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Selected issues facing fishers and aquaculturists


Capture fishers and aquaculturists often come up against operational difficulties and controversial issues which must be overcome if capture fisheries are to remain a stable source of food and income and if aquaculturists are to meet the consumer demand for an ever-increasing stream of aquatic products.

Access to and the use of natural resources are the main subject of controversy, in which there are two basic points at issue:

This review starts with the general and moves on to more specific aspects of the issues discussed. The first topic to be considered is that of governance of the fisheries sector. Here, governance is understood to be the legal and institutional framework designed to guarantee that the role played by capture fisheries and aquaculture is considered appropriate by society as a whole. Governance should also set rules to ensure that, within the sector, competition is constructive and access to resources equitable.

The questions addressed under governance are discussed in more detail as part of the next two issues which deal with the creation of an enabling environment for aquaculture, and the integration of fisheries into coastal zone management. The final two issues - how to match fishing capacity with available resources, and how to manage by-catch and discarding - need to be resolved by the capture fisheries sector, although they have attracted considerable attention outside the fisheries sector.



Ninety percent of the global fish catch is taken within zones of national jurisdiction, owing primarily to the higher productivity and proximity of the coastal and shelf areas. It follows, therefore, that these are the areas where the bulk of fisheries management problems occur.

Such problems are not a new development: for 50 years at least, recognition has been given to the need for governments to be aware of the state of their fisheries, to implement effective policies aimed at preventing resource depletion and the wastage of fisheries inputs and, increasingly, to facilitate stock rehabilitation.

With about 60 percent of the main monitored commercial stocks considered to require improved or new management, the current state of world fisheries indicates a need for better governance. The challenge for governments is to manage fisheries in such a way that ensures the optimum and sustainable use of resources as well as economic efficiency and widespread social benefits. Furthermore, it is increasingly recognized that the responsibility for management should not rest with governments alone but rather be a shared responsibility, involving those operating in the fisheries sector as well as others who consider they have a right to participate in decisions concerning humanity's natural heritage.

In the 1980s, it was widely anticipated that fisheries governance would improve substantially in parallel with the establishment of extended national jurisdiction under the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This was the case for countries that were able and had the will to strengthen their governance. Very often they were already engaged in exclusive economic zone (EEZ) fisheries or had readily available capacity (e.g. trained fishers, investment capital and infrastructure) within the sector to do so. Subsequent experience has shown that, even under the most favourable circumstances, achieving good governance is a protracted process. Those governments that now have soundly managed fisheries generally owe this achievement to 20 to 40 years of continuous effort and adjustment (see Box 4, The evolution of fisheries management in New Zealand).

The evolution of fisheries management in New Zealand

Capacity problems in New Zealand's inshore fisheries began to manifest themselves in the 1960s. The appearance of foreign fishing vessels off the New Zealand coast had created the perception that commercial opportunities for domestic fishers were being foregone. Consequently, in 1963 the government removed the restrictions on fishing effort applied to local fishers and, in 1965, provided guarantees on loans for fishing vessel purchases. The country had accordingly re-established open access as well as government encouragement of increased fishing capacity.

While the intention was to base fisheries development on the offshore resources, the fishing effort in the prime inshore fisheries also expanded rapidly. In fact, by the early 1980s, overfishing of species in these zones and overcapitalization within the inshore fleets had become a problem. Measures aimed at restoring control in these fisheries were introduced at this time. They included:

· a declaration designating these zones as controlled fisheries, a new licensing regime that limited vessel numbers and a blanket moratorium on new entrants to the inshore fisheries;
· the removal of "part-time" fishers from the inshore fisheries;
· enhanced powers, under the Fisheries Act 1983, in the regulation of fisheries using management plans that would be formulated after extensive public consultation and would identify the resources to be managed and the regulatory controls (on fisheries inputs) to be applied.

The cumbersome nature of the consultation and planning process was such that, while it was still under way, the inshore fisheries advanced further into an overfished and overcapitalized state. In 1984, the inshore harvesting sector was overcapitalized by an estimated $NZ 28 million (present value) and, where inshore fisheries were most concentrated, overcapitalization was estimated to represent about 44 percent of the existing fishing capacity.

After an intense period of policy development, the government and industry agreed to the introduction of total allowable catches (TACs) to ensure stock conservation, and individual transferable quotas (ITQs) to facilitate industry restructuring. This approach to controlling capacity through controls on the outputs of fisheries was seen as the most likely to succeed in meeting these two objectives. Furthermore, it was accepted that the initial TACs and ITQs would be set so as to effect a reduction in fishing activity. The main elements of the scheme were:

· the allocation of a case history to each fisher, on a national basis (with case history defined as the fisher's catch in two of the three years of 1981, 1982 or 1983); and
· the buy-back of case histories to a level that is equivalent to the TAC for each fishery.

The government ultimately spent $NZ 45 million (present value) to buy out 15 800 tonnes of fishers' case histories. The important outcome was that a viable and more sustainable future was secured for the affected fisheries and the industry in general. The additional advantages perceived by the fishers included the "right" to buy, sell or lease their entitlements to engage in the fisheries without undue government restrictions or the requirement of consent, and the ability to shift their vessels throughout the year between different fisheries for which they had quotas. The government benefited by being able to purchase case histories at prices that did not reflect their full value, owing to the absence of an established ITQ market at the time.

The introduction of ITQs followed extensive consultations with the fishing industry to ensure their commitment. In this respect, the involvement of industry representatives in the planning, development and implementation of the quota management system was seen as an important element in the successful introduction of ITQs.

By this process, ITQ management was established for 29 species, including 21 inshore and eight deep-water species. Other species have been included since 1986, and there are now 33 species managed under ITQs. These represent about 80 percent of the total commercial catch from New Zealand's EEZ. The Fisheries Act provides for additional commercial species to be managed using ITQs.

There are approximately 117 species currently outside the quota management system, and they are being managed by a system of permits and regulations. For reasons of fisheries management, the government's intention is to bring additional species into the quota system as soon as possible. At present, a moratorium has been placed on the issuing of new permits for non-ITQ species as a means of controlling the fishing effort prior to these species' inclusion in the quota management system.

The introduction of ITQs, together with the financial assistance to restructuring, was designed to reduce fishing capacity. The initial adjustment retired 15 800 tonnes of catch from New Zealand fisheries. The reduction in the size of the fleets, whether it was due to this assistance scheme or to the subsequent introduction of ITQs, was dramatic. The number of vessels dropped by 22 percent between 1983/84 and 1986/87 and there was a further 53 percent reduction resulting from the use of ITQs between 1986/87 and 1994/95. As this rationalization primarily occurred in the country's inshore fisheries, one of its effects was to redirect investment into deep-water fisheries.

Source: W. Emerson, Ministry of Fisheries, Wellington, New Zealand.

In many countries, governance has continued to languish for a variety of reasons, including a scarcity of the human, institutional and financial resources required to devise and implement management programmes; a lack of understanding, by both governments and fisheries participants, of the potential benefits that good management can generate; and the reluctance of governments to make unpopular decisions. Through aid and financial assistance projects, the international community continues to direct substantial efforts towards improving the capabilities of the fisheries institutions in such countries. The countries with the poorest governance are those whose populations face more pressing, fundamental problems such as war, civil disturbances, natural disasters and weak government.


The prerequisites for good governance in the fisheries sector are generally well recognized: the need for a strategy explicitly aimed at ecological, economic and social sustainability; effective fisheries agencies and research institutions (producing, inter alia, reliable and up-to-date information on the sector); a cooperative, organized and informed fisheries sector; adequate laws and legal institutions, including deterrent monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS); and linkages with the appropriate regional and international bodies. Since the early 1980s, attention has been paid to giving the fisheries sector joint responsibility with government in the management of fisheries. In many instances, this has been recognized by law, as in the creation of statutory committees (e.g. on management formulation, licensing and appeals) whose members include representatives from the fisheries sector. In some countries, this has been extended to the creation of semi-autonomous fisheries management authorities acting under joint industry and government boards of control (see Box 5, Industry participation in management in Australia).

Industry participation in fisheries management in Australia

Responsibility for the management of fisheries in Australia is shared among the commonwealth, states and territories. The Constitution provides that the commonwealth is responsible for the management of fisheries outside the three-nautical mile territorial sea, with states and internal territories being responsible for fisheries in all other waters adjacent to that state.

The administration of commonwealth fisheries in Australia involves three bodies. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is responsible for managing commonwealth fisheries; the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and Energy is responsible for formulating policy (e.g. concerning foreign fishing access rights, taxation rulings applicable to fisheries and the environment); and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is responsible for funding research and development in the country's fisheries (both state and commonwealth).

The AFMA's responsibilities, objectives and functions in managing commonwealth fisheries are defined under the 1991 Fisheries Administration Act. The AFMA may determine a management plan for a fishery after it has given public notice of its intention and both invited and considered representations. Such a plan must set out its objectives and the proposed methods for achieving its goals. It may also include the amount of fish that can be taken, fishing concessions, procedures for selecting persons to whom concessions may be granted and the kind and quantity of equipment that may be used.

While the responsibility for determining management arrangements lies directly with the AFMA, the 1991 Fisheries Administration Act allows the establishment of management advisory committees (MACs) to it "... in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers in relation to a fishery". The AFMA can delegate functions to the MACs, in which case the committees can hold the same level of power as the AFMA. In these circumstances, the MACs must act in accordance with policies determined by the AFMA and must comply with its directions. Within the MACs, issues relating to a fishery are discussed, problems identified, possible solutions developed and recommendations made to the AFMA. MACs provide a forum for the AFMA to consult with industry on its management arrangements, for the industry to make its views known and for consultation between researchers and industry.

The MACs consist of: an independent chairperson, the AFMA officer responsible for the management of the fishery in question and up to seven members determined by the AFMA after consultation with states, industry, interest groups and researchers. In practice, in the last category, the MACs have a number of industry representatives, usually at least one member representing state fisheries organizations and one from the fisheries research community. There is also an increasing trend towards representation of conservation and recreational fishing interests.

Despite the increased role of industry in management, many operators feel that the AFMA does not consult sufficiently with the MACs, that the MACs are not sufficiently representative and that consultation is often superficial, with little real notice being taken of the views of the industry. There have also been questions raised regarding the appropriateness of the AFMA's objective of maximizing economic efficiency in the exploitation of fisheries resources. It has been argued that government management of fisheries should be restricted to ensuring sustainability of the resource through the setting of biologically safe reference points and that the industry, while adhering to such conservation criteria, should be responsible for harvesting the resource as it sees fit.

The present institutional arrangements place the AFMA at risk of bias towards the fishing industry at the expense of other community sectors. To counter this, the AFMA has given effect to its corporate plan intention to broaden membership of the MACs to include members from environmental, recreational and community groups. Greater stakeholder involvement in the direct management of individual fisheries would appear to be an inevitable and desirable outcome of this development. Indeed, the provisions relating to MACs (1991 Fisheries Administration Act, sections 56 to 67) clearly envisage a gradual devolution of decision-making responsibilities to individual MACs.

