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Oceania’s Birthright: the Role of rights-based Management in Tuna Fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific - I. Cartwright and A. Willock
The Norwegian Fisheries: An Unregulated Common Property Resource in Transition by the Introduction of Quotas, Closed Access and the Industry’s User-right Perception - J. H. Williams and S. Hammer

Oceania’s Birthright: the Role of rights-based Management in Tuna Fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific - I. Cartwright and A. Willock

South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency
PO Box 629, Honiara, Solomon Islands
<[email protected]> and <[email protected]>


1 The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency (where they worked in 1999) or its member countries.
The tuna fishery of the western and central Pacific (WCP) is at a watershed. Capacity has been increasing steadily since the 1970s, partly due to redirected effort from other world tuna fisheries. The important tuna stocks are generally in good biological shape, however there are early warning-signs, and the introduction of effective fisheries management measures will be essential if the fishery is to continue to avoid over-capacity and over-fishing that has characterised tuna fisheries world-wide.

Various layers of fisheries management measures are either in place in the WCP, or in the case of an overarching multilateral arrangement, are being developed. With over 30 coastal states, distant-water fishing nations and entities involved in the fishery, it will be a significant challenge to devise management measures that are both practical and can find political acceptance across the wide spectrum of players and interests.

In the WCP, coastal states are seeking property-rights over a common pool resource and are facing the sorts of issues that usually concern industry operators within a single state’s jurisdiction. While this is not in itself unique, the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and current efforts to establish a multilateral arrangement offer an opportunity for a fresh approach.

Central to the issue are the interests and aspirations of the island coastal states of the Pacific and in particular the members of the Forum Fisheries Agency2. The exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of these countries comprise close to 75% of the productive equatorial belt situated 10 degrees either side of the equator and from which 90% of the catch of tuna in the WCP is taken.

2 The membership of the Forum Fisheries Agency comprises the independent Pacific island States of: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
This paper examines the major characteristics of the WCP tuna fishery and the current status of management arrangements. Emphasis is placed on the potential for the use of rights-based management and the national, regional and multilateral institutional setting in which such management will be developed.


2.1 Major characteristics

The western and central Pacific tuna fishery is the largest and one of the most productive in the world, yielding catches of around 1 million tonnes of tuna annually with a landed value in excess of US$1.7 billion (Figure 1). These catches represent around one third of all tuna landed world-wide; 60% of tuna for canning, and 30% of the sashimi-grade tuna imported into Japan.

The fishery is characterised by its complexity and area, with close to 30 states and entities involved in the fishery which spans over 30 million km2 of ocean. This paper uses as its base the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) statistical area (Figure 2).

The overriding importance to Pacific island nations of the ocean in general, and the tuna resource in particular, is evident. For instance, tuna represents one-third of all exports from the WCP and provides employment for 30-40 000 Pacific islanders3. For many Pacific island countries, it represents the only significant source of income and basis for future economic development.

3 Gillett, R. (1997). The Importance of Tuna to Pacific Island Countries, FFA Report 97/15, Honiara, Solomon Islands.
2.2 Fishing operations

The tuna fishery of the WCP may be divided by type of fishing operation. The surface4 fishery uses purse-seine and pole-and-line gear to target skipjack, and takes incidental catches of yellowfin and bigeye. The sub-surface fisheries use longlines to target large, deeper swimming yellowfin, bigeye and albacore. There is considerable interaction between the two fisheries, since the surface fisheries take significant catches of immature yellowfin and bigeye, a proportion of which would have recruited to the longline fishery. The issue of interaction has relevance for a range of management strategies, including optimum utilisation and allocation.

4 Purse-seines and pole-and-line gear are intensive fishing methods, catching surface swimming, schooling tuna. Longline gear is more extensive (a single longline can be in excess of 100 km in length) and targets larger, more solitary tuna at depths of up to 150m.
The purse-seine fishery has been dominant in terms of volume of tuna landings in the WCP. The catch averaged around 80% of the total WCP catch for the last five years and is destined primarily for canning, with prices typically below US$1000/t. The lower volume sashimi longline fishery, while accounting for less than 20% of total landings, is worth around 45% of the total value of the catch. More than 90% of the tuna caught in the WCP is taken by vessels owned or flagged by distant-water fishing nations (DWFNs) and landed outside the region5.
5 One exception is the group of canneries in Pago Pago, American Samoa
Figure 1: The relative volumes of the major tuna fishing areas (1994-98)
Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Community
2.3 Species

The four tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore) that form the basis of the WCP fishery all exhibit a high degree of spatial and temporal variability. This variability is closely associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index, which encompasses the extremes of El Niño and La Niña. These factors have a significant influence on the abundance and availability of the stocks, particularly on the east-west movement of skipjack and yellowfin. Predominant El Niño conditions results in movement to the eastern areas of the WCP region, while La Niña conditions see the fish move towards the west. Recent catches of the four key tuna stocks in the WCP by year are provided in Table 1.

