Wider use of fishing rights needed to safeguard fishery resources
Pressure on finite ocean resources growing - future catches depend on better management
27 February 2006, Bangkok/Rome - At a major international conference on fisheries management being held this week in Australia, FAO is underscoring the need for governments to establish clear and fair rules for managing access to fishery resources.
"It has been clear for some time that the world's fisheries are finite and that our catches have to be similarly finite. It's also clear that not everybody can participate in fisheries -- access to capture fisheries must be limited," said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries, in a speech today at the opening of the Sharing the Fish 2006 Conference (Fremantle, Western Australia, 26 February - 2 March).
"What we need are sharing mechanisms that clearly determine who can fish and what they can fish for -- systems of fishing rights that people can hold, either as individuals, in groups of shareholders, or as communities," Nomura said.
Allocation of fishing rights often means making difficult decisions about who can catch fish and who will be excluded, Nomura acknowledged, adding: "But we are now at the point where we absolutely need to deal with the issue."
Creating economic incentives to fish responsibly
Fishing rights usually spell out what species their holders can harvest, where and when they can do so, and in what quantity. The exact details of rights and how they are assigned depend strongly on the local context.
According to Nomura, the approach creates incentives for those holding rights to safeguard the well-being of fishery resources by not overfishing or otherwise degrading them.
"Holders have a vested interest in responsibly managing fishery resources -- fishing rights, in effect, align economic forces with conservation interests," he explained.
No silver bullets
But the FAO fisheries chief also noted that there are many approaches to the creation of fishing rights and that there is no "one size fits all" solution.
"The ways and extent to which fishing rights can be useful will depend on the setting in which they are applied and on the design of the rights system," he said.
FAO workshop explores options
On 23 and 24 February FAO conducted a pre-conference workshop in Fremantle which looked at the allocation implications of all types of fisheries regulations used around the world, including fishing rights as well as other strategies.
All types of fisheries management strategies and regulations will result in the allocation of fisheries resources, Nomura noted. FAO convened the workshop to build awareness of those implications and about how various stakeholders may or may not be affected.
Need for better management
FAO's most recent global assessment of wild fish stocks found that out of the almost 600 major commercial species groups monitored by the Organization, 52 percent are fully exploited while 25 percent are either overexploited (17%), depleted (7%) or recovering from depletion (1%). Twenty percent are moderately exploited, with just three percent ranked as underexploited.
Wider use of fishing rights would help address not only overfishing but also the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported(IUU) fishing as well as conflicts over access to fishing grounds, according to FAO.
Various rights-based approaches are already being used with success in numerous fisheries around the world.
Senator Eric Abetz, Australia's Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, and John Glaister, CEO of New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries, also spoke at the Sharing the Fish Conference today.
The event is being hosted by the Western Australian Department of Fisheries with support from Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries and with the technical cooperation of FAO.
In Asia-Pacific (GMT +7)
Diderik de Vleeschauwer
FAO Information Officer, Bangkok
(+66) 2 6974126
In Europe (GMT +1)
FAO Information Officer, Rome
(+39) 06 570 53168
(+39) 348 141 6802
e-mail this article