The Department of Primary Industries and Energy has a role in monitoring the outcomes of fisheries management and has implemented a programme of independent assessment of the AFMA's management performance. Economic and sustainability indicators to assess fisheries management (or indeed management of any natural resources) are being developed for this purpose.

Source: T. Battaglene, Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Canberra, Australia.

This joint management process has been facilitated by a number of important evolutionary trends. In many countries, the fisheries sector has become better organized and hence more effective in liaising with government and in representing collective viewpoints. A more recent impetus has come from management regimes that establish either real or quasi ownership "rights", such as the right to trade - buy, sell or lease - an entitlement to engage in a managed fishery. In such circumstances, those with an entitlement have more of a vested interest in good management, as the "monetary" value of their entitlement will be directly influenced by the performance of the fishery. Accordingly, titleholders have demanded a major role in the formulation of management.

Another important and related trend concerns the financing of fisheries research and management. An underlying concept gaining wider acceptance is that financing should come from those who benefit, including fisheries participants in the case of managed fisheries. Again, there has been added impetus from the creation of "rights-based" fisheries, where it would clearly be anomalous for governments - using funds from the broader community - to be the sole financing entity. Accordingly, the joint financing of fisheries governance has been most readily accepted in the case of rights-based fisheries. As might be expected, fisheries participants have demanded a role in deciding how the money is spent, leading to more focused spending and systems of accountability. The consequence has invariably been better governance.

A recent trend in management-oriented research is for the scientific arm of management to have more autonomy when providing advice and for there to be more transparency as to what action is taken on the strength of that advice. There has also been a related move towards "privatizing" certain functions of governance, a development that is most advanced in the case of fisheries research institutions, which are becoming progressively more reliant on non-government sources of finance. There have been rare instances in which countries have hired out the functions of licensing and enforcement to private sector entities, although the government has invariably taken a major shareholding in the entities selected. This has met with mixed success so far, but probably reflects the direction that governance will take in the future. Fisheries governance is now benefiting from computer-assisted "networking", for example through e-mail and the World Wide Web, which allows both researchers and managers ready access to the knowledge and experiences of "outsiders". Although related to private sector services, this development is not exactly part of privatization but rather a consequence of globalization.

These trends are most apparent in countries whose capacity for governance is well evolved. The approaches nevertheless are globally applicable. A major constraint to their wider application in practice is a lack of organization within fishing communities, including an insufficient understanding of the potential benefits to be gained through good management. The paradox for some countries is that systems of community-based management, which provided cohesion in the past, have now disappeared. Aid and financial assistance projects as well as other efforts are now aimed at reversing this process, often through the conferring of "rights" exclusively on active members of the community or on the community as a collective. Such an approach will be most problematic - if not impossible in the short term - in areas where there is a high population density and acute poverty because of the high social cost to those excluded from fisheries. The priority in this event is to enhance the welfare of the wider community (e.g. through job creation), and this is a task that requires intervention from "outside" agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the international community.


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The promotion of traditional or community-based management practices has gained momentum in artisanal and small-scale fisheries, which often involve thousands of fishers, hundreds of fishing communities and a plethora of landing points. The communities involved have very little mobility and are liable to be extremely disadvantaged by the social and economic consequences of bad governance. Management that is directed at safeguarding a community's welfare is most likely to be sensitive to issues at the local level, and hence to the importance of improving benefits from fisheries without causing undue social disruption. The community-based management approach therefore seeks to build on existing customary and traditional practices, adopting the concept of territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFS).

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The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is promoting the revival of traditional marine tenure and resource allocation mechanisms in the region. As part of this effort, SPC puts out an information bulletin dealing with traditional marine resource management and knowledge. However, the pace of socio-economic change in the region is such that it is uncertain what the need for fish resources will be when all population groups have become urban wage earners.

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Recent advances in the management of industrial fisheries at the national level have focused on the conferring of rights. Most commonly, these rights have included the ability to trade (buy, sell or lease) the entitlement to fish in a particular managed fishery. In most cases, entitlements have been provided in the form of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) or as a subset of a limited number of licences to fish. This strategy is being introduced successfully in a growing number of countries, including Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand and the United States. The adoption of rights-based management is also being encouraged by international institutions such as the World Bank.

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Chile has introduced experimental ITQs in its deep-water shrimp and its toothfish fisheries, making it the only country in Latin America to have a functioning ITQ system. The government would like to expand the system to other fisheries but it faces resistance from operators in the fisheries concerned.

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A High-Level Panel of External Experts in Fisheries, which met at FAO headquarters in January 1998, stressed the relevance of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries1 for governance. The participants concluded that the Code and its guidelines are technically credible to fisheries experts and readily understood by non-experts and, therefore, constitute an important reference for improved fisheries governance.

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The 1996 annual meeting of the South Pacific Forum (SPF), held in the Marshall Islands, recommended the development of comprehensive arrangements for the sustainable management of the region's fisheries across the full geographical range of stocks, including those of high seas. This recommendation reflects countries' increasing concern about the governance of high seas resources.

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Countries in the Pacific are working together with Distant-Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs)2 to develop a mechanism for the conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean. It is envisaged that the negotiations will result in a commission for the management of the stocks concerned.

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Southeast Atlantic countries are discussing, among themselves and with DWFNs, the establishment of a regional fisheries organization to manage fish stocks in the high seas of the Southeast Atlantic.

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Members of the South Pacific Permanent Commission3 are negotiating how to conserve and manage high seas resources in the Southeast Pacific.



The conclusion that the world's main commercial fisheries need more and better management is neither surprising nor necessarily derogative of national governance worldwide. Ultimately, all fisheries require management as, where it is lacking, wastage of fish resources and fisheries inputs is inevitable. The benefits realized from good governance are most obvious in the developed countries and this has been the case for some time because their capacity for governance is more evolved. Furthermore, these countries have much to gain from improved of fisheries performance. Much of the global fishing capacity and most of the world's mature fisheries - with stocks near to being or already fully exploited - are located in the fishing zones of these countries or in other zones exploited by them.

With increasing fishing pressure and a better knowledge of stocks, the joint management of shared stocks will become a priority in the future (see Box 6, Shared stocks - how to improve management).

Shared stocks - how to improve management

There are more than 500 maritime boundaries in the world between adjacent EEZs, and significant proportions of the world's fish stocks lie across these boundaries and are fished by two or more nations.

Good examples are the four major stocks - salmon, cod, herring and sprat in the Baltic, which are shared among the nine riparian states. Other well-known shared stocks are: hake (Argentina, Uruguay); North Sea herring (the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Norway); Pacific salmon (Canada, the United States); pilchard (Angola, Namibia); and sardinella (Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo).

The vast majority of shared stocks are not managed jointly by neighbouring states, despite a call for cooperation by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, some are jointly managed - a few successfully and some with moderate success, while still others are the subject of almost permanent conflict. With fishing pressure increasing, the need for the management of shared stocks will increase. Effective systems for joint consultations and management need to be formulated and, although there are no magic recipes, a good start would be acceptance by the states concerned of the basic principles and sequence for management development and implementation described here:

Basic principles

i) Before engaging in international negotiation about shared stocks, each state should establish the criteria for allocation of rights to the shared resources in its own EEZ.
ii) Fish stocks must be managed as unit populations.
iii) No party should agree to a cooperative arrangement that will provide it with less than it could achieve by acting alone, entirely non-cooperatively.
iv) In spite of financial commitments made in the fisheries sector of each nation, sharing arrangements cannot be "chiselled in stone" and should be updated regularly to avoid losses to all parties.
v) Allocation mechanisms and the negotiation of shares need to be addressed frontally, with clear rules established by negotiation, possibly including the use of an independent arbitrator to assist in the review of sharing and joint management arrangements.
vi) Recognizing the trade-offs between fisheries and other sectors may be integral to a successful negotiation. A negotiated solution may be achieved more easily if it is favourable to the state placing the highest valuation on the fishery, in return for some form of compensation to its neighbours.

Sequence for development and implementation

The development and implementation of joint management of shared stocks generally proceed stepwise. Isolated stock assessments, carried out for only part of the stock, and incompatible management measures have little value, especially where resource life histories are migratory. Thus, one priority consists in joint stock assessments and the sharing of resource data among all states within whose jurisdictions the stock is fished. The following sequence is often appropriate:

· cooperation in research and data gathering;
· initiation of cooperative management, first through technical measures, then access and allocations;
· bargaining over management strategies and harmonized regulations;
· agreement over surveillance and control.

States may wish to negotiate an agreement specifying matters such as the standardization of data collection and cooperation in research and stock assessment. Joint training of personnel in standard management procedures, common marking of vessels, the use of standard radio call signs and the exchange of registries of vessels authorized to fish the resource should follow shortly. Such an agreement could lead to defining standard procedures to follow in the case of infringements by fishers of the other party.

Even if an initial agreement does not lead to a fully effective mechanism for management of common stocks, there are advantages in going at least part of the way towards such a goal. The information exchange can result in each party making management decisions in the light of full knowledge of the situation of the fishery exploiting the shared stock in the other country.

Source: J. Caddy, FAO Fisheries Department.

As developing countries are becoming major participants in global fisheries, the focus is likely to shift to include improvements in their fisheries governance. This will require the enhancement of technical and administrative capabilities, enabling the formulation and implementation of appropriate fisheries management plans and assessments of the outcomes and needs for follow-up action. A fundamental policy consideration in this regard is capacity building and institutional strengthening within the fisheries institutions. At the same time, it must be accepted that improved benefits will not be an immediate outcome from better governance. The structural adjustments that are required in many fisheries will take a long time to become effective. Fisheries management is a process that evolves over time in response to changing circumstances.

In line with recent trends, the governance of fisheries will progressively include the direct involvement of fisheries participants, the conferring of user rights, the devolution of management functions away from government - without detracting from its stewardship role - and the financing of governance from within the sector.



Few countries have appropriate legal frameworks and policies for aquaculture. Often, comprehensive policies and associated legal frameworks have been overlooked because development has been seen mainly in technical terms and support has been largely focused on technical aspects of production. Also, policy-makers have often treated aquaculture in isolation from other sectors, thus ignoring important linkages, including externalities. The need to incorporate political, economic, social, environmental and legal aspects has been neglected, usually with negative consequences for the sector. The recent emergence of industrial aquaculture, the growing competition for resources and the continuing rapid growth of the sector have focused attention on the need for policy measures and regulatory frameworks.

It is essential for appropriate operational conditions to be established at all levels (international, regional, national, local and farm) to make the exploitation of aquaculture in a sustainable manner attractive to farmers, fishers and other entrepreneurs. Governments need to create and maintain a suitable climate for sustainable growth of the sector, i.e. they need to provide an "enabling environment". Such an environment comprises economic, legal, social and physical components and should ensure, inter alia, fair access to resources, mechanisms for conflict resolution and access to information, credit and markets. This presupposes that there are functioning channels of communication with institutions and representatives of other competing sectors of the economy.

