The thesis of this paper is that the imbalance in the importance given to each of the four components of sustainability (bio-ecological, social, economic, and institutional) is a major cause of unsustainability. A review of fishery management success in the north Atlantic indicates that the bio-ecological component of sustainability appears to be reached for several fisheries exploiting invertebrate and pelagic species, it is generally not achieved for high profile groundfish species. In addition, the other components of sustainability, particularly the social and institutional components rarely appear to be achieved. The lack of recovery of groundfish stocks despite no or limited fishing is only one indication that the scope for human intervention on rebuilding fish stocks is limited. This suggests that it would be easier to make progress on the other components of sustainability, which in the end, would most probably also benefit the bio-ecological component. The way to improved fishery management and sustainability is not through better science for top down management, but through better and more effective governance. This should not be seen as an argument to decrease fishery management efforts. On the contrary, the theme of the paper is that fishery management should be re-focused in order to be more effective to increase the socio-economic benefits that can be extracted from the fisheries, while at the same time protecting the resources. It is the neglect of the socio-economic and institutional components of sustainability that have led to fishery management processes being ineffective.
The thesis of this paper is that the imbalance in the importance given to each of the four components of sustainability (bio-ecological, social, economic, and institutional) is a major cause of unsustainability. The paper examines the effects of the disproportionate importance given to the bio-ecological component of sustainability in the fishery management processes of the North Atlantic. The quasi exclusive focus on the bio-ecological component of sustainability places extremely high pressure on the scientific advisory processes both in terms of the quantity of management advice and in terms of its reliability and precision. The state of the art is not up to these demands with the result that there is a loss of credibility in science, thereby undermining the whole management process.
In developing countries, the need to fight poverty and increase short term income and/or food supply and the demands for fish from developed countries, means that the highest priority may be given to the social and economic components of sustainability, often at the detriment of the bio-ecological component. In developing countries, the institutional component is generally embryonic at best, but there are exceptions. The absence of well established institutions for fishery management means that various formal and informal governance systems exist with no guarantee that they will contribute to achieving sustainability.
In developed countries, fishery management processes are highly elaborate, particularly in the North Atlantic where the history of “modern” fishery management is the longest. In most developed countries, the explicit focus of fishery management is first and foremost to pursue the bio-ecological component of sustainability - the logic being that a profitable fishery supporting “vibrant” communities cannot exist without healthy fish stocks. Although the existence of the other components of sustainability is often recognised they are clearly secondary to the bio-ecological component. With the increased public profile given to fisheries and their problems in the last decade, the rebuilding of fish stocks has become the highest priority for fishery management agencies which have undertaken to rebuild fish stocks at all costs, whether nature will allow it or not. As a result, the magnitude of the negative social, economic and institutional consequences of the various rebuilding strategies that would be possible have not been taken into account, the one with the highest probability of rebuilding is usually chosen, regardless of the consequences on the other components of sustainability.
Fisheries have provided food to humans since the dawn of times and structured fishery management dates at least to 350 BC, in Ptolemaic times, when “the catch was taxed up to one quarter of its value; (and) there was also a tax on the right to fish, particularly in waters owned by the temples ” (Cushing 1988, page 4). Cushing (op. cit.) also notes that “fisheries in the dawn of history on rivers and close to the sea shore may not have differed very much from those we know today in the same places ”. Fishing, like hunting, was the first means of sustenance for human beings. Although fish were included in the earliest studies of nature, along with plants and other animals, Cushing (1988) identifies the Victorian age as the beginning of structured marine biology and fisheries science. As capture became mechanised, stocks became depleted, and fishermen were forced further from shore, marking the beginning of fisheries exploration that is continuing to this day (Cushing 1988) with the newly developed fisheries for deep water species providing a prime recent example. The need to know more about fish and fisheries also led to the creation of fisheries laboratories and the setting up of fisheries expeditions. At the turn of the twentieth century, European governments recognised the need to co-ordinate their efforts which led to the creation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the oldest intergovernmental organization in marine science in the world. Fisheries science, and more specifically, structured fisheries science is therefore a relatively new science. Interestingly, Cushing (1988) notes that “much of the pressure for the establishment of ICES came from fishermen who knew that stocks were declining ” (page 204) based on their declining catch per unit of effort.