Skipjack and yellowfin tuna are the dominant species in the WCP in terms of volume of landings. The catch of skipjack and surface-caught yellowfin increased dramatically during the 1980s due to growth in the international purse seine fleet, combined with increased catches by domestic fleets from Philippines and Indonesia and the displacement of the US fleet due to dolphin-tuna interaction problems in the Eastern Pacific.

Scientific opinion, based on extensive tagging programmes and evaluation of catch rates, indicates that the current exploitation rates of skipjack and yellowfin are sustainable. It has been stated that the skipjack stock is capable of supporting sustainable increases in effort and catches6.

6 Data on catches and status of stocks provided by the SPC, and taken from ‘Status of Stocks’ papers including Hampton, J., A.Lewis and P.Williams (1999) The Western and Central Pacific Tuna Fishery 1998: Overview and Status of Stocks. OFP Tuna Fisheries Assessment Report No. 1, 39p.
Bigeye, and to a lesser extent yellowfin7 tuna of sashimi-size and quality are the most valuable of the tropical tunas. They are the principal target of large DWFN longliners in tropical waters who freeze catches, and the smaller, locally-based fresh-sashimi vessels. The recent trend for purse-seiners to use gear and techniques to target small to medium-size bigeye has increased this component of the catch to approximately 30 000t in 1997. Assessment of the interaction between the surface and longline fishery and the overall health of the bigeye stock is not clear. The WCP regional committee8 that considers such issues remarked in 1997 that due to the ‘...present inability of stock assessments to produce unequivocal results..... (the Committee) considered that the present condition of the Pacific Bigeye stock is uncertain’.
7 Around 60% of the yellowfin catch is taken in the surface fishery, with the remainder taken by longline

8 The Standing Committee on Tuna and Billfish (SCTB).

Albacore catches are primarily taken by longlining in the WCP, and annual catches typically range between 30 000 and 45 000t. Although albacore are relatively slow-growing and longer-lived when compared to tropical tunas (factors that make albacore more susceptible to overfishing), there is no evidence from the available catch data that current levels of fishing are adversely affecting the stock. There is general consensus within the scientific community that current levels of fishing effort and catch can be sustained.

Figure 2: Western and Central Pacific (WCP) showing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) as unshaded areas and the Spc Statistical Area (solid line)

Source: Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Table 1: Landings by species of the four key tuna species in the WCP, 1993-1997








30 998

63 295

535 375

273 670

903 338


36 432

65 188

676 953

255 078

1 033 651


39 209

49 958

667 998

204 427

961 592


39 638

50 360

675 616

136 262

901 876


40 864

59 711

569 005

268 327

937 607

Source: SPC Tuna Fishery Yearbook 1997, compiled from logbook data
In summary, the tuna stocks of the WCP are generally in good health. There is an element of uncertainty over the bigeye stock, and this is currently being addressed through the research efforts of SPC and other research groups in the Pacific.

2.4 The players

An understanding of the geo-politics of the region is essential to an appreciation of fisheries policy formulation in the WCP, including the establishment of some form of rights-based management system.

2.4.1 Members of the Forum Fisheries Agency

The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was established in 1979 in response to changes in international law, including the establishment of 200 nautical mile EEZs. Its primary mandate is to assist its membership with the management and development of their living marine resources and, in particular, highly-migratory species.

Whilst a considerable degree of homogeneity is shown by FFA member countries in regard to the management and development of their tuna fisheries, there are substantial differences in resource endowments and national policies. Table 2 provides a range of key indicators for FFA member countries, and US and French Territories. For instance, the atoll states such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands have few alternatives for development other than fisheries and some limited tourism, whereas some of the larger islands (Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Solomon Islands) have other significant economic opportunities, including timber and minerals.

Countries endowed with the more productive (in terms of tuna) zones have formed the so-called PNA (Parties to the Nauru Agreement) group, which is a subset of FFA member countries. This resource endowment provides the PNA with considerable leverage in negotiations concerned with both access and management. This is particularly true for the purse-seine fishery, in which access to the EEZs of FFA member countries is essential for economic operations. The majority of access arrangements with DWFNs in the WCP are made with PNA countries.