In creating an "enabling environment", it is essential to strike a balance between the need for development and growth and the need for ecosystem conservation. In this context it is necessary to recognize and deal with the increasing competition for resources. The diminishing role of the public sector as a promoter of development and the globalization of markets must also be taken into consideration.


The complex task at hand is to put the principles of the Code into operation; i.e. to clarify how sustainability choices might work in practice; to incorporate the Code's principles into development policies and plans; and to elaborate specific codes of responsible practice containing norms, standards and guidelines agreed on by all stakeholders. Given the diversity of aquaculture practices and of the political, social and economic conditions in which they take place - not to mention the different perceptions of sustainability - balanced and informed approaches are required to address developmental and environmental issues effectively at any one location. Furthermore, the applicability of various approaches needs to be assessed carefully, particularly where many small-scale farmers are involved and also in view of the often highly decentralized nature of the aquaculture industry.

Existing administrative and legal frameworks need to be reviewed and adjusted to address the specific characteristics and needs of the sector and to set forth clearly the privileges and responsibilities of aquaculturists. However, because aquaculture is frequently regulated by many agencies under a variety of laws, developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for the sector is often legally and institutionally complex. Typically it involves drafting or amending legislation that addresses a variety of issues and establishing institutional arrangements to ensure the cooperation and coordination of many different institutions with jurisdiction over natural resources, animal and public health, environment, etc.

Although new national laws to regulate aquaculture comprehensively may be desirable in many countries, other options are now being explored because developing and passing new comprehensive legislation often takes several years, while the prospect of rapid development of the sector has created an urgent need for regulation. These options include the enactment of regulations under existing legislation, and voluntary approaches such as guidelines and codes of practice.

The formulation of appropriate regulations in many countries is constrained by a shortage of information on the interaction of aquaculture production systems with the environment and on the environmental and financial efficiency of alternative approaches to production management. Even where information is available, reliable predictive models for aquaculture-environmental interactions still require considerable improvement with regard to their accuracy, general applicability and affordability.

There is also an associated need to strengthen institutional capacity to manage the sector and to expand the knowledge base in order to enable sustainable development policies and plans. There is a general recognition of the need for interdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches to development and resource management in aquaculture. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainable aquaculture development cannot be regulated solely by governments but must involve many interest groups at the national, regional and international levels, including new institutional arrangements and partnerships (consultative frameworks). This is being highlighted by ongoing structural change, namely privatization and the contraction of governments' role in development.

Consequently, there is a growing and urgent need to create new knowledge and to synthesize information from a broad spectrum of disciplines so that decisions can be based on a much broader perspective and understanding. It is also important to ensure a flow of information among different sectors and interest groups.

International trade, including in aquaculture products, is governed, inter alia, by the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement). This agreement recognizes the right of World Trade Organization (WTO) members to apply legitimate measures to protect the life and health of their populations from hazards in food, but stipulates that these measures must not be unjustifiably trade-restrictive. SPS measures must be based on risk assessment, taking into consideration the techniques being developed by relevant international organizations. In regard to food safety, the relevant international body is the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC); in regard to animal (including fish) health and disease, the relevant organization is the International Office of Epizootics (OIE). International safety standards and procedures specific to aquaculture products are increasingly being developed in the context of these instruments. It is important to note, for example, that application of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to fish processing operations is becoming mandatory in a number of countries. The application of the same system to large-scale and/or intensive aquaculture production systems is currently being explored and applied in some countries. However, use of the HACCP system in small-scale and subsistence aquaculture is far from a reality at present, as the application of aquatic animal health and disease control regulations is constrained by poor diagnostic capacity (including trained human resources, standardized diagnostic techniques and infrastructure) in many developing countries as well as a lack of reliable information on pathogens and diseases of concern to traded species.

In regional and international trade in aquaculture products, friction over differences in environmental standards among countries is best attenuated through improved coordination and harmonization. If environmental standards are to be raised over time, countries - particularly those with less demand for environmental goods - will need to be encouraged to raise their standards through a variety of appropriate support mechanisms, for example guarantees for expanded access to the markets of countries with higher standards.

The expected increase in competition for, and regulation of, natural resources clearly calls for greater production efficiency and the conservation of critical inputs. This should be a priority topic for systems research. Efficiency in resource use may also be achieved by integrating aquaculture with irrigation systems and agriculture as well as by utilizing inland surface waters and floodplains for certain forms of aquaculture production.

New forms of integrated aquaculture-agriculture systems as well as other innovative systems that can effectively respond to resource and environmental challenges need to be developed. In this connection, attention should be given to resolving the economic and environmental challenges of stock enhancement and ranching as well as of offshore cage culture.

The reduced role of government in financing fisheries and aquaculture has resulted in the cessation of public support to resource-poor fish farmers, the negative effects of which may be counteracted by special policy instruments designed to promote training and equitable income distribution and to facilitate access to information, credit and inputs needed in production.


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The Code is beginning to have a worldwide influence on the development of an enabling environment for sustainable aquaculture; however, much remains to be done. More progress can be expected as guidelines are developed on how to strike a balance among economic, social and environmental concerns, how sustainability choices apply in practice and how to analyse the economic cost of resulting actions.

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Certain states have initiated national measures such as workshops to promote the Code and some NGOs, including producer groups, have developed or are developing codes of conduct and practice for particular aspects of aquaculture. Examples of these are: an implementation plan for the code for marine fisheries and marine aquaculture in the United States;4 a code of practice for mangrove protection by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA);5 a code of practice for Australian prawn farmers;6 codes of practice for cage culture of finfish and pond culture of shrimp in Malaysia;7 and guidelines for sustainable industrial fish farming.8

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Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in many countries to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for aquaculture that will protect the industry, the environment, other resource users and consumers. This interest is being driven by a variety of factors, including: greater political attention as the economic importance and potential of aquaculture become more apparent; greater awareness that inappropriate laws and institutional arrangements can significantly constrain the development of the sector; evidence of environmental damage and social disruption as a result of rapid and largely unregulated expansion of some high-value species in certain coastal areas; and a growing emphasis on assuring the quality and safety of aquaculture products in international trade. Some of these issues were debated at an FAO Technical Consultation on Policies for Sustainable Shrimp Culture, held in Bangkok at the end of 1997.

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Progress is also being made in the establishment of legal and regulatory frameworks for aquaculture in individual countries. Among these are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Suriname. The Government of India has set up an Aquaculture Authority, which will license the adoption of improved technology for increased production and the establishment of new farms within and outside the Coastal Regulation Zone. In India, the Tamil Nadu Aquaculture (Regulation) Act of 1995 sets out conditions to improve siting and management of aquaculture facilities and establishes an Ecorestoration Fund, supported by deposits from aquaculturists, to remedy environmental damage caused by aquaculture farms.

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Concerning quality and safety of aquaculture products, FAO is currently involved in revising the FAO/WHO Code of Hygienic Practice for the Products of Aquaculture under the auspices of the Codex Committee on Fish and Fishery Products. International meetings continue to be held as part of efforts to develop risk analysis for food safety, synthesize and disseminate information on food safety (including food production from aquaculture) and address any related issues.9

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Meetings focused exclusively on aquaculture have covered subjects such as the use of chemicals,10 environmental impacts of coastal aquaculture11 and food safety issues associated with products from aquaculture.12

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In the United States, the industry and government have succeeded in developing comprehensive HACCP plans for cultured catfish, crayfish and molluscs. A similar approach is being introduced in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Norway and Thailand. The EC currently imposes detailed conditions on the handling, slaughter, inspection, processing, packaging, identification and storage of fishery products,13 and applies stringent controls to the animal health conditions applicable to the marketing of aquaculture animals and products.14 FAO, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) and OIE are collaborating to develop guidelines on aquatic animal quarantine and health certification to be applied in Asia when moving live aquatic animals.

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There is increasing interest and hence a growing experience in the incorporation of aquaculture activities in resource management for coastal and inland areas. Integrated resource management forces long-term planning (e.g. through the designation of zones where different users will have priority), which provides predictability required for any long-term investment while also reducing conflicts among actual and potential users. A variety of tools are being used in the planning process, including: geographic information systems (GIS); predictive systems for assessing carrying capacity (particularly for finfish cage culture and mollusc culture); and environmental and social impact assessments.

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An example of what can be done to integrate aquaculture into resource use plans is provided by the Australian State of Tasmania. Under new legislation (notably the 1995 Marine Farming Planning Act and the 1995 Living Marine Resources Act), marine farming development plans must be designed to cover areas rather than sites, and broad community participation in the preparation of such plans is also provided for by laws. An environmental impact assessment must be carried out and a marine farming zone established before leases are granted to marine farms. (Box 7 provides an example of environmental management of aquaculture in the Republic of Korea.)

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Progress towards participatory planning has been reflected in the growing participation of NGOs, farmers' associations, researchers and public officials in national, regional and international fora, particularly for the development of codes of practice and conduct and the formulation of regulations and legislation. There has also been progress in the development and testing of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and rapid rural appraisal (RRA) methodologies, and of concepts and possible local structures for community management of resources.

Managing the interactions between aquaculture and the environment in the Republic of Korea

Since 1964, marine aquaculture has grown to become a widely practised activity in the Republic of Korea. Production in 1996 included 538 990 tonnes of seaweeds, 306 738 tonnes of molluscs, 11 402 tonnes of finfish and 382 tonnes of crustaceans. The laver culture is carried out by means of a pole and floating net system, while sea mustard and kelp are cultured by long-line systems. Molluscs are farmed using two different culture methods: a long-line system for oysters and mussels and a bottom planting system for clams and arkshells. Most of the culture of finfish - halibut, jacopever, yellowtail and seabream - is carried out in floating net cages, while the culture of prawns - oriental and karuma - is done in embanked ponds.

All aquaculture farms in the country require licensing by municipal authorities. Additionally, all cage culture and other aquaculture involving more than 1 000 m2 in surface area must be registered with the Ministry of Environment and operated according to the Aquatic Environment Protection Law.

Provisions seeking to minimize the pollution from cage culture include: the use of low-phosphate foods with a sinking rate that does not exceed 10 percent within a two-hour period; and the installation of feed fences with a height of 10 cm above the sea surface to prevent the dispersal of food outside the cages. Culturists are also required to: prevent the difference in oxygen levels within and outside the cages exceeding 20 percent; remove dead fish immediately and report incidences of diseased fish to the local fisheries administrations; and attach facilities to the cages in order to retain human faecal material. The use of antibiotics and drugs for the control of fish diseases is also regulated under the Aquatic Environment Protection law. Licensing provisions require, furthermore, that the seabed under and immediately adjacent to farms is cleaned - of debris - with dredges more than once every three years.

The Regulations Governing Sanitary Control of Shellfish and their Growing Areas, administered by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, also provide for the administration of water quality standards and the control of water pollution arising from aquaculture. The National Fisheries Research and Development Institute monitors water quality within the shellfish culture areas as well as the incidence of contaminants in the flesh of the aquaculture products. This entails routine sampling of sanitary indicator bacteria, nutrient salts (to assess eutrophication levels), pesticides and heavy metals. The median coliform most probable number (MPN) of the water should be less than 70/100 cm3, and not more than 10 percent of the samples taken should have an MPN greater than 230/100 cm3 during the most unfavourable hydrographic and pollutant conditions. The incidence of red tides is also monitored in association with the early warning of culturists when toxic species are identified.

