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Key processes needed to develop and implement the rules in fisheries management. Decision-making occurs on a variety of time scales: over days or weeks (double broken-line), annually (solid line) and less frequently, e.g. every 3 to 5 years (dashed line)
Key processes needed to develop and implement the rules in fisheries management. Decision-making occurs on a variety of time scales: over days or weeks (double broken-line), annually (solid line) and less frequently, e.g. every 3 to 5 years (dashed line)

Background

The requirement that States manage their resources sustainably is included in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Article 61):

"The coastal State, taking into account the best scientific evidence available to it, shall ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over-exploitation."

The institutional implications of this duty are explicitly stated in the voluntary FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Para 7.1.1):

"States and all those engaged in fisheries management should, through an appropriate policy, legal and institutional framework, adopt measures for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources."

Achieving sustainable fisheries is hindered by several problems, including biological and ecological uncertainty, and the tendency to pursue short-term social and economic objectives at the expense of longer-term sustainability objectives. In fisheries circles, institutional problems are also frequently referred to as being a fundamental problem, but there is considerable uncertainty as to the exact nature of these problems or, in fact, what exactly is meant by the term "institution". One definition of an institution is: "simply the set of rules actually used by a set of individuals to organise repetitive activities that produce outcomes affecting those individuals and potentially affecting others" (OECD, 1997). However, an alternative definition that may be more useful within the context of fisheries is: "An institution is not only the rules themselves, it includes the process and organisations (public and private, formal and informal) that develop and implement the rules (management measures) affecting use of the fishery resources." (OECD, 1997)

Features of effective management

Based on this framework, a set of institutional features essential for effective fisheries management can be identified. This includes the following.

  • A fisheries management authority, which is the legal entity that has the mandate within the State (or States in the case of an international authority) to perform specified fisheries management functions. Commonly, a national fisheries management authority would be in the form of a ministry, a department within a ministry or an agency. While many fisheries management authorities are government bodies, they could be government, parastatal or private.
  • The fisheries management authority should have the capacity for, or recourse to services that provide, the following functions:
    • the collection of detailed information on the fishery, including: data on catches such as total landings and discards and the species composition of these and the size or age structure of catches; data on the nature, timing and distribution of fishing effort; and information on the social and economic characteristics of the each fishery and its subunits;
    • the analysis of the relevant information to identify trends in the resources and ecosystem, and in the performance of the fishery to allow for the appropriate modification of the management measures to ensure that the objectives for the fishery are being achieved;
    • consideration of all relevant information in a decision-making process, which must include appropriate participation by the key stakeholders, in order to select appropriate management measures and ensure effective, sustainable management (developing the rules);
    • monitoring, control and surveillance, designed to encourage compliance with the management measures and, where necessary, to enforce the regulations (implementing the rules).

In fisheries, two institutional weaknesses are particularly important: (i) the widespread existence of inappropriate mechanisms and approaches for regulating access to a particular fishery; and (ii) the failure to include the key stakeholders in the management process. Much of the emphasis in improving fisheries management has been on addressing these two issues.

 
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