For most of its 100 to 150 years of existence, fishery science has been mostly concerned with identifying new fishing opportunities and improving fishing methods. By the 1950s, the need to regulate fishing became evident. The first measures implemented aimed at increasing the yield that could be obtained from the fish caught by increasing mesh size and the legal minimum fish size. By the 1960s, it became necessary also to control fishing effort, particularly in the Northwest Atlantic where a massive influx of fishing effort had occurred beginning in the late 1950s. New entrants in the fisheries were mostly from the former Eastern Block countries, but also from other European countries whose waters were already considered fully exploited.
Controlling fishing effort proved to be difficult and contentious. It was difficult to find an equitable sharing formula between the distant water fleet of new and large vessels, including factory freezer trawlers, and the older American and Canadian domestic fleet of much older and considerably smaller wetfish trawler. The introduction of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was seen in the 1970s as a better basis to share access to the resource. In the euphoric 1970s when no technical challenge was considered too great, scientists were confident that they could measure how many fish were in the sea, and what proportion should be caught. By the mid 1970s in the Northwest Atlantic, and by the late 1970s – early 1980s in the Northeast Atlantic, the majority of important fisheries had come under TAC management.
In the Northwest Atlantic, the TACs were rapidly decreased at the time of the extension of fisheries jurisdiction by both the U.S.A. and Canada in 1976 – 1977. The almost complete exclusion of the Distant Water Fleet resulted in a substantial reduction in fishing effort and in fishing mortality. Good year classes, particularly of cod, had been produced in the mid 1970s and the stock size increases that resulted from the reduction in fishing mortality and increases in recruitment were spectacular, particularly for those cod stocks in Canadian waters. This provided a considerable boost to the confidence of Canadian groundfish scientists. In the Northeast Atlantic, no such drastic reduction in fishing effort took place (except in Iceland when British trawlers were excluded as a result of the cod war won by Iceland against the United Kingdom), and large increases in stock size were not observed. Instead, for the main cod and plaice fisheries, a slow long term decline can be observed, while haddock and sole appear to continue to fluctuate without trend.
However, the growth in the cod stocks between mid 1970s and the mid 1980s is not what has most impressed scientists and the public. What is remembered most vividly is the spectacular collapse of Canadian cod stocks in the early 1990s. Such crises “have raised the question of the culpability of fisheries science. Optimism in science as the best basis for management, a conviction that held sway for nearly a century, has given way to disagreements, sometimes even mutual recriminations among scientists, managers, and fishermen. At the same time, scientists’ growing understanding of climate change has prompted renewed scrutiny of the relative contributions of natural and anthropogenic changes to marine populations. ” (Rozwadowski, 2002, page 1).
2. The concept of sustainability
Sustainability of the resource base has been the foundation of fishery science from its inception. However, the modern concept of sustainability is more ambitious, and it explicitly recognise why sustainability is sought - to provide sustainable benefits to humans now and in the future. Most modern discussions on sustainability recognise that the concept is multifaceted. Cunningham and Maguire (2002) summarised the modern concept of sustainability in a fisheries context as one with “multiple objectives” (focussing on both the ecosystem and the human system, and a balance of resource conservation and human concerns). The FAO guidelines on sustainable indicators for fisheries (FAO, 1999) recognize fully the need to ensure both human and ecosystem well-being in a sustainable development context, Charles (2001) stresses that “there is wide recognition of the need to view sustainability broadly, in an 'integrated’ manner that includes ecological, economic, social and institutional aspects of the full system” (p. 186).
In this paper, the modern concept of sustainability is seen as having four components: a bio-ecological component associated with the preservation of the resources and of the ecosystems that support them; a social component associated with the equitable distribution of the benefits arising from fishing; an economic component where fishing is expected to bring positive economic benefits to society; and an institutional component where the governance system is expected to be itself sustainable. This approach is consistent with the concept of sustainability used in the first two workshops on factors of unsustainability in fisheries. Interestingly, sustainable development theorists note that the overexploitation of human resources is just as despicable as the overexploitation of natural resources (Forget 2004).
