James S. Campbell
Many factors will influence the ability of coastal States to discharge the responsibilities placed on them under the Law of the Sea Agreement to determine total allowable catch levels, to assess their own capacity to harvest the resources of their Exclusive Economic Zones, and to promote optimum utilization of those resources.
Nations which wish to extract the maximum economic benefits from their fishing resources face many difficulties. Disparity between the size of a country's population and the size of its fishing resources may indicate whether it will be seeking access to the fishing zones of other nations, or be under pressure from foreign nations to grant access to its own resources. Where a coastal State's fish resources represent a high proportion of that country's total resources, the need to extract the maximum economic benefits is of major importance.
Those nations with large populations, and with limited production of other animal protein, whose fishing resources (though possibly considerable), are inadequate to meet their own requirements, have probably long-since become distant water fishing nations. Other nations which may have larger potential fish resources than their domestic consumers can use, may have already seen those resources exploited by other nations.
In the changing circumstances created by the general acceptance of the Law of the Sea Agreement, consideration must be given to the infinite variety of conditions governing the ability of coastal States to extract the maximum economic benefits from their living marine resources. Consequently, there are many matters to be considered when terms and conditions for foreign access to so-called surpluses are being considered and guidelines are being evolved.
One of the most important aspects which needs consideration is the extent to which a coastal State's ability to achieve "optimum utilization" and to extract "maximum economic benefits" is influenced by that coastal State's ability to find profitable markets for its potential fish harvest.
While there may be many schemes to help coastal States to develop their fish catching and processing capacity, these alone cannot enable the coastal States to get the economic benefits which the quantity and quality of their resources could possibly provide. The economic benefits are related to the acceptability in international markets and access to those markets for the particular species of fish and fish products produced by the coastal State.
The most popular higher valued species are frequently those which are in relatively short supply worldwide. These may be universally traded species like lobsters and prawns where access to markets is usually assured. These and other highly valued species may be in the luxury class of fish products where the markets are mainly in the highly developed countries with sophisticated food preferences and the ability to pay for them.
The great majority of fish species, however, may be much harder to sell and therefore must be marketed well because there is a wide range of localized and national preferences or dislikes for different species and for different forms of preparation and presentation. International marketing of the less well-known and less preferred species is therefore especially difficult even without trade barriers. The ability to sell all types of fish at prices above the costs of catching, processing and marketing has a major influence on whether optimum utilization of the resources can be achieved.
Thus, any barriers to international trading of fish can become restrictions on fishing development. Protectionist policies of some nations which need more fish than they can produce from their own waters become serious barriers to trading and consequently to development.
In many cases the additional quantities required by the distant water fishing nations have, in the past, been caught in the waters of other coastal States rather than bought from those countries.
Some distant water nations which are expecting licences to fish for so-called surplus resources maintain a number of barriers against the importation of the very same fish produced by the coastal State which is expected to grant access to its fishing resources.
These barriers can take many forms and may be supported by Government policy or be created by protective, competitive policies and practices adopted by the fishing industries of distant water fishing nations.
Governments which assume the responsibilities for negotiating terms of access to the fishing zones of coastal States also have the responsibility for such barriers as import restrictions, import quotas, tariffs and a variety of non-tariff barriers. The last can include critical hygiene, labelling, packaging and fish nomenclature requirements. Government monetary policies may affect exchange rates, subsidies for distant water fishing and for export marketing.
Fishing industry organizations in distant water fishing nations may create effective barriers to trade by adopting pricing or trading practices designed to restrict or discourage imports from coastal States anxious to develop their fishing industries.
Other barriers to the development of fishing for certain resources may be lack of cooperation or unwillingness in providing suitable vessels for joint ventures and leasing or chartering arrangements which would enable new fisheries to be developed. Some "aid" schemes may extract more benefits for the "donor" countries than are provided to the developing coastal State.
In not all cases do foreign fishing nations want access to fishing resources purely to feed their own populations. Many nations have actually been trading internationally in fish caught in foreign waters under licence in competition with the same fish produced by the coastal State which has granted the licences to fish in its waters.
The ability of coastal States to market the fish of their zone can thus be impaired by the marketing activities of licensed foreign countries selling at export in direct competition with the exports of the same species caught by the coastal State. In some cases where distant water fishing nations have had such species processed in a cheap labour country, they may have a price advantage as well as a possible delivery and freight advantage over the produce from the coastal State.
There is a practice of applying differential tariffs on particular fish species for which distant water fishing nations already have licences or want licences. Imports of some fish species, in addition to being subject to import quotas, can also be penalised by differential tariffs. For example, in one instance 10% duty is being charged on imports of the fish caught by the domestic fleet of the host nation, 5% on fish caught by joint ventures with the host nation, but all fish caught under licence enters duty free.
Devices to restrict what may appear to be competition from coastal States which wish to develop their fisheries, can lead to the selective application of certain restrictions on grounds of quality, health or nomenclature. The application of higher standards for mercury certification that apply to the domestic market, and for acceptable names for various fish species, are also examples of barriers which restrict trade.
In many cases developing coastal States do not have the marketing structure or the expertise to overcome those barriers erected by fishing industry competitive practices such as market manipulation, price variation, and other competitive marketing reactions.
Undoubtedly the Governments of distant water fishing nations come under considerable pressure from fishing organizations in those countries. However, Governments have not always responded to the request from fishing industry organizations representing holders of licences, to ban the importation of the very fish for which licences are held. There are cases where the markets for potential fish products are dominated by a small number of very large commercial enterprises. These can control volume and price nationally, have Government support through import restrictions and tariffs, while attempting to control supply internationally. There are special problems of marketing for coastal States when the main markets for certain fish species are in countries which already control a large proportion of the production of these species.
Restrictions applied to international trade in fish not only affect developing fishing nations but also many fishing nations which have reasonably well developed fisheries. In order to achieve optimum utilization of their resources these countries may wish to develop special resources, the markets for which are in foreign countries. Surplus resources are not those available in excess of what a coastal State may consume. Coastal States must be able to gain economic benefits by trading in any of their resources which are available after their own domestic requirements are met.
The fact that economic hardship is likely to be felt by those nations which have invested in deep water fleets and employed many people for distant water fishing activities is a serious problem and should be understood. On the other hand, there also need to be understanding of the difficulties which some developing fishing nations experience. Their economic hardships through lack of valuable resources and lack of development, may be proportionately greater than the hardships suffered by those nations which need to adjust their fishing activities so that other nations can fully utilize their own national resources.
Just as there is a need to develop cooperation in the management and control of common interest fisheries, there needs to be cooperation and goodwill in regard to the marketing of fish products from those common interest fisheries.
There appear to be no reciprocal obligations on distant water fishing nations to grant access to markets for fish to those coastal States to whose waters distant water fishing nations may be demanding access. It may possibly be argued that restrictions on trade and tariffs imposed on imported products are governed by other international arrangements such as GATT, or that Governments can not interfere with commercial trading practices or market conditions. Nevertheless, as a coastal State's ability to get the maximum benefits from the living resources of its Exclusive Economic Zone is seriously affected by its ability to sell the produce from those resources, then market access must surely be linked with access to the resources themselves.
It seems inevitable that in future negotiations for access to fishing resources, the right of access to markets will become an important issue.