The conservation and management of shared fish stocks: legal and economic aspects

Gordon Munro
Department of Economics and Fisheries Centre
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada
Centre for Research in Economics and Business Administration
Bergen, Norway

Annick Van Houtte
Legal Officer
FAO Legal Office
Rome, Italy


Rolf Willmann
Senior Fishery Planning Officer
Fishery Policy and Planning Division
FAO Fisheries Department
Rome, Italy

Rome, 2004

Table of Contents

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ISBN 92-5-105142-9
ISSN 0429-9345

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Cover photograph:
Fishing for albacore with poles and bait (Gulf of Vizcaya, northern Spain). FAO/22134/A. Urcelayeta


The effective management of shared fish stocks stands as one of the great challenges towards achieving long-term sustainable fisheries. These resources account for as much as one third of world marine capture fishery harvests. This paper explores both the legal and the economic aspects of the management of each of the several different categories of shared stocks, namely transboundary, highly migratory, straddling and discrete high seas stocks. In so doing, the paper draws heavily upon the results of the October 2002 Norway-FAO Expert Consultation on the Management of Shared Fish Stocks, and in particular upon those results arising from the many case studies, from both developed and developing States, presented at the Consultation. The legal foundation for the management of these resources is seen to rest upon the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and upon the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, which focuses specifically on highly migratory and straddling stocks. The Agreement came into force in 2001, and is now in the process of being implemented. The economics of the issue points to the conclusion that, with few exceptions, effective cooperation between/among States sharing a given fish stock, of any of the four categories, is a fundamental pre-requisite for the sustainable management of the resource. Non-cooperative management of shared stocks leads almost invariably to overexploitation. Experience has demonstrated that effective long run cooperation demands that cooperative resource management arrangements have the resiliency to withstand unpredictable shocks, which in turn requires that the scope for bargaining among the members of the arrangements be as broad as possible. Effective cooperation also requires the full implementation of the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. This is particularly true in the case of highly migratory and straddling stocks. Finally, the paper warns that achieving effective cooperative management of discrete high seas stocks, which have hitherto received little attention, is likely to prove to be exceptionally challenging. If the challenge is not met, these resources will unquestionably remain vulnerable to overexploitation.

Munro, G.; Van Houtte, A.; Willmann, R.
The conservation and management of shared fish stocks: legal and economic aspects.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 465. Rome, FAO. 2004. 69p.


Preparation of this document



1. Introduction

2. Shared fish stocks: an overview

2.1 Some characteristics of shared fish stocks
2.2 Levels of cooperation in resource management and conservation
2.3 The significance of shared fish stocks in world capture fisheries

3. The conservation and management of transboundary fish stocks

3.1 The Legal regime
3.2 The Economics of the management of transboundary fish stocks

3.2.1 The theory of games: A brief review
3.2.2 Non-cooperative management of a transboundary fishery resource
3.2.3 Cooperative management of transboundary fish stocks: some preliminaries
3.2.4 Conditions for stable transboundary resource management arrangements: two players
3.2.5 Conditions for stable transboundary resource cooperative management arrangements: some further considerations
3.2.6 Administrative and organizational structures

4. The conservation and management of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks

4.1 The Legal regime

4.1.1 The 1982 UN Convention
4.1.2 The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement

4.2 Review of the basic economics of the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks

5. Discrete high seas stocks

6. Conclusions

Appendix: The prisoner’s dilemma and fisheries


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