The Environment Impact Assessment Law requires the preparation of environmental impact assessment (EIA) prior to the construction of city and industrial complexes, port development, land reclamation and water resource development. The establishment of aquaculture ventures is not currently subject to EIA, although this is planned in the near future. The transport of aquatic animals and plants, including the introduction of new species, the quarantining of imported species and the prevention of infected or recessive exotic species into Korean waters, are all subject to regulation by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Regulations under the Marine Pollution Control Law provide for government compensation to culturists in the event of economic loss owing to abnormal environmental changes such as harmful algal blooms. Compensation may also be sought from private entities and public utilities arising from pollution (including oil spills), reclamation and industrial activities.

Major pollution control and abatement measures under way or planned since 1991 include: the classification of coastal areas according to intended use (fisheries, recreational, agricultural and industrial); the strengthening of water quality standards and the control of industrial and municipal effluent into coastal waters; a national seawater quality monitoring system (for which 280 sampling sites were designated in 1996); investment in treatment facilities for sewage, industrial wastewater and excretion (for the equivalent of US$3.1 billion during the period 1992-1996); the requirement to undertake EIA for all coastal development activities; and the designation of special conservation areas in which most development activities would be prohibited.

Source: Hak Gyoon Kim, National Fisheries Research and Development Agency, Republic of Korea, in FAO/NACA. 1995. Regional Study and Workshop on the Environmental Assessment and Management of Aquaculture Development (TCP/RAS/2253). NACA Environment and Aquaculture Development Series No. 1. Bangkok, NACA. (updated August 1998 by Seong-Kwae Park, Korea Marine Institute, Seoul)


Sustainable development is the overriding strategic issue and challenge to all economic sectors, including aquaculture, and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Issues of sustainability can be expected to change our perceptions of desirable forms of aquaculture development and management, and new ways of farming that strike a balance between food security and the environmental and resource costs of production will have to be adopted. In the future, and with the growing trend towards ecolabelling, the longstanding goal of producing particular species at competitive prices is, in itself, likely to be insufficient for realizing full market potentials. In the future, acceptable sustainability credentials will probably be as essential as quality and safety standards are today.

In the short term, the elaboration of legal and regulatory frameworks, particularly in developing countries, will be the probable outcome of local social pressure and environmental and public health standards associated with trade in aquaculture products (e.g. in the case of shrimp and Atlantic salmon). This development will provide a window of opportunity to begin the process of providing the sector with a specific identity in national development - which could eventually be expanded to cover the entire sector.

Politically, food production will remain an overriding priority, and intensification as well as diversification in food production will both constitute important approaches to development. The move towards intensification in aquaculture is evident in many countries, and this trend will probably continue. This will promote investment in research, which will eventually lead to improved production efficiency, as in the case of Atlantic salmon and American catfish. It will also enhance integration with agriculture for the compatible multiple use of resources and for the utilization of by-products and unconventional inputs in general. In industrialized countries, competition for quality freshwater and suitable production sites will lead to an increased use of recycling systems and to more intensive research in open sea aquaculture. The extent of the challenge to aquaculture development will depend on the nature and magnitude of available resources as well as on the existing competition for these resources and the aquaculture development policies adopted at the national level. Finally, increasing privatization and the contraction of the role of governments in development are likely to worsen the situation of resource-poor artisanal and subsistence fish farmers.



The World Resources Institute (WRI) reported in 1996 that about 34 percent of the world's coasts are at high potential risk of degradation and another 17 percent are at moderate risk.15 As an estimated 90 percent of the world's marine capture fisheries production is dependent on coastal habitats, the relevance to fisheries is obvious. Moreover, coastal fishing communities are typically characterized by intense competition for scarce resources (e.g. for access to and use of fishing grounds, water or land), which is often associated with unregulated access to these resources.

The known consequences of habitat damage include a loss or lowering of productivity and the associated threat to local food security; contaminated aquatic food products; reduced economic viability; increased levels of conflict involving fishers; sometimes physical displacement of communities; increased unemployment; and the loss of trade opportunities. Heightened anxieties within the communities affected lead to frequent disputes - and in extreme cases physical violence.

While fisheries is the sector that is most frequently disadvantaged, it is also a contributor to environmental damage and to the exacerbation of conflict. The use of bottom trawls, dredges and explosives and the careless anchoring of craft are examples of fisheries practices that have a negative impact on aquatic habitats. They may negatively affect bottom fauna such as sea grass beds and coral reefs. Likewise, some aquaculture practices have caused negative environmental effects, such as the physical destruction of ecologically sensitive habitat, excessive nutrient and organic enrichment of seabeds owing to the release of wastes from cage and pond farms, and the introduction of harmful alien species.

Conflicts over coastal fisheries resources occur between groups of fishers. A frequently occurring example is conflict over the use of shrimp trawlers in the near-shore areas frequented by artisanal fishermen using traditional methods. Apart from reduced catches, the artisanal fishers risk damage to their gear. In such cases, their response may not always be rational, as when they intensify their exploitation of juvenile fish in nursery areas or employ destructive fishing methods to maintain their livelihoods.

Often, the fisheries sector and its institutions do not have the necessary economic and institutional clout needed to guide and coordinate management. Many instances exist where government agencies have insufficient expertise to undertake the necessary integrative evaluations and planning. There may even be a lack of basic knowledge about the fisheries in question.

However, as other economic sectors expand in the coastal zone, the relative economic importance of fisheries declines, a process that may be speeded up as a result of damage to habitat and spatial competition. Naturally, this acts to weaken further the influence of the fisheries agencies in determining policy.


Integrated planning and institutional coordination are frequently listed as the primary requirements for effective coastal management. In practice, both have proved difficult to achieve and both entail significant costs. These difficulties relate to what are often cumbersome bureaucratic structures and procedures of government agencies; the complexity of the scientific, technical and economic issues involved; and the potentially large number of informed decisions that need to be taken. Notwithstanding, there are few coastal management schemes where the interests of the fisheries sector are not considered.

Coastal management can be properly addressed through the formulation of soundly based management plans, the provision and enforcement of appropriate environmental legislation, a transparent consultative process involving users and potentially affected groups and monitoring of the subsequent development impact. The role of fisheries agencies should include participation in:

The costs of a formal process of preparing a management plan are almost always justified. However, as a rule it will be essential to strengthen expertise in environmental impact assessment, the economic evaluation of alternative resources uses, rapid appraisal techniques and ecological-economic modelling.

Experience shows that fisheries interests are best served when they are represented early on in the coastal management process. Therefore, the delegation of responsibility to elected bodies of lower government levels can also be important in ensuring greater awareness at the local level (see Box 8, Participatory approach to the management of lagoon fisheries in Benin). Ideally, municipal governments should have considerable influence in matters relating to fisheries and aquaculture, in the way that they normally do with respect to siting and specifications of any industrial, commercial or housing structure. However, the municipal decision-makers will need to be provided with the appropriate technical expertise and an understanding of fisheries matters - which is something that can be done by specialist agencies, research institutions and NGOs.

Participatory approach to the management of lagoon fisheries in Benin

Little more than 40 years ago, the lagoon fishers still observed the simple rules for conservation of environment and fisheries resources that their ancestors had established some three centuries earlier. Based on taboos, these customary rules forbade all capture of fingerlings or juveniles. They also designated rest days when no one was allowed to fish for fear of incurring the wrath of the gods. There is still in fact a section of the Ouidah coastal lagoon, between Hio and Avlékété, called vodounto (a sacred lagoon traditionally inhabited by the deities that is also a refuge for fish). Fishing in this area is strictly forbidden so that stocks can recover. The area is guarded by dagbo hounon, the chief fetisheer of the region, who inflicts heavy fines on offenders.

However, the advent of outside religions eroded the authority of the traditional chiefs and upset the balance between increased number of fishers and available fish resources: children follow their parents as fishers in the lake and lagoon areas. The ecological equilibrium has therefore been disrupted, and the rapid increase in fishing gear and the employment of illegal practices have resulted in:

· a smaller size at recruitment for the main target species;
· the destruction of natural spawning grounds;
· a lower catch per unit effort;
· more disputes between fisher groups.

In 1992, recognizing that the legislative framework had not enabled the fisheries board to bring about rational fisheries management, and acting on the instigation of the local authorities, the government set up some 20 Fishing Committees on an experimental basis in villages or groups of villages bordering the lagoon of Porto-Novo. Each committee is made up of fishers' representatives who are democratically elected for a three-year term, which can be renewed in the General Assembly. Each committee has nine to 15 members, including an executive of five elected members who are briefed on fisheries legislation by the administration and are expected to pass on the information to the other fishers.

Committee members must be full-time fishers of sound character and good social standing. They receive no payment. Each fisher in the village has to pay a minimum monthly contribution of 150 CFA francs (about US$0.3) towards the committee's operating costs. The basic function of the committee is to see that the lagoon is used rationally for the conservation of its resources and ecosystem. More specifically, the Fishing Committee is expected to:

· raise awareness of fisheries rules and regulations;
· ensure compliance with traditional practices that are aimed at protecting resources and the aquatic environment;
· in conjunction with the Fisheries Administration, ensure that the regulations and the decisions reached in the fisher's general assembly are applied;
· serve as a forum of discussion, analysis and conciliation for the settlement of disputes;
· support any lagoon management and use programmes considered necessary by the administration.

The Fisheries Administration gives its support to all the committees' activities so long as these comply with regulatory provisions. The committees cannot apply sanctions; their role is more to alert their respective communities to the possible dangers of failing to observe fisheries regulations.

In August 1996, in an effort to ensure sustainable fishing on Benin's inland waters, the Fisheries Administration adopted a plan of management with the following strategic thrusts:

· the implementation of institutional mechanisms for participatory management;
· the management of fisheries resources within an appropriate legal framework;
· the identification and promotion of activities to develop alternative sources of income.

In 1997, the government issued Interministerial Decree No. 312 on the institution, organization, functions and operation of the Fishing Committees in the Republic of Benin in order to give them juridical status. There are now 90 Fishing Committees involved in comanaging the principal water bodies of three southern departments of Benin.

Source:Plan of Management of Inland Water Bodies of Southern Benin, August 1996.

The process of management requires trade-offs between competing uses, with the negotiation of trade-offs normally involving consideration of the respective contributions from the competing users to national economic and social well-being. This in turn requires consideration of the current and potential (i.e. optimally managed) economic value of resources. It is important for all the potential impacts to be valued, not just those that are easily determined. For example, those discharging untreated sewage into the sea should bear the cost of associated catch losses to any nearby fishing community.