3. Is sustainability achieved in the North Atlantic
Maguire (2001) describes the fishery management organisations in the North Atlantic and Maguire (2004) evaluates the success of fishery management for large volume demersal fisheries in the North Atlantic under the four components of sustainability. The overarching conclusion was that sustainability was rarely achieved under any of the components of sustainability. For this type of fishery, the situation has not improved. In fact, from the point of view of the bio-ecological component of sustainability, more stocks are now considered to be outside safe biological limits (see the various press releases and reports associated with the publication of the advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) at http://www.ices.dk/aboutus/pressroom.asp) while from the point of view of the economic component of sustainability, the viability of major fleets is threatened (Urquhart 2003). It is particularly worrying that cod stocks in Iceland, in Norway and in the Faroe Islands are now considered to be outside safe biological limits (http://www.ices.dk/aboutus/pressrelease/Press%20release%20-%20ACFM%20Report%20may%202004.doc).
In the North West Atlantic, the situation is more complex, at least under the bio-ecological component of sustainability. After the collapse (Canadian waters) or severe declines in biomass (USA waters), drastic reductions in fishing effort, including complete fishery closures, have successfully reduced fishing mortality. Rebuilding of the stocks has been variable by species and areas, however. While haddock and yellowtail stocks appear to have responded to the decrease in fishing mortality with marked increases in biomass, the biomass of other species have either remained stable or continued to decrease (e.g. cod). With such low biomasses and most of the groundfish fisheries either closed or under very severe restrictions, it is doubtful that the social and economic components of sustainability are achieved.
Alarming reports on the state of North Atlantic fisheries have been presented at the 2002 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. The meeting is one of the largest scientific gatherings in North America and it receives wide Media coverage and so did the reports diagnosing the state of the North Atlantic fisheries. In particular, a report by Christensen et al. (2002) (http://fisheries.ubc.ca/projects/SAUP/report/impactmodels.htm), predicting that the larger predator fishes of the North Atlantic would all but disappear within 50 years if the trend continued. Similarly, Myers and Worm (2003) estimated that the biomass of large predatory species has declined by 90 percent or more over the last 50 years. These predictions and estimates of decline have appeared in high profile scientific journals and they have been highly publicised. They suffer however from serious scientific shortcomings. The evaluation of traditional fisheries in the North Atlantic by Christensen et al. (2002) did not include herring and mackerel, two traditional species whose biomasses are near the highest observed, because they did not meet an arbitrary trophic level threshold. The inclusion of herring and mackerel would have altered the picture significantly. Walters (2003) demonstrates succinctly and clearly why the estimated declines in Worms and Myers are likely grossly overestimating the real changes in stock size.
There is no doubt that groundfish stocks in the North Atlantic are depleted, that fishing mortality is too high, and that there would be considerable socio-economic benefits, in addition to conservation ones, to be achieved by reducing fishing mortality. However, fishing is not the only factor affecting stock productivity (Klyashtorin 2001 and others referenced therein). In particular, it is not obvious that reducing fishing will necessarily result in increased groundfish stocks, as shown by the lack of or meagre recovery of Canadian and United States cod stocks despite substantial reductions in fishing mortality. This may suggest that there are periods favourable for cod and others that are not, a phenomenon also seen off Greenland at the beginning of the twentieth century (Buch, Horsted, and Hovgård, 1994). Swain and Sinclair (2000) note that there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the large biomass of pelagic fishes (herring and mackerel) in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence may impede the recovery of the cod stocks in the area.
Based on available stock assessment information, the biomass of pelagic species in the North Atlantic appears near historic maxima. The bio-ecological component of sustainability therefore appears to have been achieved. There is little information to assess whether the other components of sustainability are achieved. However, from an institutional point of view, fishery management in the North East Atlantic is clearly of the top-down sort with little scope for meaningful implication of interested parties either in the scientific processes or in the decision-making processes.
Crustacean fisheries (lobster, shrimp, snow crab) in the North West Atlantic have been highly profitable over the last decade. From a bio-ecological perspective, there are indications that the collapses of groundfish species have released the predation pressure on shrimp and possibly on snow crab, making it possible for stocks to increase markedly. The bio-ecological component of sustainability therefore appears to have been met. Success on the other components of sustainability varies from areas to areas, with some seeming successful in most components (snow crab in Area 19 Cape Breton), while others fail under the social and institutional components (snow crab in Area 12, the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence). Generally speaking, however, it can be said that there are few flagrant problems of conservation with crustacean fisheries in Atlantic Canada. Nevertheless, the management of those fisheries faces considerable problems. The Canadian government has tried to distribute more widely the wealth generated through the fisheries under various scheme. In some areas, it simply granted access to a large number of unemployed groundfish fishermen by allocating them small individual quotas as an income supplement giving them access to the Canadian income support program (employment insurance). In other cases, the government set up so-called “solidarity funds” through which it collected money from the fishery to re-distribute to those without allocations in the lucrative fisheries. Finally, in some cases, the government reached an agreement with “traditional” fishermen on the conditions under which the available resource could be shared with a larger number of participants. Crustacean resources in the North Atlantic are faring reasonably well when compared with demersal species, but it does not mean that it is not possible to overexploit crustacean resources: Orensans et al. (1998) describe how crustacean fisheries in the North Pacific have become sequentially depleted while under active fishery management based on scientific advice. Failure of fishery management has therefore occurred on other species groups as well.
