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Stakeholder participation is integral to new fisheries governance
Stakeholder participation is integral to new fisheries governance


The evolving fishery system in its changing and uncertain ecosystem is of a complex nature and no simple unique measure will be able to ensure or re-establish its sustainability together with that of the ecosystem it uses. A nested set of diverse and complementary inter-linked actions is instead required, at the different levels of the fishery system. A wealth of advice is already available. The agreed international instruments (such as the FAO Code of Conduct) contain elements from which management packages may be customized for implementation by governments and fishers with the cooperation of NGOs. Many of the measures must be implemented together in order to be effective. Better people's participation and responsibility requires clearer and more equitable rights. To be effective in controlling capacity, fleet size limitations requires explicit and quantitative allocation and such allocation may not be economically efficient if not transferable. 

Governance agenda

The actions generally recommended at various levels of the fisheries are as follows: 

At the sub-regional, regional and international levels governments should (a) ratify international agreements; (b) coordinate regional resource management bodies at regional or ocean level; (c) improve decision-making procedures for regional mechanisms and arrangements; (d) improve management of shared stocks, straddling stocks, and high seas resources management and; (e) fulfil flag-State responsibility; and (f) improve enforcement. 

At the national and inter-sectoral levels governments should (a) establish macro-economic incentives; (b) sign and ratify the international agreements; (c) establish national overview committees for resource conservation; (d) establish inter-sectoral conflict-resolution mechanisms; (e) address the issue of non-consumptive uses (ethical issues); (f) facilitate integrated management (ICAM and ICFM); (g) adopt environmental protection and rehabilitation programmes; (h) address the population growth issue; (i) reduce land-based sources of pollution; (j) develop contingency plans for global change; (k) control access and establish property and user rights; (l) improve research and monitoring capacity; and (m) promote awareness and social learning. 

At the sectoral and local levels (a) improve decision-support systems and information collection and databases; (b) take account of supply and demand trends; (c) reduce and progressively eliminate subsidies; (d) elaborate development / management plans for all fisheries and resources; (e) monitor aquatic biodiversity; (f) protect critical habitats (coral reefs, sea-grass, estuaries, nurseries, spawning grounds, etc.); (g) include fisheries in national development planning; (h) improve decision-making procedures and participation in fishery management bodies; (i) establish dispute resolution mechanisms; (j) improve monitoring, control and surveillance; (k) consider generalising the user-pays principle; (l) introduce the precautionary approach in sectoral planning; (m) master the process of resource enhancement; and (n) protect biodiversity. 

At the fishery and stock levels (a) develop scientific evidence as a basis for management; (b) adopt the precautionary approach including precautionary Target and Limit Reference Points; (c) undertake impact assessment of existing practices; (d) list all authorised gear and practices (environmentally friendly technologies); (e) adopt prior consent and pilot project procedures for new gear and practices; (f) strengthen managerial powers of management authorities and committees; (g) eliminate open access conditions and establish territorial use rights (e.g. for small scale fisheries), property and user rights, and user fees; (h) reduce overcapitalization and control fishing effort; (i) elaborate technical measures (command and control); (j) implement management strategies which promote progressive learning; (k) improve selectivity and reduce discards; (l) identify and protect endangered species; (m) reduce pollution including debris and waste from fishing and processing; (n) reduce accidental (and prohibit voluntary) disposal of fishing gear at sea; and (o) improve participation and forms of management in partnership. 

The required change towards modern and more effective management frameworks could also be examined in terms of: (a) changes in objectives; (b) changes in policy principles; and (c) the action required from industry, governments and research to implement the changes required. 

Implementation process 

There is little information and guidelines available on the dynamic process required to implement and manage change. The challenge facing governments is in implementation and the task is more difficult because effective action has not been implemented in time and they now have to face the new requirements as well as the consequences of their past policies. The list of actions required may look overwhelming but objective prioritization of action should be possible case by case, based on an assessment of the local conditions. In addition, the principle of adaptive management is largely agreed, implying a decisive but stepwise change process with continuous social learning.

Small-scale fisheries should receive particular attention
Small-scale fisheries should receive particular attention



However, some of the actions required are milestones without which other actions will fail to produce expected outcomes. The key action for governments, which will condition the success or failure of management, is considered to be in the explicit allocation of wealth (through decentralization and allocation of access, resource shares, space, property or use rights, etc. as appropriate). The mandate for such action, however, does not usually belong to the fishery management authorities that, however, can promote the establishment of the institutional framework that will facilitate the difficult political process required. Some of the actions have also the potential to reduce the need for others that would more or less automatically follow. For example, if exclusive use rights are given to fishermen, the need for governmental intervention or stronger enforcement will probably be reduced, and the active participation of the fisheries actors more readily ensured. 

Adaptive approach

It is suggested that the transition from the present (inadequate) to the future (optimal) situation in most fisheries will have to follow a strategically planned step-wise approach, based on a medium- to long-term fishery rehabilitation scheme, where the rate of implementation will be sufficiently intense to be effective and produce measurable effects but still sufficiently economically bearable to be socially acceptable. The time horizon adopted for the transition will determine the economic and social costs and stress generated by the process, and, therefore, its degree of acceptability as well as the cost of the eventual enforcement. Too rapid large-scale negative modifications to the livelihood, cultural habits, and wealth distribution among economic agents is unlikely to be accepted and optimal pathways may have to be studied to find the best "trajectory" for a given fishery system, promoting social learning in the process. In the short-term, it may be necessary to accept less-than-ideal solutions as necessary steps towards optimal ones in a process of active probing of adaptive management strategies

Above all, the management strategies and the strategic rehabilitation plans will have to include precautionary devices allowing constant evaluation of progress towards targets, as well as flexibility to adjust sufficiently rapidly to "surprises". A key decision in this respect is in the management institutional framework, and in the role of the State in it, including through parastatal agencies, autonomous and decentralized but still under State responsibility in compliance with its stewardship role and duty of care. 

Social sciences

The mix of measures and instruments to be used will have to be determined, taken into account the historical, political, social, economic and environmental contexts in order to minimise resistance and optimise the rate of change. Social and economic sciences will be particularly useful in the process but considering the limitations of the data and the bio-socio-economic and behavioural models, it will be extremely advisable to promote very active participation of the people concerned. Even though Rapid Appraisal methodologies may help, initially, to compensate for the lack of historical data and understanding where a particular fishery system stands, "quick fix" solutions are unlikely to work. 


While rationalizing the fishery and ensuring that it bears the costs of as many of its impacts as possible, care will be taken to ensure that fisheries are equitably treated in comparison to other sectors such as agriculture or tourism. This is necessary in order to avoid that non-equitable stringency does not weaken its competitiveness vis-à-vis other sectors (still heavily subsidized) with which it competes for natural, financial and human resources, leading to undesirable outcomes and reducing global efficiency. 

Particular attention will have to be given to small-scale fisheries. The available international legal and guiding instruments are of general application but have not considered fully the specific implications for small-scale fisheries and coastal fishers' communities. 


In addition management models implicitly found at the foundations of these agreements tend to be based on "Western" culture. As a consequence, a precautionary and partnership approach will be needed in applying these instruments to these fisheries, with due regard to the socio-economic uncertainty and related risks for the people. Areas of concern are: traditional use rights and resource allocation, generation of incomes, alternative employment, conflict with industrial fisheries and extensive coastal aquaculture, habitat degradation, technology transfer, access to capital and credit, devolution of responsibilities, etc. 



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