Some countries have enacted planning legislation that assigns priority to coast-dependent development. Its application provides a first rationale for allocating scarce coastal resources by giving added weight to uses (or sectors) that, by their very nature, are dependent on the inherent attributes of the coastal zone. Capture fisheries and aquaculture clearly fall within this category whereas many activities of other sectors may not.


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A major international workshop on integrated coastal management (ICM) in tropical countries was held in 1996 in Xiamen, China, to discuss experiences with and lessons drawn from ICM efforts. The workshop generated an overview of the processes of formulating, designing, implementing and extending ICM within East Asia as well as other regions. It also produced a set of Good ICM Practices.16 In addition, the IMO/FAO/UNESCO - IOC/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) has provided guidance on the role of science in coastal management. There has also been an assessment of the current objectives of and methods for evaluating coastal management projects and programmes that are funded by international donors.17

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A group of experts recently compared the coastal management guidelines used by five different international entities (the World Bank, the World Coast Conference, UNEP, the World Conservation Union [IUCN] and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]) and subsequently wrote a "Consensus set of ICM guidelines".18

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International concern for the management of coastal (and catchment) areas was given formal recognition at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). In the same year, the International Conference on Responsible Fisheries called for the development of a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Code includes principles and provisions to encourage states and their agencies to consider and implement legal, institutional, policy and economic measures. This is in order to promote the proper integration of fisheries interests into coastal management planning and development.

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In its efforts to strengthen the capacity of governments, NGOs and the private sector in coastal zone management, FAO has collaborated with a range of institutions, including the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), NACA, the United Nations Statistics Division, IUCN and other UN agencies sponsoring GESAMP activities.

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The joint initiatives mentioned have included the testing of alternative management approaches through pilot projects and the publication of guidelines on managing the environmental impact of aquaculture, integrated economic and environmental accounting, objectives and strategies of coastal fisheries management and the application of scientific methods to coastal zone management. There have also been jointly sponsored technical consultations attended by stakeholders and other interested parties.


Where there is no constraint on levels of exploitation (i.e. in situations of open access), the utilization of natural resources - whether by fishers or others - is inconsistent with their sustainable use. In the case of fisheries, an emerging consensus is that sustainability can be best achieved through the establishment of specific use or property rights. This is valid despite the many difficulties in defining and enforcing rights-based management. Some countries have modified fisheries law to accommodate the formal allocation of user rights to fishing communities, and this trend is expected to continue, allowing such communities greater control over the factors affecting their well-being.

In the absence of appropriate action by governments and users, the overexploitation and degradation of coastal resources will increase further as a result of population pressure and associated levels of economic activity. The greatest progress in coastal management can be expected in the developed countries, as developing countries that suffer acute poverty and unemployment within their coastal zones will need to strengthen their national economies substantially before much attention can be paid to coastal management.



Several of the world's most important fisheries are subject to excess fishing capacity, and this a cause of growing concern. Excess capacity means that, in many of the world's fisheries, fleets are not only larger than they need to be to catch and land (at the lowest cost) the volumes of fish currently available, but they would also exceed the requirements for fishing in the event of stocks being permitted to recover in size. Not only does this threaten the sustainability of the fish stocks being exploited but it also constitutes a potential threat to other stocks. This situation has resulted from investors purchasing additional vessels to generate more returns - even when the fleet size is optimal from a general socio-economic point of view. Excess fishing capacity is thus caused by a lack of control over fishers' access to fish stocks. Additionally, in some countries, it is also brought about by public funding of investments in new vessels and/or the rehabilitation of old ones, although recent FAO studies on public funding of the fishing industry indicate a declining trend in these expenditures.

Overcapacity is generally caused by excessive investments and an indiscriminate use of fishing inputs. Two manifestations of excess capacity are poor economic performance, or inefficiency, and biological overfishing. Overcapitalization in capture fisheries wastes investment capital and therefore leads to high fishing costs. Similarly, overexploitation of stocks wastes fish resources.

Attempts to control overfishing can be negated - at least partially - by the practical difficulties associated with the measurement of fishing capacity, whether expressed as inputs (fishing units) or output (potential catch). A lobster fishing vessel with 60 pots, for example, has more effect, or fishing capacity, than a vessel with 20 pots; added to this are factors such as the size of the pots and whether they are emptied more than once during a shift. Subtleties such as these have made it difficult to control fishing capacity by applying checks to fisheries inputs, and this has been one of several factors leading to an increased interest in the control of capacity through limits on fisheries outputs, i.e. on landings of fish (see Box 9, Capacity control in Australian prawn fisheries).

Capacity control in Australian prawn fisheries

The Northern Prawn Fishery of Australia produced about 8 500 tonnes of prawns in 1997. Banana and tiger prawns are the main targeted species. While the managed area is about 1 million km2, less than 10 percent of this area is trawled commercially. The commercial harvesting of prawns began in the early 1960s, after which the fishing effort rapidly increased. The fishery remained unrestricted until 1977, when a limited entry regime was introduced and 292 vessels were endorsed to participate in the fishery.

The fishing effort continued to increase because of improved technology, bigger vessels and more fishing time, despite the control on vessel numbers, and this raised concern over the future of the fishery from an economic and biological point of view. Management measures including strengthened vessel replacement policies, a voluntary buy-back scheme, the permanent closure of prawn nursery grounds, seasonal closures and gear restrictions were progressively implemented from 1984. These proved to be only partially effective in improving the performance of the fishery.

In 1984, operators were assigned saleable units based on the fishing capacities of their vessels, with approximately 130 000 Class A units allocated. Operators were endorsed to engage in the fishery provided that they obtained the applicable number of Class A units and a Class B unit. Class A units were determined according to the size of the vessel and the engine, while Class B units permit operation in the fishery. By 1985, nearly 300 vessels were authorized to operate in the fishery.

Restructuring began in 1985 with the introduction of the voluntary buy-back scheme, the aim of which was to reduce the number of vessels and hence fishing capacity. This scheme was partly funded by a $A 3 million government grant, with a further $A 5 million borrowed from the National Fisheries Adjustment Scheme. The latter was to be repaid from levies charged against the operators in the fishery. Operators were invited to sell units under the scheme through the lodging of tenders. While the initial tenders received were somewhat inflated, 12 000 units were purchased by September 1986 at an average price of
$A 200 per Class A unit and a total cost of $A 2.5 million. Further purchases resulted in 100 000 Class A units and 222 vessels remaining in November 1989.

In 1989, competition from farm produced prawns from Southeast Asia caused a deterioration in prawn prices. This, together with advice from the national research agencies, led to the government approving another restructuring package in 1990. The new scheme was an enhanced version of the earlier scheme. The government provided a $A 5 million grant over three years and guaranteed up to $A 40.9 million to pay for units removed under the scheme. The borrowings were to be repaid by the remaining operators over ten years. The restructuring was conditional on the attainment of the target of 54 000 Class A units by 13 December 1992, to be followed by a compulsory reduction of units across all unit holders before the start of the 1993 season if the target was not met.

The second scheme was less successful than the first, which can be attributed to the fact that the buy-back prices offered by the scheme were less than the open market value for Class A units. At 1 September 1992, there were 72 216 Class A units and 162 vessels remaining in the fishery. By December 1992, the Northern Prawn Fishery management plan was amended to provide for compulsory surrender of Class A units. On 1 April 1993, 18 000 Class A units and 25 vessels were retired from the fishery without compensation, leaving 54 000 Class A units and 137 vessels.

Although the legality of this action was challenged in the Federal Court, an appeal confirmed the government's powers to reduce fishing effort without the payment of compensation. This legal action resulted in the industry focusing on the security of fishing access rights and pressing for greater security over these rights. This and other aspects were incorporated within a formal fisheries management plan completed in 1995. In this, the previous fishing licences were replaced by statutory fishing rights, which provide assurance to the owners of long-term access to the fishery. This has created a more secure environment for management, within which the owners can plan their future operations and investments.

The large reduction in fishing capacity and the higher prices received for prawns have resulted in a turnaround to substantial profitability for the fishery. Estimates of pre-tax profit show an increase of $A 19 million per year for the fishery from the restructuring programme. In order to maintain the economic benefits, it will be important for management to contain the future expansion of fishing capacity. As it is an input- controlled fishery, it can be expected that additional reductions in the fishing capacity will be required in the future. The AFMA (see Box 5) and the industry are investigating the use of gear units rather than vessel units as a way of defining fishing capacity. Conceptually, the use of gear units should provide more precision in the control of fishing capacity; however, it remains to be seen whether or not there are practical advantages. In December 1997, the AFMA agreed that the fishery would move to a gear unit management system in 1999, with the allocation of gear units being proportional to the holding of Class A units.

Source: M. Harwood, former Assistant Secretary, Fisheries and Aquaculture Branch, and T. Battaglene, Director, Commonwealth Fisheries Policy, Australian Department of Primary Industries and Energy, personal communication.

A fundamental problem for many countries is the lack of reliable data on the numbers and characteristics of craft and gear. Also important is the extent to which the vessels may be moved between fisheries, as action taken to reduce capacity in one fishery may be the direct cause of overcapacity in another, owing to the rapid relocation of the excess capacity. Unfortunately, this has been a common outcome in countries that have sought to reduce capacity solely on a fishery-by-fishery basis. The problem has been recognized in some countries, for example New Zealand, and country groupings, such as the EC, which have chosen to reduce capacity concurrently in each fishery as well as globally at aggregated fleet levels. The necessary precursor in these instances has been to undertake an evaluation of capacity levels in all the relevant fisheries.

From a broader view, efforts made by some developed countries to reduce fishing capacity have led to the relocation of vessels in the fisheries of other (usually developing and least developed) countries. On a global scale, this does not constitute a reduction in capacity. Furthermore, there are several reasons why these relocations might be detrimental to many of the importing countries. For instance, the vessels are usually purchased at a low price, and hence can be operated profitably (at least temporarily) even when fish stocks are depleted - a situation that is conducive to the further depletion of stocks. There have been many cases of local conflicts arising over the fact that such imported vessels - which are usually of an industrial type - operate in direct competition with artisanal fleets.

Fishing capacity is in excess in most regions of the world. For example, with increasing fishing pressure in South Asia, many coastal pelagic and demersal fish stocks in the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea are fully exploited or overfished. This is evident, inter alia, in the increasing proportion of low-value species and juveniles of high-value species being caught.

The open-access nature of high seas fisheries creates a particularly difficult situation with respect to the control of fishing capacity. In the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in particular, the issue of fishing capacity is largely ignored. The 1995 UN Agreement19 reinforces the obligation of flag states to adhere to the management regimes of the regional fisheries organizations, but does not empower the organizations to deny the access of vessels from non-member states that agree to respect the conservation and management measures in place and do not undermime the work of the regional fishery organizations. Furthermore, there are important high seas stocks that do not come under the purview of the existing regional organizations. In the event of any future efforts to exert controls on the capacity of the high seas fleets, the collation of vessel information at the global level, provided for under the FAO Compliance Agreement, should prove useful.