The overall picture in the North Atlantic therefore is not as grim when other species groups are considered. The bio-ecological component of sustainability appears to be achieved for invertebrates and pelagic fish resources, but only in a few rare cases for groundfish stocks. Similarly, the economic component of sustainability appears to have been achieved for invertebrate and pelagic fish resources. Achievements are less clear in terms of the social and the institutional components of sustainability. Fishery management institutions continue to exist and to operate, but they are facing increasing invertebrate and pelagic fish resources, it is worth asking if their relatively high stock credibility problems.
Although the bio-ecological component of sustainability appears to have been achieved for several invertebrate and pelagic fish resources, it is worth asking if their relatively high stock sizes of are directly due to intended effects of human fishery management actions or to other causes.
4. The scope for human intervention
The current institutional framework in the North Atlantic assumes that fishing is the main cause of changes in stock size. A more or less mechanistic approach is implied: if fishing mortality is too high, the stock will decline and, as the stock decline, recruitment will also decline thereby speeding the rate of decline. If fishing mortality is decreased, the stock will increase, at the beginning slowly and progressively more rapidly as recruitment improves as a result of higher spawning stock biomass. Multispecies and ecosystem considerations are rarely taken into account: the fact that one species may be a predator of another either at the adult or other life history stages is rarely taken into account. Yet, multispecies interactions are potentially very important (Swain and Sinclair 2000).
The theory is simple enough (too simple), but the practice has proven more difficult. In particular, limits on total removals have appeared to be an inadequate tool to modulate fishing mortality. There are several reasons for this, including the difficulty in estimating stock size and predicting future stock size, but poor compliance as a result of ineffective governance systems, because in part of the disproportionate importance given to the bio-ecological component of sustainability, and inadequate monitoring, control and surveillance have also played a major role.
Where management has successfully decreased fishing mortality through fishery closures or similarly drastic measures, the expected increases in stock size have not always materialised (e.g. the lack of recovery of Canadian cod stocks despite closed or substantially reduced fisheries). Whether fishing mortality has been successfully reduced or not, it can be argued that the effects of natural changes and or cycles have interfered with the intentions of management to rebuild fish stocks. There is therefore not an absolute scope for intervention.
There is increasing evidence that hydro-climatic effects, and in some cases, habitat considerations due to industrial or housing developments are affecting fishery resources. The absence of Atlantic salmon in the New England area of North America can be clearly related to construction of numerous dams that are preventing salmon from reaching the head waters where it used to reproduce. The simplistic assumption that reductions in catches and fishing mortality will necessarily result in increased stock sizes does not recognise that resources will fluctuate over time, sometimes outside what would be considered safe biological limits, even without human intervention (i.e. without fishing). Past changes in stock sizes from archaeological records (Baumgartner, Soutar and Ferreira-Bartrina 1992), show that large fluctuations in stock size have occurred before any fishing took place, therefore suggesting that climatic variation was the primary cause of fluctuations in stock size. Such fluctuations, whether induced by climate variability or due to other causes, have been identified for snow crab in eastern Canada (Sainte-Marie et. al. 1996). Several authors (Sharp 2003, etc.) provide credible evidence and argumentation that climate change, unrelated to the green house effect, is cyclical with cycles and patterns embedded at various temporal and spatial changes. Without entering the green house effect debate, nor that of trying to predict the climate of the future, the conclusion that climate shows cycles is convincing. The exact periodicity, whether 50 to 70 years or longer remains to be established, the important point is that cycles exist. Although most species can tolerate a range of conditions, it is axiomatic that the distribution and abundance of fish stocks will change as a result of changes in climate because species have well-defined requirements in terms of temperature, salinity, oxygen content, etc. Bio-ecological sustainability of individual species in specific locales is therefore impossible for all species, in all locations, all the time.