The countries situated further south and east of the WCP (Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu) tend to have less productive fishing grounds and larger adjacent areas of high-seas to the south. Accordingly these countries have reduced leverage with DWFN fleets who fish in their waters and in the surrounding areas of high-seas targeting southern albacore.

2.4.2 French and US Territories

France has three territories in the WCP; French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. Each of these has its own political identity within the French Republic. All three territories are seeking (and gaining) greater autonomy over their marine resources.

The US territories comprise American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. American Samoa has particular relevance to the WCP tuna fishery due to the location there of two high-volume tuna canneries.

2.4.3 Distant-water fishing nations

DWFNs currently active in the WCP include Japan, US, Republic of Korea (ROK), Taiwan (Province of China), Philippines and China. As is the case with Pacific island countries, it is tempting to consider DWFNs as a homogenous block. Certainly, they are united on a number of issues and particularly their desire to achieve long-term overall control over harvesting-rights. However, each fleet is subject to different economic and operational circumstances which influences the perspective they bring to WCP issues.

Japan is the most significant DWFN operator in the WCP with its fleet comprising close to 50% of the fishing vessels active in the region. The fleet has been faced with increasing economic pressures across all types of operation9 and is currently engaged in an active programme of fleet reduction (gensen) of longline vessels. Taiwan and ROK also have significant fleets and tend to align themselves closely with Japan on management issues, including allocation.

9 Despite these pressures, a recent FFA study showed that the Japanese purse seine fleet was the most profitable of all DWFN fleets operating in the WCP. See Development opportunities in selected tuna fisheries for Pacific island countries. FFA/ADB Report, December 1998.

Table 2: Key indicators for FFA member countries and US and French territories
Bold type denotes FFA Island member countries


Land area (km2)


Area of EEZ (km2)

Total GDP

GDP per capita


American Samoa







Cook Islands







Federated States of Micronesia





















Republic of Kiribati







Republic of Marshall Islands







Republic of Nauru














Northern Mariana Islands







New Caledonia







Republic of Palau







Papua New Guinea







Pitcairn Island







French Polynesia














Solomon Islands











Kingdom of Tonga














Republic of Vanuatu







Wallis and Futuna







The Philippines and China are relatively new DWFN players in the WCP10. Whilst there were over 400 Chinese longliners in the region in 1997, their number has dwindled considerably. Given the pressure on tuna stocks around the Filipino and Indonesian archipelagoes there will be continued pressure on the fleet to move east and into the WCP.

10 The Philippines has a major domestic fleet, and an estimated catch of 400 000t of tuna and tuna-likes species in 1997. Of this catch 110 000t were skipjack, 56 000t yellowfin, and 5600t bigeye - these are estimates.
US activity in the WCP is centered on the highly efficient but now aging purse-seine11 fleet, which has access to the waters of all FFA member countries under the multilateral US Tuna Treaty.
11 Of the US purse-seine fleet operating in the WCP 1996-1998 (41 vessels) only two are less than 10-years old, and 32 vessels are more than 15-years old.

The WCP fishery currently operates under the two basic sets of rights provided by the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC). First, coastal states have the right to explore, exploit, conserve and manage the resources of their EEZ and to charge DWFNs for access to catch fish in their Zones. Second, flag states have continuing freedom of fishing on the high-seas subject to general obligations.

These rights alone are insufficient to deal with effective conservation and management of the highly migratory fish stocks in the WCP; both coastal states and DWFNs are looking to achieve greater security over the resource, in regard to both conservation and long-term rights of access. In particular, because of the overwhelming dependence on tuna, Pacific island countries need more than just the right to manage and exploit the stocks when they are in their EEZs. In order to ensure long-term sustainability of the fisheries, and therefore economic security, coastal states want the assurance that their share of the resource is safe wherever it swims.

In examining trends in fisheries management world-wide it would appear that an improved form of rights-based management offers the best opportunity to achieve this security for all parties. Key factors in achieving enhanced rights-based management in the WCP are:

i. the extensive area of the fishery and the highly migratory nature of the tuna resource;

ii. a significant portion of the fishery takes place on the high-seas and are open to exploitation by the highly-mobile tuna fleets of the world;

iii. the wide diversity of interests in the fishery, from small island developing states to world superpowers; and

iv. the political, economic and cultural importance of the tuna resource to many Pacific island countries.

As noted, the WCP tuna fishery spans 30 million square kilometres, through the waters of over 20 sovereign states and territories and into extensive areas of high-seas. While some part of the tuna stocks may be semi-resident around archipelagic waters, the majority of the stock is highly migratory in nature. The result is that the tuna stocks are subject to many different jurisdictions and management regimes, each motivated by particular national objectives. This ‘split ownership’ means that no one state can implement effective conservation and management arrangements.