Effective control of fishing capacity presupposes an understanding of its links with related issues, of which the most important are: the impact of subsidies, the effects of fleet mobility and the effects of the methods that can be used to regulate access to fish stocks. While considerable experience has been acquired in the management of fisheries, most of the methods or tools used control catch or effort, and not capacity per se. The relative effectiveness of these methods in controlling fishing capacity is now better understood, and it is clear that effective control needs regular assessments of stock biomass and an understanding of fleet dynamics, based on a monitoring of the fleet size and its use.

In the developed countries, considerable experience has been built up in the use of alternative fisheries management methods to control fishing capacity. A consensus is emerging in favour of using ITQ management where practicable. In its common form, ITQ management entails limiting the number of fishing units (e.g. vessels), allocating a quota (or share of the TAC) in respect to each and allowing the sale or lease of the right to quotas. A virtue of this system is that it creates an incentive for the voluntary reduction of excess capital by the vessel owners, as attention is drawn away from increasing catches and focused more on reducing costs as the means of enhancing income. This would occur, for example, if an owner purchased and merged the quota entitlements from two boats, with one of the boats being retired. ITQ management can nevertheless prove difficult, particularly when applied to mixed species fisheries, for which it is usually necessary to have complex schemes to offset the increased incentive to discard by-catch.

Not all fisheries are amenable to quota management, however. The difficulties in enforcing adherence to quotas can be substantial. The most frequent alternative has been licence limitation, particularly as applied to controlling the number and power of the fishing units. In most cases this has been done in association with allowing the sale or lease of the rights to a licence. This is of relevance in the purchasing and retirement of licence entitlements - through buy-back schemes - as a means to reduce fishing capacity. It also facilitates (as in the case of ITQ management) the voluntary reduction of capacity by vessel owners. This would occur, for example, when several gear entitlements are merged into a single craft. Voluntary reductions in capacity are usually slow, however, so some form of government intervention is usually required.

Where the control of fishing capacity is exerted through fisheries inputs, experience suggests that capacity is likely to continue increasing, despite the best efforts of the management agencies. This arises because, while it is not difficult to limit the number and size of the units of fishing capacity, it is extremely difficult to control the fishing power of the units. Fishers are continuously striving, often with success, to increase fishing power. There are many examples where agencies have adopted - paradoxically - management measures aimed at reducing the power of the fishing units to offset the gains in fishing power achieved by fishers.

To handle this issue, the management body must monitor the development of technology and its impact on fishing capacity, and do so in concert with the industry. Indeed, management through control of fisheries inputs has been most successful and gained the widest acceptance where the industry has participated in a substantial comanagement role with government.

The majority of countries in the Asia and Pacific region have fisheries management frameworks of varying degrees of efficiency. In general, they are in need of substantial improvement (see Box 10, Improving fisheries management frameworks).

BOX 10
Improving fisheries management frameworks

A recent FAO study of the fisheries management frameworks of the countries bordering the South China Sea concluded that there is a need for strong political will on the part of governments to conserve fisheries resources through improved and more effective fisheries management systems. Governments must shift the aim of fisheries management policies from that of maximizing production to optimizing the net socio-economic benefits over the long term. They must also emphasize the importance of preventing and controlling environmental degradation. In addition, the study concluded that governments could:

· for the benefit of the private sector, the fishing industry and fishers, explain - in clear and simple terms - the existing laws and regulations and management measures adopted by governments;
· use a precautionary approach, in both inshore and offshore fisheries, when timely information and data are not available;
· emphasize research on the development of locally appropriate resource assessment models, bio-economic analysis of exploited fish stocks and the management of transboundary stocks;
· facilitate technology transfers through improving methodologies and the capacity of staff in extension work and by encouraging closer cooperation among administrators, scientific and academic institutions, the fishing industry and fishers.

A number of key issues for improved management can be tackled at the regional level, including: the strengthening of scientists' and administrators' capacities; the development of timely and reliable fisheries information and statistical data as well as the setting up of a regional network; research and management considerations for shared or transboundary fish stocks; the development of methodologies for stock assessments; the prevention and control of degradation; and the monitoring of large ecosystems such as the South China Sea or the Gulf of Thailand.

Source: FAO. 1997. Fisheries management frameworks of the countries bordering the South China Sea. Bangkok, Asia and Pacific Fisheries Commission, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

It is in the highly populous countries suffering from acute poverty and unemployment that controlling capacity is most problematic. In the case of artisanal fisheries, even when fisheries agencies can establish that economic benefits would accrue from reduced capacity, an appreciation of the negative social consequences has invariably prevented such action being taken. A lack of alternative employment opportunities encourages the attraction of fisheries as an employer of last resort, and it is in circumstances such as these that fisheries agencies have shown interest in management that empowers the local communities themselves - in particular through the allocation of user rights - to make the difficult decisions concerning fishing capacity and the sharing of the benefits generated by fisheries. This approach is now commonly referred to as "community-based management". (See Box 11, Community-based management in the Negombo Lagoon, Sri Lanka).

BOX 11
Community-based management in the Negombo Lagoon, Sri Lanka

Negombo is a town located 30 km north of Colombo. Close to Negombo is a lagoon encompassing an area of 31.64 km2. The catch from the lagoon in 1997 was estimated to be nearly 1 700 tonnes, including 538 tonnes of shrimp, and was valued at SL Rs 100 million (US$1.7 million). Frame survey results have indicated a total of 1 305 vessels (non-motorized), crewed by about 2 000 fishers. The net monthly remuneration per fisher is thought to be about SL Rs 4 000 (US$67).

Community-based management is well established at Negombo. Perhaps the most interesting example concerns the use of stake nets inside the entrance to the lagoon. These are trawl-like nets staked to the lagoon bottom during outgoing tides at night. There are about 60 stations - the number varies slightly according to changes in the topography of the entrance - and, at each, there are several sites that can be fished. The stations are well known and gazetted in the fisheries regulations. Fishing occurs in all months and, in 1997, involved the use of about 200 craft, with two fishers per vessel (at least one fisher on each vessel is required to be a society member), and a total catch of 308 tonnes, of which 211 tonnes were shrimps.

On the basis of several decades of traditional practice, the management of the stake net fishery is principally undertaken by four independent local societies. Nearly all the 60 stations are distributed among these societies. The entitlements to operate stake nets at each station are allocated among the society members at large annual gatherings organized by each society. The initial process of allocation involves a ballot, whereby the entitlements to fish at a station are distributed randomly. This is followed by a bidding process - a form of auction administered by each society - to determine the distribution of the sites at each station. A member who is successful in the ballot but unsuccessful in bidding for a productive site may choose not to take a site known to be of low productivity.

As the number of members in the societies is greater than the number of sites, each site is allocated to more than one member. In recent years, the entitlement to a site has been allocated to an average of three members, with access being rotated so as to allow each member to occupy a site once every three days. Under this arrangement, each member can engage in stake net fishing for ten days of each month as well as being able to participate in different types of fishing on other days. Only one member of a family may have membership, and the transferral of membership - when a member dies, for example - is hereditary. It may only be passed on to a male member of the immediate family. Where there is no male member, the entitlement lapses.

Additional memberships may be issued, although only to married males between the ages of 18 and 50 years who are descendants of stake net fishers and are Christian. They must also demonstrate that they have access to the necessary craft and gear and are competent fishers. The societies impose penalties in the case of breaches of the rules. The church, which is allocated several sites, obtains a modest revenue from the fishery and it uses this in local welfare activities. This reflects its major role in the evolution of the current regime.

Most of the other examples of community-based management existing throughout Sri Lanka in the past have now disappeared. The contributing factors have included increased mobility of the fishers owing to the motorization of vessels, the influx of displaced persons from conflict-affected zones in the north of the country, and some loss of cohesion within the coastal communities.

Sources: UNDP/Government of Sri Lanka/FAO Marine Fisheries Management Project SRL/91/022; various published and unpublished papers.


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A growing number of countries have acted to make substantial reductions in their fishing capacity. In the EC, Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) have been in force since the mid-1980s. Initially, they were designed to control and restrict fleet expansion; more recently they have been designed to reduce capacity. The MAGP targets for fishing capacity are set in terms of vessel tonnage and engine power which, between 1991 and 1996, were reduced by 15 and 9.5 percent, respectively.

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In New Zealand, reductions in fishing capacity since the mid-1980s were undertaken in association with ITQ management. In the subsequent decade, the number of vessels engaged in the country's inshore fisheries was halved (see Box 4). The reductions in fishing capacity achieved in Australia are more at the individual fishery level. Some countries, in particular Japan, have strengthened regulations concerning fleet disposal and access to high seas fisheries.

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In Latin America, Argentina, Chile and Peru have recently introduced programmes aimed at reducing fishing capacity. To date, however, these countries have met with considerable resistance from industry associations, with which negotiations related to these programmes are proving complex and time-consuming.

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From 1995 to 1997, FAO undertook an assessment of the economic viability of selected fleets (see Box 12) shows that fishing remains profitable in most major fisheries. This would seem to indicate that reduced yields have been compensated by higher prices and lower costs, the latter caused by technological improvements, but still in some cases through transfers of public funds to the sector.

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The longer-term objective for FAO is to develop, within the framework of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), an international Plan of Action for the Management of Global Fishing Capacity. As a step towards developing such a plan, in April 1998 an FAO Technical Working Group of international experts met in La Jolla, United States, to review issues concerning fishing capacity.20 Countries considered the results of these discussions at a meeting held at FAO headquarters from 22 to 24 July 1998.


BOX 12
Economic viability of marine capture fisheries

In cooperation with fisheries research institutions and agencies in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, between 1995 and 1997 FAO carried out studies on the economic and financial viability of the most common fishing vessels and gear combinations. At the same time, information was also collected on the level of exploitation of the associated resources as well as on government policies regarding fisheries management, subsidies and fiscal policies.

The countries covered include Argentina, Cameroon, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Senegal, Spain, Taiwan Province of China and Thailand. Together, they accounted for about 50 percent of the total marine capture fisheries production in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, which in turn accounted for 84 percent of global marine capture fisheries production in 1995. FAO considers the studies a useful empirical contribution to the discussion on the economic viability of marine capture fisheries. They should be continued and expanded to cover more countries, as recommended by the workshop, with a view to validating the findings and monitoring changes that occur over time.

The findings of the studies were discussed at an interregional workshop, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 15 to 18 December 1997. The general conclusion was that, in spite of fully and sometimes overexploited fisheries resources, most marine capture fisheries are economically and financially viable. In other words, they generate sufficient income to cover costs - including allowances for depreciation as well as the opportunity cost of capital, with adequate levels of remuneration to the owners and crews and a surplus remaining for reinvestment.

In the African countries studied, only small-scale encircling gillnetting and deep-sea fish/shrimp trawling in Senegal generated a negative net cash flow, while all other fishing vessel and gear combinations studied generated a positive net surplus. In Latin America, large-scale trawling in Peru had a negative net cash flow, while purse seiners generated a positive net surplus. In Argentina, both trawlers and purse seiners generated a positive net surplus.

