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Poor sustainability in marine capture fisheries has been characterized as stemming from and manifesting itself through “the interaction of many interrelated factors”, including: i) the absence of guaranteed rights; (ii) the supremacy of short-term socio-economic considerations over long-term ones; (iii) a perverse incentive structure reinforcing and allowing externalization of private costs; (iv) the increased demand from a growing human population and consequent rising prices; (v) poverty and lack of alternatives in many areas; (vi) ineffective governance and weak enforcement; (vii) disturbances such as pollution, climate oscillations, wars; (viii) scientific and administrative uncertainty; and (ix) competition between users, within and between sectors (Garcia and Boncoeur, 2004).

Garcia and Boncoeur followed up with a prescription of corrective actions including: (i) the granting of more effective rights of use; (ii) improved transparency; (iii) more participation in decision-making; (iv) better understanding of the resources and the communities depending on them; (v) a more precautionary approach to management; (vi) more active consideration of the ecosystem interrelationships; (vii) better monitoring and enforcement; (viii) more equitable distribution of benefits; (ix) integrated development and management policies; and (x) a stronger role of consumers.

This review attempts to provide a standardized analysis of marine capture fisheries management in thirty-two Indian Ocean countries[1], with the goal to establishing how far they have come in implementing the corrective actions that constitute, a priori, the necessary ingredients towards sustainable fisheries.

As a means to this end, a detailed questionnaire, the State of World Marine Capture Fisheries Management (SOWMCFM) Questionnaire, was developed by FAO to assist country review authors to organize information on direct and indirect legislation affecting fisheries, costs and funding of fisheries management, stakeholder involvement in management, transparency and conflict management, and compliance and enforcement into two major components: national fisheries management in general, and tools and trends in the top three fisheries (by volume) in each of the three marine capture fishing sectors (commercial/industrial, small-scale/artisanal/subsistence and recreational).

After completing the questionnaire, each country review author was guided by an annotated outline of the written review, providing a starting point series of questions pertinent to understanding fisheries management. Each country review followed a seven-part outline and attempted to address the following questions:








Each country review was complemented by a series of annexed tables, providing detail on the three major fisheries by volume in each of the commercial/industrial, small-scale/artisanal/subsistence, and recreational sectors.

Generally, undertaking such a process entails considerable constraints. The choice of one author per country created the possibility for time lapses[2] between the receipt of various reviews and had the potential to generate biased reviews. The difficulties inherent in different management environments stemming from lack of data and transparency, official versus effective management, definitional differences as to what constitutes large-scale or small-scale fisheries, and whether a stock-based or gear-based definition of individual fisheries was applied. Therefore, although cross-country comparisons may provide some insight into different management schemes and their impacts on sustainability, the ensuing subregional and regional reviews did not claim statistical robustness.

One must note that these country reviews are not official government reviews[3] but an attempt by one individual to collect as much information as possible through published documents, personal communications with relevant stakeholders, and their own experiences in these fisheries. This approach permitted the author to provide what one hopes to be an honest review of the strengths and weaknesses in the country’s fisheries management regime and to provide some guidance on how best to move toward attaining sustainable fisheries.

Subregional reviews were drafted, based on the individual country reviews and following the same schematic described above, while including topics addressing regional management aspects, such as the joint management of shared stocks. A presentation of the combined questionnaire responses is proffered, given the limitations of such an exercise, as a snap-shot of fisheries management in the Indian Ocean during the 2003/2005 period. This initial attempt will provide the baseline for a long-term understanding of how and if, and perhaps why, management regimes are evolving and whether these attempts prove successful in attaining national, regional, and international goals with respect to these fisheries.

It is the hope of the editor that this review provides fisheries managers, policy-makers and stakeholders with a constructive review of their own national marine capture fisheries management schemes and a vehicle for learning about others’ experiences in managing fisheries in the face of multiple and potentially contradictory objectives.


Garcia, S.M. & Boncoeur, J. 2004. Allocation and conservation of ocean fishery resources: connecting rights and responsibilities. Paper presented at the 4th World Fisheries Congress, Vancouver, Canada.

[1] This publication will be followed by similar reviews covering the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
[2] Note that the data published in this volume may have been revised and/or updated since the drafting of individual reviews. Therefore, caution in using these data is warranted.
[3] However, officials from fisheries ministries/departments were invited to provide comments on the reviews.

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