Fishery management systems that do not recognise that cyclical factors due to hydro-climatic variability or to other factors have in some cases the potential to be more important than fishing risk unnecessarily penalising the fishing industry in order to rebuild resources that may have to wait the next cycle of favourable hydro-climatic conditions before it even has the potential to rebuild. Sharp (2003) supports this observation (p. 33) when he states that the failure to recognise the dynamical changes in climate and their effect on fisheries has led to the failure of fishery management. Where cycles are recognised to exist, as is the case for snow crab in eastern Canada, fishery management tries to “manage” around the “cycles” rather than try to eliminate them (or ignore them).
The scope for human intervention on the traditional aspects of the bio-ecological component of sustainability (i.e. reducing fishing mortality in order to increase biomass and subsequent recruitment), is therefore perhaps considerably smaller than hitherto assumed, although there could be scope for intervention on protecting habitat or providing alternate habitat when development projects do sacrifice existing habitat. If the scope for human intervention is more limited than previously believed on the bio-ecological component of sustainability, there is possibly considerably greater scope for meaningful action on the other components, particularly the social and institutional components. In addition, there is no doubt that improvements on the economic, social and institutional components of sustainability would have immediate, direct and measurable effects on compliance with existing management regulations, one of the main causes for the lack of success of fishery management.
The title of this paper appears well justified, related mostly to two main themes.
The optimism that science was the best basis for management was unwarranted for the type of TAC - based fishery management that has been implemented in the North Atlantic
The effect of hydro-climatic conditions should be better taken into account in evaluating fishery management strategies.
Based on these two themes, it can be concluded that fisheries science made a positive contribution to fishery management during its first 50–75 years of existence when its main mode of operation was to work co-operatively with the fishing industry and with fishery managers. More recently, however, fishery science has become more narrowly numerical and mostly concerned with counting fish in the sea in order to set Total Allowable Catches. The much publicised spectacular collapse of high profile cod stocks under active management instead of drawing attention to the uncertainties in stock assessment led to a re-enforcement of the view that greater attention should be paid to the conservation and protection of marine resources. This paper argues that in order to be helpful, fishery science should again try to be helpful to parties interested in fishery management, including the fishing industry, fishery managers and environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs). In order to do this, fishery science can no longer be given the “dictatorial” role it has been given in recent years in Canada, in the European Union, and in the United States of America. This implies that fishery science should have a lower profile in the fishery management processes. The approach suggested by Berkes et al. (2001) would seem well indicated to help achieve a better balance between the four components of sustainability.
The fear that a major catastrophe, such as the collapse of the Canadian cod, could occur in their jurisdiction has focused the attention of fisheries management on the conservation of the resource. As collateral damage, fishery management institutions have forgotten the real objective of fishery management: providing food as well as social and economic benefits to society (Cochrane 2002, Cunningham and Maguire 2002, Hilborn et al. 2001, Hilborn 2002, Maguire 2002). The basic theme of this paper is consistent with Hilborn (2002) that “the key to successful fisheries management is not better science, better reference points, or more precautionary approaches but rather implementing systems of marine governance that provide incentives for individual fishermen, scientists, and managers to make decisions in their own interest that contribute to societal goals ” (page 403).
Common conclusions 1, 2 and 4 of the Second FAO Workshop on Factors of Unsustainability in Fisheries (Swan and Gréboval 2004) are consistent with the above:
Poor governance is a major cause for the inability to reach sustainable fisheries. Failure to have good governance, in itself, is sufficient for fishery management to fail.
There is a need to grant secure rights to resource users (individually or collectively) for use of a portion of the resource, space, or other relevant aspect of the fishery. Inappropriate incentives and lack of good governance are often predominant issues preventing sustainability and both link to the absence of secure rights.
Fishery management has usually focused primarily on the bio-ecological component of sustainability, but has often failed even on this dimension of sustainability, possibly because it did not pay enough explicit attention to the other components of sustainability. Achieving sustainability requires a blend of a conservation perspective and the social and economic perspective of those directly associated with the fisheries. Either alone will not succeed. The social component of sustainability is insufficiently covered by fisheries management instruments in general.