In Asia, all fishing fleet segments covered in Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China generated a positive net surplus, as did five out of the seven typical medium- and large-scale fishing units in China, and seven out of the eight typical fishing units in Indonesia. In Europe, out of the 23 types of small-, medium- and large-scale fishing vessels studied in France and Spain, only two types of deep-sea trawlers operating in France had negative net results, while the other 21 types of vessels generated a positive net surplus.

It was also observed that the number of subsidies in developing countries has been greatly reduced in recent years. The remaining subsidies are for offshore fishing, artisanal fisheries and fisheries cooperatives as well as for fishing operations in remote and underdeveloped areas. They were mainly available in the form of capital subsidies and reduced duty on fuel, and even these were in the process of being further reduced.

Source: FAO. Economic viability and sustainability of marine capture fisheries - Findings of a global study and recommendations of an interregional workshop. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 377. (in prepa-ration)



Many developed countries and a small number of developing countries have successfully taken the important and difficult steps needed to control and, where needed, reduce fishing capacity effectively. Other countries can be expected to follow. Notwithstanding, the reduction of capacity in some countries has not necessarily led to a reduction of the global fishing capacity, owing to the relocation of capacity and the continuing expansion of capacity in other countries. In the short term, the control of capacity will occur mostly in EEZ waters other than those of the highly populous and least developed countries where the control of fishing capacity will remain secondary to employment considerations. In a few countries, commercial fisheries will be displaced as preference is given to recreational activities and tourism.

Resolving the excess capacity in the high seas fisheries is bound to be a protracted process because of the "open access" nature of these fisheries, the difficulty of adopting and enforcing internationally (or regionally) agreed measures to control fishing capacity and the need to establish additional regional management organizations for those fish stocks outside the purview of existing regional fisheries management bodies. An emerging issue stems from the increasing participation in high seas fisheries by coastal states (e.g. countries bordering the Indian Ocean) that often use lower-technology vessels and gear than the existing distant-water fleets. These countries
are unlikely to collaborate with attempts by regional organizations to control fishing capacity while they are still in the process of establishing their offshore fleets. Ultimately, they might seek to displace the distant-water fleets.



By-catch occurs because most fishing gears and practices are not perfectly selective for the species and sizes being targeted and because target species exist in habitats occupied by a wide range of other species. The target species themselves may be considered as by-catch if they are of the wrong size, the wrong sex or the wrong part of the animal. Shark carcasses are an example of the latter when it is only the fins that are targeted. The definition of "wrong" in these cases is determined either by the market or through regulations applied to the fishery. Similarly, the by-catch of non-target species may be either marketable or non-marketable. In most cases, unmarketable by-catch is discarded, the key exception being where discarding is forbidden.

The discarding of by-catch has long been recognized as wasteful, although inevitable by virtue of the nature of fishing. It constitutes a loss of valuable food, has negative consequences for the environment and biodiversity and can be aesthetically offensive. By-catch was propelled to the forefront of public debate in reaction to the incidental capture of dolphins in tuna purse seine nets, turtles in shrimp trawls and marine mammals, birds, turtles and fish in high seas squid driftnets. The outcome for all the fisheries concerned was dramatic, and not always perceived as rational from the viewpoint of fisheries interests.

An order of magnitude for the quantities of fish discarded was provided for the first time in an assessment published by FAO in 1994.21 Annual discards from the world's fisheries were estimated to range from 17.9 million to 39.5 million tonnes. A subsequent re-evaluation of these estimates, together with adjustments allowing for subsequent reductions in discarding, indicates that current levels are at the lower end of the range. The most recent FAO estimate of 20 million tonnes, if correct, is equivalent to 25 percent of the reported annual production from marine capture fisheries, which are those from which most of the discards derive.

In the Pacific artisanal and subsistence fisheries, fishers generally discard very little of their catch. Most discards in this region are generated by the tuna fisheries, particularly the tuna long-line fisheries for albacore and, to a lesser extent, by the purse seine fisheries for skipjack and yellowfin tunas.

In most respects, the decision by fishers to discard components of their catch is driven by economic factors. In an unregulated fishery, fishers have an incentive to discard if the expected net price, i.e. the real price less landing costs, is negative and if the resultant costs incurred in landing are greater than those incurred by discarding. Furthermore, there is an incentive to discard if the boat has a limited holding capacity. In such cases, fishers tend to discard the low-value components and retain those of higher value, a practice that is often referred to as "high grading".

Management involving the use of catch quotas commonly increases the incentive to discard. This is particularly so in mixed species fisheries where several of the species are subject to a quota. Three forms of discarding can be associated with quota management: the discarding of catch taken in excess of the quota, high grading and price dumping. The latter occurs where all or part of the catch of a species is discarded if a low price is expected. This could occur on the return journey to port, for example, when a fisher may decide to discard the day's catch so as to save the quota for a day when the price is higher.

Discarding is a feature of any management system that does provide for its specific and effective prohibition. In this event, there remains the issue of whether or not the added cost of enforcement is justified in lieu of the benefits and who should pay. In fact, most of the measures aimed at reducing the quantities being discarded carry substantial implementation costs. The rational argument that is gaining general acceptance is that the costs of implementation should be a cost against the fisheries and should therefore be borne - directly or indirectly - by those who clearly benefit directly from those fisheries.


The incentives to discard do not change with the introduction of licence limitation. Nevertheless, if the number of vessels is reduced as a result of licensing, there is likely to be at least a short-term increase in the stock of the by-catch species. Minimum size requirements would normally increase the discarding, particularly if enforcement is carried out at the point of landing. The benefit from enforcement at the point of capture - which is not always practical - is to "encourage" fishers to operate on grounds where there are fewer undersized fish and to employ more selective gears and practices.

Restrictions applied to the number of days at sea can lead to less discarding. This may occur simply as a consequence of reducing the fishing effort, in which case the effects are the same as those brought about by reducing the number of vessels. Additionally, there may be insufficient fishing time to enable the space to be filled with only the higher-value components of the catch, a situation that arises if storage space is limited. In such cases, more of the less valuable components could be retained and hence discarding could be reduced.

At the fishery level, the management measures that seek to reduce discarding fall into two broad categories. The first achieves lower quantities of by-catch through the use of more selective gears and practices, area and seasonal closures and increased by-catch utilization. The second category includes measures aimed at reducing the discarding of by-catch. These may be direct - such as when discarding is prohibited - or take the form of economic incentives to alter discarding behaviour.

The measures to reduce discarding in fisheries under quota management have gained increased prominence, as progressively more fisheries have been placed under ITQ management regimes. They include allowing above-quota catch to be traded - i.e. sold to those with unfilled quotas - as an alternative to discarding. Permissible levels of quota overrun allow fishers to exceed quotas in one year in return for a reduction in quotas for the following year. In New Zealand, permitted quota overruns are limited to 10 percent of the original quota for all species. Also in New Zealand, fishers can land species for which they do not hold a quota and record it against the quota held by other fishers. The voluntary surrender of above-quota catch without penalty is another option. In this event, the fisher may sell the catch in the normal manner, but must pay the "deemed" value (the value realized in excess of the cost of landing) to the management authority.

Norway has imposed a system where the discarding of quota species - including sizes that might otherwise have been discarded - is prohibited and all the catch is deducted from the quota (see Box 13). Individual fishers are responsible for ensuring that they have sufficient unfilled quotas to allow for any by-catch of quota species when targeting other quota species. They are also required to leave a fishing ground if there is a perceived risk of exceeding quotas or if there are abundant juveniles. This aspect of the Norwegian approach has provided a strong incentive to develop and apply more selective gears. In the United States, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has resolved to prohibit the discarding of walleye pollock, Pacific cod, yellowfin sole and rock sole. This has commenced for the first two species and is to be phased in for the others over a five-year period.

BOX 13
Controlling by-catch and discards: Norway's experience

A few decades ago, most fisheries in Norway produced a by-catch. This was particularly so in bottom trawling for roundfish and pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis). At the time almost no regulations dealt explicitly with by-catch. However, both the quantity and composition of the catch were influenced by regulations aimed at preserving the target species. Such measures included (minimum) mesh size regulations and a ban on retention onboard as well as landing of fish below an established minimum size (minimum landing size [MLS]). Thus, the management system in place made the practice of discarding both target and non-target species unavoidable.

In 1983, a Marine Fisheries Act was adopted in parliament, then regulated and applied. The intention behind the new act was to initiate and promote a process leading to a lower volume of killed and discarded fish. This applied to both target and non-target species. The Act clearly states that any illegal catch should be thrown immediately back into the sea to give the fish a chance to survive. However, the time needed to bring the catch onboard and to sort it generally resulted in most fish being out of the water too long to survive even if they were not dead when first thrown back overboard.

It was soon recognized that the Act and its regulations had shortcomings, and these have been addressed by several administrative measures during the last 15 years. The purpose has been to regulate the fishing, not the landings, and therefore to concentrate enforcement on the fishing operation itself.

One of the first administrative measures was the introduction of a surveillance programme in 1983/84. Chartered commercial fishing vessels surveyed the most important fishing ground to monitor the by-catch of illegal-sized fish and species of which fishing was prohibited. The surveillance programme was soon followed up by regulations establishing specific criteria for a maximum allowable by-catch.

As these criteria were implemented by the Norwegian Coastguard, it immediately became evident that the authorities would temporarily have to close several productive fishing grounds. It is now standard practice for the grounds to be closed for shrimp trawling if the catch contains more than one individual juvenile cod and/or haddock per kilogram of shrimp, or if undersized shrimp account for 10 percent or more of its weight. Likewise, bottom trawl grounds are closed when catches contain more than 15 percent (in number) of juveniles of the target species. Purse-seining for saithe cannot be carried out when 10 percent or more of the saithe caught is below the MLS.

Other important measures introduced since 1983 include: i) an obligation to leave the fishing grounds when the mixture of undersized fish caught exceeds certain levels; ii) temporary closures of sensitive areas; iii) the prohibition of onboard sorting machines (e.g. in the mackerel fishery); and iv) a requirement to use more selective gears.

The most revolutionary step, however, is probably the ban on discards. Norwegian fishers are obliged to land all catches of important commercial species. Even if such fish are caught unintentionally, both mature and undersized fish must be landed. This "illegal" catch should be taken ashore and deducted from the TAC of the species concerned. In general fishers support the ban on discarding, as experience has taught that by-catches - particularly of juveniles - lead to fewer fish in future years.

Fishers soon realized that, by using more selective gears and methods - i.e. catching only individuals of the target species that are above the MLS - they could fish while also abiding by the rules. The Norwegian fishing authorities have shared this view and have been supportive in terms of providing funds for developing selective fishing gear.

A grid system to avoid by-catch of fish juveniles in trawl fisheries as well as of bigger non-target fish was developed in less than two years and its use is now widespread in the North Atlantic. The grid is mounted at 45 degrees in the trawl and set behind a guiding funnel. It has proved to be an excellent selectivity device in shrimp fisheries. More than 90 percent (in weight) of the by-catch in shrimp fisheries is released, and the loss of shrimp is less than 2 percent. The device was made compulsory for shrimp trawling in the early 1990s. Encouraged by the positive results of selectivity work on shrimp trawls, grid work on bottom trawls and seine nets was started. After several years of voluntary use, in 1997 a grid system was made compulsory for vessels using these gears in the Norwegian and Russian EEZs. At this stage, the system was readily accepted, as most fishers were already accustomed to using the grids.

