Integrating fisheries management into coastal area management is not an easy task and the process is time-consuming. However, without such integration, it is likely that optimum use of society's fisheries resources will not be achieved and, indeed, the future of fisheries in coastal areas is likely to be seriously threatened.
The first challenge to the fisheries management authorities is to establish clearly the value of the fisheries sector to the economy. In the case of capture fisheries, this requires an approach to management that gives equal weighting to biological and economic factors. A major issue is to find a way to avoid resource rent driving the fishery to overexploitation and making the rent available to society for use elsewhere to improve social welfare. Exploitation levels of the fishery will have to be reduced if these results are to be achieved. There are a variety of ways of achieving reductions in exploitation, in particular allocation of rights to fish. Such rights have the advantage of allowing at least some intersectoral conflicts to be resolved, in addition to their role in improving performance of the fishery itself.
In addition to the access issue, management must give consideration to the environment within which fisheries operate. Many resources in the coastal area (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs) produce valuable outputs for society but, because they are unpriced, such values are difficult to reflect. It may also be difficult to identify precisely the nature of the benefits and who the beneficiaries are. In such cases, research can attempt to identify the positive physical effects of various coastal resources.
Integrated management requires these wider issues to be duly taken into account. The problem is how the management process can achieve this. Two broad solutions suggest themselves: an administrative approach whereby very detailed plans are established determining who may do what in specific areas and under what conditions; or an approach in which the standard resource allocation model based on user rights and prices is applied to coastal areas. Under the latter conditions, overfished fisheries are unlikely to be competitive.
Conditions in the coastal environment differ in several respects from those on land, although some problems are similar (e.g. acid rain, water pollution, location of airports). The challenge is to try to design systems that will enable market mechanisms to work effectively in the coastal environment. In fisheries, some progress has been made in the development of licensing and individual catch quota systems. Now is the time to consider how such mechanisms might be implemented for other, unpriced, coastal resources.
Two things seem clear from experience around the world. One is that the management authority cannot possibly plan for all contingencies. The other is that there appears to be no better means of resource allocation than the price mechanism, given the need for safeguards and corrections. The rule therefore seems to be to rely on price mechanisms as far as possible and reserve the administrative planning process for cases where the price mechanism cannot be made to work.