Due to its highly migratory nature, tuna may be present in a country’s EEZ during one year and virtually absent the next. The predominant mentality of coastal states in the past has therefore been to catch the fish while they can be caught. Given the ENSO-effects and changes in stock abundance, the impact of fishing mortality is difficult to measure across the stock as a whole, and even more so at a national level. This means that any effects on the stocks of different types of harvesting strategies adopted by individual countries are largely externalised.

Not surprisingly, the highly migratory fish stocks of the WCP, like other major world tuna fisheries, are exploited by highly mobile fishing fleets. Global pressure on other world tuna species and effort displacement from the Atlantic, eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans has resulted in increased fishing pressure in the WCP12. Given that the high-seas remain basically subject to freedom of fishing, that part of the fishery is subject to open-access.

12 A significant increase in effort in the WCP occurred in the 1980s as a result of the ban in the eastern Pacific on tuna sets associated with dolphins.
Coastal states are subject to almost continual bilateral approaches for access by the mobile DWFN fleets. While coastal states have the power (and obligation) to regulate and limit fishing within their EEZs, the short-term economic reality facing most Pacific island countries encourages short-term political decisions to allow increases in fishing effort. The sum of these individual actions has the potential to increase fishing pressure on the tuna resources.

A final challenge results from a tendency by Pacific island countries to strongly resist any diminution of the exercise of their sovereign rights through regional or multilateral cooperation. Most Pacific island countries are highly protective of their relatively new-found independence many having been subject to different colonial rules as recently as the 1980s. As well as being integral to most island cultures, the tuna stocks also represent one of, and for some states the only real hope for economic independence. These factors mean that decisions affecting the tuna fishery are decisions that directly affect the sovereignty and future economic prospects of many Pacific island countries.

3.1 Development of a multilateral regime in the WCP

The development of new management arrangements, incorporating an enhanced rights-based regime, is being pursued at national, regional and multilateral levels. Efforts at the multilateral level are the most significant of these given the need for any robust rights-based management regime to take account of the geographical range of the tuna stocks.

In the FFA Convention it was recognised that cooperation among island countries alone was inadequate to secure effective conservation and management of the highly migratory tuna stocks. In 1994, the Multilateral High Level Conference (MHLC) was initiated by FFA member countries in response to this need. The MHLC process is the most significant change to the institutional environment of the WCP, with the intention to develop a ‘Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean’. The development of the Convention is in direct response to the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the obligations that Agreement placed on coastal states and distant-water fishing nations to agree to some form of arrangement through which to co-operate for the conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks.

While not yet in force, negotiations on this Convention are at an advanced stage and scheduled to conclude in August 2000. All coastal states and DWFNs currently operating in the WCP have participated in the negotiations, which will result in the formation of a supranational Commission with responsibility for ensuring that effective conservation and management arrangements are implemented.

One of the critical functions of the new Commission will be to establish levels of catch and/or fishing effort and then to ensure that these are not surpassed. The latest draft text of the Convention text provides the Commission with the mandate to “develop, where necessary, criteria for the allocation of total allowable catch or the level of fishing effort for highly migratory fish stocks in the Convention Area”. Throughout the negotiations it has been apparent that all participants expect that there will be some form of allocation to the charter members of the Convention, hence creating the institutional framework to establish a rights-based management system for the WCP. Indeed, the first mention of rights-based management in the WCP arose in 1997, at the second session of MHLC. At that session the Conference Chair, Satya Nandan, made reference to the development of some form of allocated participatory-right as one of the key challenges of the new multilateral regime.

While the text of the Convention will provide the Commission with allocative functions to support some form of rights-based conservation and management regime, already there are practical hurdles arising that will make effective development and implementation of such a regime extremely difficult.

The main hurdles emerging that will face the new Commission can broadly be divided into two main stages:

i. the process through which allocations will be agreed, and
ii. once allocated, making the rights-based system work in practice.
3.2 Allocation process

The initial allocation process will need to achieve equity between coastal states and distant-water fishing nations. Further, equity between individual coastal states as well as between distant-water fishing nations will also be important. In the absence of an equitable allocation, parties are unlikely to support the conservation and management arrangements, thereby undermining the authority and effectiveness of the Commission.

In the negotiations for the Convention, two different views on a future allocation process under the Commission have emerged. These two views can be broadly characterised as a coastal State view and a distant-water fishing nation view.