The almost exclusive focus on the bio-ecological component of sustainability in North Atlantic fishery management processes as led to neglecting other aspects of fishery management which may hold considerably more scope for improving/increasing the benefits society derives from its marine resources. It is generally accepted that with a few exceptions, maximising economic yield would imply higher stock biomass and lower fishing mortalities than trying to maximise yield (i.e. MEY occurs at higher biomass and lower fishing mortality than MSY). Therefore, rather than making fishermen feel guilty because they fish harder than FMSY, why not try to convince them to fish at FMEY? This implies that giving a higher profile to the economic component of sustainability rather than detract from the bio-ecological component, could in fact make it easier to achieve it. Similarly, the majority of conflicts in fishery management arise from unresolved allocation issue that have social and economic implications, or because the decision-making process is seen as unfair and lacking transparency. Working on improving the transparency of decision-making process, which is likely to lead to decisions being seen as more fair, is likely to increase compliance with the management measures that have been adopted, another factor likely to make it easier to achieve the bio-ecological component of sustainability.
Pauly et al. (2002) comprehensively and coherently make the case that fishery management has failed and that changes must be implemented in the fishery management process if sustainability of fisheries is to be attained. The message is not new however, and the problem has been recognised for a long time in the North Atlantic as can be seen from the advice provided by ICES, Canadian DFO scientists, or USA National Marine Fisheries Service scientists. Although Pauly et al.'s diagnostic is reasonably accurate, in the end they prescribe essentially the same medicine that has been tried for several decades: marine protected areas have been used in fishery management for a long time in terms of time and area closures, while decreases in fishing mortality have been advised for at least 20 years. Although the authors do not define what they mean by sustainability, the paper is suggestive that they are mostly concerned with the bio-ecological component of sustainability. In the end, the paper is yet more preaching by scientists on how fisheries should be managed, and by implication, the paper is calling for more of the top-down fishery management that brought us to the present crisis. The solution they propose has been tried, and it has failed. The way to improved fishery management and sustainability is not through better science and more top down management, but through better and more effective governance.
Fishery management systems in Europe and in North America have elaborate scientific advisory processes, but they also have substantial monitoring, control and surveillance capabilities. Yet, overexploitation is still occurring where scientific advice has been produced AND accepted. Often, however, even though the scientific advice was accepted by the management authority, implementation was frequently far from effective. As a result, actual catches may have been substantially higher than those advised and accepted on paper. The tendency to exceed advised catches is one of the serious perversion of fishery management systems based on total allowable catches (TACs). A further perverse complication is that the underreporting of catches causes the stock assessments to underestimate fishing mortality (and consequently overestimate stock sizes) which results in TACs being set too high, further complicating the problem. TACs are exceeded for a number of reasons, but they are more common in areas where the capacity to catch fish far exceeds the ability of the environment to produce fish. Before active management in the form of Total Allowable Catch on individual stock and species basis, fishermen would direct their effort on the species where the combination of abundance and price on the market was the most favourable. With the introduction of TACs, and even more so with individual quotas, the choice of individual fishermen has been severely limited-it has become more complicated (or costly) to switch from one species to the other depending on price and availability: they are stuck with the species for which they have a quota. Hilborn et al. (2001) suggested that a diversified portfolio of species would be one way to alleviate this problem and would also provide a means to manage risk.
Hilborn (2002) observes that “The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) convened an expert consultation on the precautionary approach in 1995 (FAO, 1996) that identified key aspects that are almost exclusively procedural. To be precautionary, a fishery needed a management system that measured catches and abundance, rules about how catches would be changed in relation to the data collected, and the ability to enforce changes in catch. The vast majority of the world's fisheries are not precautionary - not because the reference exploitation rates are too high but rather because catch cannot be measured or catch limits enforced, because abundance cannot be estimated, or because rules do not state how catches will change in relation to stock size. The key message is that it is the process that is precautionary, not the reference points ”( page 406, para. 3). Richards and Maguire (1998) convey a similar message.
In a system where there is a good balance between the four components of sustainability, the fishermen and other interested parties would not feel alienated and it would benefit them to genuinely contribute to the design and operation of effective fishery management system. In too many existing systems, scientific advice appears to have the ultimate say on management decision. As a result, the fishing industry does not feel ownership of the fishery management plans and associated measures and therefore does not consider itself bound by them. Breaking the rules becomes the norm to survive, and monitoring, control and surveillance would need to be stepped up considerably to have any hope of maintaining reasonable compliance. It is becoming increasingly clear that such systems are not sustainable under any of the four components of sustainability, an indication that reasonably equal effort should be devoted to the pursuit of the four components of sustainability if bio-ecological sustainability is to be achieved.