Source: B. Isaksen, Norwegian Institute of Fisheries Research, Bergen, Norway.


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The 1995 UN Agreement for the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks seeks to minimize pollution, waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear and catch of non-target fish and non-fish species. This should be achieved, inter alia, through measures such as the development and use of selective, environmentally safe and cost-effective fishing gear and techniques. These obligations were reiterated with reference to all fisheries in the Plan of Action produced by the International Conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1995.

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The Code specifically states that: "States, with relevant groups from industry, should encourage the development and implementation of technologies and operational methods that reduce discards. The use of fishing gear and practices that lead to the discarding of catch should be discouraged and the use of fishing gear and practices that increase survival rates of escaping fish should be promoted." Where selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices are used, they should be recognized and accorded priority in establishing conservation and management measures for fisheries.

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The Technical Consultation on the Reduction of Wastage in Fisheries,22 held in Japan in October 1996, provided an important forum for a discussion of this issue by international specialists. The participants concluded that there had been significant reductions in discarding worldwide during the past decade. This had come about as a result of less fishing effort, time and area closures of fishing grounds, the use of more selective gears, the utilization of previously discarded by-catch, enforced prohibitions on discarding, and consumer-led actions. There were recommendations made with regard to information gathering, the future estimation of discards, options for fisheries management, the impacts on small-scale and recreational fisheries, gear selectivity and the utilization of by-catch.

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At the March 1997 session of COFI, several delegations reported on successful by-catch reduction programmes. Papers23 presented at the international workshop on Solving By-Catch: Considerations for Today and Tomorrow, sponsored by the United States and held in Seattle in 1995, provided many examples of by-catch reduction across a wide range of fishing gears and practices. The by-catch and discard issue, particularly regarding the collection of by-catch data, is being addressed by the regional fisheries organizations, for example by placing observers (from member countries) on the offshore tuna fleets.

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The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) is continuing its substantial involvement in research on dolphin by-catches. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is increasingly active with respect to the by-catch of sharks (see Box 14).

BOX 14
International actions to reduce shark by-catch in the Atlantic tuna and tuna-like fisheries

At the Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), held in Fort Lauderdale, United States, in November 1994, it was proposed that several shark species be listed in the CITES Appendix as endangered species. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took notice, as sharks are a major component of the by-catch of many tuna fisheries. Sharks are also targeted from some tuna fishing vessels, using slightly modified gears. CITES did not adopt the proposal; however, it did pass a resolution on the Status of International Trade in Shark Species.

At the 1994 meeting of the ICCAT Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS), it was decided to conduct a survey to determine the species of shark being caught as by-catch in the tuna fisheries. The results were reported at the 1995 meeting of the SCRS. In the same year, from an examination of its enabling International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT confirmed that it was responsible for the collection of information on the catches of sharks and other fish species caught coincidentally from fishing effort directed at tuna and tuna-like species. It also agreed to assist in any stock assessment of pelagic sharks, as the methodology is similar to that used for tunas and the scientific expertise available is therefore applicable.

In accordance with the CITES resolution, at its 1995 session, the ICCAT Commission adopted the ICCAT Resolution on Cooperation with FAO with regard to Study on the Status of Stocks and By-Catch of Shark Species. This recognized that FAO should be the international coordinating entity for disseminating data on shark catches and that all other regional agencies should collaborate with FAO.

The 1995 ICCAT session also decided to:

· establish a Sub-Committee on By-Catch to guide research and data analysis, and a Working Group on Sharks to deal with issues concerning incidental and targeted capture of sharks;
· amend ICCAT's statistical database to include information on by-catch and encourage more comprehensive data collections;
· conduct stock assessments, with priority given to the pelagic sharks (e.g. blue, mako, thresher, silky).

The first meeting of the ICCAT Working Group on Sharks was held in Miami, United States, in February 1996. It finalized a list of the by-catch species associated with tuna fisheries and, after reviewing a summary of the shark catch and trade data in the FAO database, developed a plan for improving the data collection systems. It also formulated a plan to collect and incorporate shark by-catch data into the ICCAT statistical database as well as a new reporting format. An important outcome was the endorsement of a data collection form for reporting shark by-catch, and its distribution through the ICCAT secretariat to more than 80 countries engaged in tuna fishing in the Atlantic. The completed forms would be returned annually to ICCAT.

The second meeting of the Working Group on Sharks took place in Shimizu, Japan, in March 1997 before the Tenth Conference of the Parties to CITES. The Working Group focused on updating its list of shark species caught by tuna fisheries, and reviewed additional data provided to ICCAT on the catch and catch per unit effort (CPUE) of shark for the Atlantic. The responses of other international bodies to the request from CITES to collaborate in the collection of shark research and trade data were also examined. This resulted in ICCAT requesting CITES to seek improved collaboration among the regional agencies and additional data from the tuna-fishing countries.

At its 1997 meeting, the SCRS developed mathematical equations, or conversion factors, enabling the estimation of weight from length for the major species of shark in the Atlantic. Such equations are necessary for the conversion of different types of statistics being provided for inclusion in the ICCAT database. Also in 1997, implementation of the national observer programmes for tuna long-liners, purse seiners and bait boats became binding on ICCAT Contracting Parties. As reported in October 1997, observers were being deployed on some tuna vessels by 11 Contracting and non-Contracting Parties (Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei, France, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela).

Notwithstanding the progress, there are still difficulties impeding the establishment of a comprehensive database for sharks. This includes problems encountered in the collection of historical shark by-catch data and the identification of species by fishers, with the result that catches are often reported without species breakdown. Particular difficulties are raised by the interest in shark-fin products, a subject related to world trade. Sometimes the carcasses are discarded at sea and only the fins are kept while, at other times, both may be landed but sold in different markets. The latter can result in "double counting", for example in cases where both the fins and the carcass weights are converted in the estimation of whole weights. The trade of shark fins is also complicated by the common practice in some countries of re-exporting after importing.

Source: P. Miyake, ICCAT secretariat, Madrid, Spain.


The process of resolving the by-catch and discards issue will be driven by forces at several levels. The community at large will continue to take offence, particularly where the problem is widely publicized and includes species with a high "aesthetic" value. The continued large-scale use of drift gillnets, for example, whether on the high seas or elsewhere, can be expected to remain a target of dissent. The substantial challenge for fisheries governance is to achieve balanced outcomes that are sensitive to community values but avoid unnecessary losses of benefit from the fisheries themselves. This will require the public to be correctly informed and those responsible for fisheries - including fisheries participants themselves - to establish credibility through continued efforts to reduce by-catch and discarding.

In the highly populous countries, particularly in Asia, where fisheries are characterized by many gears and several species in catches, relatively little of what is caught is not consumed or used as feed in aquaculture. Where wastage does occur, it is not so much the consequence of discarding but rather of some species - possibly many - generating more economic benefit when captured at a larger size. Where this can be established, the best management approaches are likely to include area and time closures and more selective gears. Nevertheless, this situation generally arises in countries where management is intrinsically difficult because fisheries often act as the employer of last resort. Improving the well-being of the fishers in one community would be a short-lived solution if there was a consequential inward movement of fishers from the surrounding communities.

1 Adopted by the Twenty-eighth Session of the FAO Conference in October 1995, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is referred to throughout this publication as "the Code".
2 The EC, Japan, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States.
3 Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
4 Government of the United States. 1997. Implementation Plan for the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service. 20 pp.
5 Anon. 1997. Global Aquaculture Alliance formed to guide industry toward environmental sustainability. World Aquaculture, September 1997, p. 48.
6 D.J. Donovan. 1997. Environmental Code of Practice for Australian Prawn Farmers. July 1997. 32 pp.
7 O. Pawaputanon. 1997. Manual for harmonization of good shrimp farm practice. ASEAN Fisheries Network Project.
8 Anon. The Holmenkollen Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture. In Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Sustainable Aquaculture, Oslo, 2-5 November 1997. Trondheim, Norway, Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences. 9 pp.
9 See FAO. 1997. Risk management and food safety. Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation, Rome, 27-31 January 1997. FAO Food and Nutrition Paper No. 65. Rome; and FAO. 1998. Animal feeding and food safety. Report of an FAO Consultation, Rome, 10-14 March 1997. FAO Food and Nutrition Paper No. 69. Rome.
10 SEAFDEC/FAO/CIDA. Report and proceedings of SEAFDEC/FAO/CIDA Expert Meeting on the Use of Chemicals in Aquaculture in Asia, 20-22 May 1996, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre, Iloilo, the Philippines. (in preparation)
11 FAO. 1997. Towards safe and effective use of chemicals in coastal aquaculture. GESAMP Reports and Studies No. 65. Rome. 40 pp.
12 FAO/NACA/WHO. Food safety issues associated with products from aquaculture. Report of a Joint FAO/NACA/WHO Study Group on Food Safety Issues associated with Products from Aquaculture, Bangkok, Thailand, 22-26 July 1997. WHO Technical Report Series No. 883. Geneva, WHO. (in press)
13 Directive 91/493/EEC as amended by 95/71/EC.
14 Directive 91/67/EEC as amended by Directives 93/54/EC and 95/22/EC.
15 WRI. 1996. World Resources 1996-1997. WRI/UNEP/UNDP/World Bank. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press. 365 pp.
16 International Workshop on Integrated Coastal Management in Tropical Developing Countries: Lessons Learned from Successes and Failures. 1996. Enhancing the success of integrated coastal management: good practices in the formulation, design, and implementation of integrated coastal management initiatives. MPP-EAS Technical Report No. 2. Quezon City, the Philippines, GEF/UNDP/IMO Regional Programme for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pollution in the East Asian Seas/Coastal Management Center.
17 J. Sorensen. 1997. National and international efforts at integrated coastal management: definitions, achievements and lessons. Coastal Management, 25: 3-41.
18 B. Cisin-Sain, R.W. Knecht and G.W. Fisk. 1995. Growth in capacity for integrated coastal management since UNCED: an international perspective. Ocean and Coastal Management, 29(1-3): 93-123.
19 The Agreement on the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.
20 See FAO Fisheries Department Report of the Technical Working Group on the Management of Fishing Capacity, La Jolla, United States, 15 to 18 April 1998.
21 FAO. 1994. A global assessment of fisheries by-catch and discards. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 339. Rome.
22 I.J. Clucas and D.G. James, eds. 1997. Papers presented at the Technical Consultation on Reduction of Wastage in Fisheries. Tokyo, 28 October-1 November 1996. FAO Fisheries Report No. 547, Suppl. Rome, FAO. 338 pp.
23 Solving By-Catch: Considerations for Today and Tomorrow. Alaska Sea Grant College Program Report No. 96-03, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

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