. Both economic and biological data and statistical information are regularly used to support the management authority when introducing all kind of measures. In particular, periods of seasonal temporary withdrawal, closed area and technical limitations, drawing of national and specific plans of action, as swordfish, clam and tuna plans are included.

However, the large amount of biological information has not always been used for the production of systematic analysis covering the main stocks of national fisheries. Whenever needed the information is available, but a sort of restricted circulation is so far in place. According to a new statistical EU Programme (Reg. (CE) 1543/00) this limit is going to be overcome, since centralised storage and dissemination of data is now in place.

Use of the precautionary approach This has been in effect for many years. In the absence of a well defined procedure allowing the application of the concept, the precautionary approach has meant the adoption of strategies directed to:

Basically, the whole industry is faced with the development of the precautionary approach. Of course, efforts have not been able to eradicate misbehaviours of fishermen on a global scale. There are still some wrong attitudes, in particular, in less populated areas, where fishing within the three miles can occur or the 40 mm mesh size is not totally respected. Yet, it is true that the largest part of the fleet is now complying with rules. There is also a feeling that increasing controls at sea have helped in reaching the target.

Implementing a transparent and cooperative decision making process. As for what has been said so far, this issue has been incorporated from 1982 in the Italian fishery management scheme. If a reason for some positive outcomes and the introduction of measures allowing a path to solution of problems has to be identified, this is the specific institutional setting of the Italian participatory and transparent management approach. As for the EU conservation management scheme (what can be called a northern scheme transferred to the Mediterranean) it is quite clear that as it is now, is largely unsatisfactorily. It should be self evident that the passive transposition of the approach from North to South of the Union gives rise to problems and proves difficult to be accepted by those who have built their management culture many years before. Differences in biological stock structures, in economic and social structure, require a specific approach which cannot be taken from outside and enforced in the area. Results have been experienced and rules have not been enforced through a permanent derogation.

Monitoring, control and surveillance. Monitoring is an activity in rapid evolution. Logbooks in the area[104] and the introduction of blue box on board for satellite monitoring[105] are now in place. In recent years, concomitantly with the intensification of management efforts, controls have been improved and results have been reached. (One of the reasons of the success of the permanent withdrawal programme could be based on the intensification of controls.) As for international surveillance, foreign vessels do not fish in areas falling under the national jurisdiction nor do the Italian vessels, normally, fish in other states waters. Yet, it is in the nature of the Mediterranean area to experience, from time to time, conflicts on borderlines. Of course, since the Italian fleet alone represents more than 55 percent of the whole tonnage fishing in the Mediterranean, this is a possible outcome. It is important to recognise that these conflicts are usually solved on a basis of mutual understanding.

International cooperation in the area has been a target for many years and it improved in recent years through the adhesion to the General Fishery Commission for the Mediterranean, GFCM and to ICCAT; the funding of the ADRIAMED, MEDSUDMED programmes, and the participation in COPEMED.


The above analysis is an example of the role and the weight different factors play in attaining sustainability of fishery resources. In the case of a multispecies, multigear fishery it is clearly evident that some of those factors traditionally considered as vital for resource management do not play the expected role. Reduction in fishing capacity, while is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for stock recovery. Technical measures are of little use in fisheries like the one investigated in this case study.

If some lessons can be learned from the previous analysis, these would include the following:

As a consequence, in the case of the above analysis, those elements which can better contribute to increase the sustainability of the fishery consist of:


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EU Commission. 2002. Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament laying down a Community Action Plan on social, economic and regional consequences of restructuring the European fishing sector.

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[100] The views expressed are solely those of the author, Massimo Spagnolo, Istituto Ricerche Economiche per la Pesca e l’Acquacoltura, Italy.
[101] Derating is a widespread procedure. Italy is not an exception
[102] Apart from trawlers and polyvalent trawlers, other gear types have been heavily affected by this programme. The swordfish driftnets have been banned and dredgers are among those segments which have been reduced most. Of course, the social impact has been important. But small scale artisanal fleet and other gears have applied for financial assistance under the EU permanent withdrawal measure.
[103] Fishing effort has been calculated according to the EU definition (Reg. CE n. 2091/98).
[104] Common Regulations EEC No 2807/83 and 2847/93 modified by Regulation EEC No 2737/99)
[105] Regulation No 686/97 of the Council of April 14 1997.

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