Rectifying the balance between the four components of sustainability would not necessarily require substantial investments in acquiring knowledge. In fact, it could be argued that one way to rectify the balance would be to allocate less funds to the bio-ecological component of sustainability. However, this would not be “wise”. It would be preferable to re-allocate some of the funds currently allocated to the operation of the fishery science advisory machinery to the acquisition of knowledge regarding the functioning of ecosystems and the influence of climate on fisheries, recognising that there may be little scope for human intervention on the fluctuations of the resources. It may be that the balance between the four components of sustainability can only be restored by decreasing the importance given to the bio-ecological component.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics has written a lucid evaluation of the efforts of the World Bank (WB) and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Stiglitz 2002). The WB and the IMF have been created after the Second World War, and their history is therefore about the same length as that of structured fisheries science in support of fishery management in the North Atlantic. Many of the criticisms that Stiglitz directs at the IMF would apply equally well at fishery management and at fishery science in the north Atlantic: a dogmatic approach (in the IMF's case, free the market, in fishery management protect the fish), a one size fits all approach (privatise services and deregulate in the case of the IMF, decommission and slash the number of days at sea in fishery management), and a disregard for the local social and economic consequences of the implementation of the plan (restructuring of the economy, fishery management plan).
Fishery science and management, similar to the WB and the IMF are believed to have been useful early in their life, but recently, they have drifted from their original intent and their usefulness has been questioned. Holling (1995) suggests a model for the evolution of ecosystems and institutions which may help understand the evolution of fishery management in the North Atlantic. He observes that management of ecological variables leads “to less resilient ecosystems, more rigid management institutions, and more dependent societies ” (page 6, para. 4).[…] Because of the initial success, in each case the management agencies shifted from their original social and ecological objectives to the laudable objective of improving operational efficiency of the agency itself - spraying insects, fighting fires, producing beef and releasing hatchery fish with as much efficiency and as little cost as possible. Efforts to monitor the ecosystem for surprises rather than only for product therefore withered in competition with internal organizational needs, and research funds shifted to more operational purposes.[…] the very success in managing a target variable for sustained production of food or fibre apparently leads inevitably to an ultimate pathology of less resilient and more vulnerable ecosystems, more rigid and unresponsive management agencies, and more dependent societies. This seems to define the conditions for gridlock and irretrievable resource collapse. […] Moreover, those pathologies occur not only in examples of renewable resource management but also in examples of rigid policies of regulation of toxic materials or in examples of narrow implementation of protection of endangered species ” (page 8–9, para. 3–5).
In a system where there is less emphasis on the bio-ecological component of sustainability, stock assessment, although it would have less of a dictatorial role could play a far more meaningful role. In particular, the development of “alternative, data-based rather than model-based, approaches ” (Hilborn 2002, page 403) to agreeing on management measures would provide considerably more scope for meaningful involvement of interested parties other than stock assessment scientists/modellers. Such an approach would hold a greater probability of achieving the true meaning of the precautionary approach which is to produce social and economic benefits to society (Hilborn et al. 2001, Hilborn 2002).
Berkes et al. (2001) provide an alternative view of fishery management that would in fact lead naturally to a better balance in the four component of sustainability (their figure 3.1 is adapted here as Figure 1).
Figure 1: Alternative view of fishery management from Berkes et al .
Holling (op.cit.) suggests that the way towards sustainable development is through “the release of human opportunity. It requires flexible, diverse and redundant regulation, monitoring that leads to corrective
responses and experimental probing of the continually changing reality of the external world. Those are the features of adaptive environmental and resource management ” (page 30, para. 4).
This should not be seen as an argument to decrease fishery management efforts. On the contrary, the theme of the paper is that fishery management should be re-focused in order to be more effective to increase the socio-economic benefits that can be extracted from the fisheries, while at the same time protecting the resources. It is the neglect of the socio-economic and institutional components of sustainability that have led to fishery management processes being ineffective.
This should not be seen as an argument to decrease fishery management efforts. On the contrary, the theme of the paper is that fishery management should be re-focused in order to be more effective to increase the socio-economic benefits that can be extracted from the fisheries, while at the same time protecting the resources. It is the neglect of the socio-economic and institutional components of sustainability that have led to fishery management processes being ineffective.
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53 The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author, Jean-Jacques Maguire.