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Raising fish in rice paddies is one way of integrating aquaculture and agriculture
Raising fish in rice paddies is one way of integrating aquaculture and agriculture
FAO/19480/G.Bizzarri

Issue

Fisheries depends on the coastal area both directly (e.g. resources and space) and indirectly (e.g. factors affecting biological productivity), rendering the sector particularly susceptible to the impact of other land-based and sea-based activities on the aquatic environment, its quality and productivity. To a lesser degree, the fishery sector also generates negative effects on other activities competing with it for space or resources. While many of the interactions within fisheries, and between the sector and other activities (agriculture, forestry, transportation, mining, urban development, tourism, etc.), are of a competitive or antagonistic nature, a number of synergies also exist. If fisheries are to make an optimal contribution to economic and social welfare, these interactions must be taken into account.

Possible solutions

As market forces alone are unlikely to lead to socially optimal utiliization, the interaction between fisheries and other sectors require effective institutional mechanisms for resource allocation, conflict resolution and adaptive management. Indeed, for near-shore fisheries, the establishment of institutional mechanisms for inter-sectoral coordination in specific coastal areas is a good starting point for paving the way to actual inter-sectoral governance. The development and management of many fisheries is becoming nested within the wider context of area- or ecosystem-based integrated management. Approaches for this purpose have been elaborated and tested during the last two decades: integrated coastal areas management (ICAM) or coastal zone management (ICZM), integrated watershed management, Integrated Coastal Fisheries Management (ICFM), integrated aquaculture-agriculture (IAA), integrated irrigation-aquaculture (IIA) - all of which are variants of a more general concept of integrated natural resources management (NRM). As market forces alone are unlikely to lead to socially optimal utiliization, the interaction between fisheries and other sectors require effective institutional mechanisms for resource allocation, conflict resolution and adaptive management. Indeed, for near-shore fisheries, the establishment of institutional mechanisms for inter-sectoral coordination in specific coastal areas is a good starting point for paving the way to actual inter-sectoral governance.

Integrating fisheries development and management into broader-based frameworks also helps bring attention to the fact that fisheries and other sectors, in a given area or market, are competing for resources, space - and political support. Increasing effectiveness in that competition (and maximizing on the synergies that might also exist) imply a number of actions which are often easier to enumerate than to undertake, such as:

  1. clearly establishing the social value of the fisheries sector giving economic and social factors at least as much importance as biophysical factors;
  2. explicitly considering the available trade-offs for the use of relevant areas (e.g. basin, coastal areas) and the relative role of fisheries among them;
  3. selecting fisheries objectives and development strategies as part of wider local, regional and national economic development and resource allocation strategies on which the "best use" of the aquatic environment and living resources will depend;
  4. institutionalizing the development and use of a system of indicators and reference points on the contribution of fisheries to sustainable development related to fisheries and global goals set for the area, as a means to monitor and assess policy impact;
  5. lobbying for modifying the institutional and organizational context in which fisheries operates in order to optimize the contribution of fisheries;
  6. developping the capacity of the fishery sector to compete for resources through training, improved organization, development of political clout (lobbying), etc.;
  7. promoting the establishment of an explicit and equitable allocation of resources between alternative uses and users, taking account of the dynamic nature and mobility of aquatic resources and the problems inherent to free and open access;
  8. regulating and reducing fishing capacity as needed to avoid overfishing and optimize economic health of the sector, improving its competitivity;
  9. explicitly taking account of uncertainty and variability through implementation of the precautionary approach and adaptive management strategies;
  10. establishing or improving consensus-building and conflict-resolution mechanisms; and,
  11. developping appropriate multidisciplinary research for the identification and assessment of options as well as for monitoring management performance.

Once institutional mechanisms for inter-sectoral coordination have been developed, two broad approaches to inter-sectoral management can be used and might be combined: regulations (command-and-control), and/or the provision of economic incentives. In a regulatory approach, the management agency establishes detailed plans designating who may do what in different areas and under what conditions. The incentive approach will seek to modify the preferences and behaviour of the individuals through various economic instruments (e.g. charges, subsidies, use rights and fees) aimed at harmonizing as much as possible societal and individual expectations. The best solution, often based on a blend of policy instruments, will depend on local circumstances and may change over time.

Action taken

Many of the principles above have been adopted and tried in a number of integrated approaches to development and management such as ICAM, ICZM, ICFM, IAA, and IIA, as mentioned above. Society's recent and increasing demand for a more ecosystem-based management is adding further pressure on governance systems to evolve into more integrated systems. The growing adoption of sustainable development reference systems (SDRS) of indicators, for which FAO guidelines are available, offers a convenient and effective framework for comprehensive representation of the problems' variables. The same approach offers a practical way of mobilizing participation and facilitating negotiation among stakeholders.

Outlook

The probability for fisheries to persist and flourish in a competitive environment will, unavoidably, depend on their socio-economic potential compared to other alternative uses of the coastal aquatic living resources and space.

The notion of "sustainable fisheries" must be replaced by the notion of "sustainable contribution of fisheries to sustainable development" - integrating the sector with others. The experience available in Integrated Coastal Areas Management (ICAM) or watershed management is still not very encouraging and much more experimentation is needed, especially as regards institutional building for intersectoral coordination and governance. There is no way out of "integration" however and, in the absence of explicit plans for integrated development and management, the situation of aquatic resources will only continue to degrade leading to serious losses of fisheries.

A danger exists for fisheries that political authorities, faced with the potentially high political and economic costs of environmental rehabilitation and powerful industrial and agricultural lobbies, offer the weakly defended fishery sector as a sacrificial goat on the environmental altar.

 
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