The fundamental difference between the two views is who ‘owns’ the catch history taken by distant-water fishing nations within the EEZ of a coastal state. The following figures highlight the importance to both coastal states and distant-water fishing nations of the outcome of this debate:

i. 92% of the total catch (1993-97) of the four key tuna species in the WCP was taken between 10°N latitude and 10°S latitude

ii. 70% of that catch is taken in the EEZs of Pacific island states and territories of the total catch taken in the WCP, over 65% of the resource is taken in the EEZs of Pacific island states and territories

iii. of the total catch taken in the WCP, over 65% of the resource is taken in the EEZs of Pacific island states and territories

iv. 90% or more of the catch in the EEZs of Pacific island countries has been taken by distant-water fishing nations

In the distant-water fishing nations’ view, all catch would be attributed to the relevant flag state for the purposes of allocation, regardless of where that catch was taken. The coastal state view is that catches taken within its EEZ should be attributed to it as a major factor in the generation of an allocation.

The underlying rationale for the distant-water fishing nation approach is that the mobility of the stocks means that it is illogical for a coastal state to establish a national TAC. Shares of a TAC should therefore reside with the flag states, reflecting past and present fishing patterns and allowing the mobile fishing fleet to reflect the mobility of the fish. Access to a coastal state’s EEZ by a flag state in order to fish the stocks would remain a matter to be dealt with under an access agreement, with concomitant fees.

DWFNs currently active in the WCP wish to establish some form of longer-term security over their access to the resource. Prompting these moves, in part, are recent approaches by both the European Union and France, on behalf of its Pacific territories, to gain access to the tuna-rich waters of Pacific island countries. Allocations based primarily on catch history by flag state would reduce the impact of such new entrants to the fishery.

For coastal states, and in particular Pacific island countries, the distant-water fishing nation approach to allocation presents certain difficulties. The fundamental issue is that if the long-term right were to reside with the flag state, the coastal state would lose substantial harvesting control over the resources within its EEZ.

Island countries are in varying stages of developing their own domestic fishing industries. To receive an allocation based on limited domestic catches would severely hamper their future development options. While statements have been made at the MHLC plenary that some account would need to be taken of the development aspirations of coastal states in this regard, it is difficult to envisage consensus being reached for future reductions in parties’ allocations.

A further problem for Pacific island countries is that, with no other natural resources, a high number of island economies rely heavily on income from access fees under multilateral and bilateral arrangements. Allocations based on the DWFN model would result in quota being concentrated into a few hands, leading to reduced competition between flag states and therefore the potential that the access fees might be reduced. A possible consequence of this is that in most cases, bilateral fisheries agreements also bring substantial indirect benefits to a country, including provision of aid directed at non-fisheries projects. Were DWFNs to enjoy greater security over the resource through an allocation process, and less competition between fleets, there would then be less need to provide these indirect benefits to Pacific island countries.

It is clear that, as with any allocation process, the criteria used to determine allocations under the new Commission will inevitably have a fundamental impact on the willingness of respective parties to accept any rights-based management. In this regard, coastal states are arguably in a stronger negotiating position, given their existing rights to establish management measures, including TACs, within their EEZs. However, if coastal states take too hard a line in negotiations on allocations, distant-water fishing nations may decide that they are better-off with an open-access regime on the high seas rather than a rights-based system, with a low allocation.

Some form of compromise and resolution at the Commission may well be prompted by a combination of coastal states establishing in-zone TACs and/or compromising on allocations, and the entry into the region of new players on the high-seas.

3.3 Making the right work

3.3.1 Management challenges

Assuming the Commission can overcome the above difficulties and agree to an initial allocation, the following issues represent the next set of challenges in making those rights work:

i. dealing with new members and non-members
ii. accounting for the mobility of the tuna stocks
iii. monitoring and enforcement
3.3.2 New members and non-members of the Commission

One important challenge in trying to introduce more robust forms of property-right to the WCP will be to protect those rights against the impact of new members and non-members who will still seek to exercise their right of freedom of fishing on the high-seas. This is a problem that has plagued other tuna fisheries around the world with the rights of charter members being threatened with diminution through the requirement to provide some form of allocation to new members of the Commission.

The problem of new members may be decreased to an extent in the WCP by the fact that all distant-water fishing nations currently active in the region, as well as all coastal states and territories, are participants in the MHLC process. Therefore, all states with a ‘real interest’ in the fishery have the opportunity to become charter members of the new Commission and thus be party to negotiations over future allocations.

One potential source of challenge to the approach being considered at MHLC is that such a regime would be contrary to international law in that it would prevent non-charter members from enjoying the right to freedom of fishing on the high-seas. At this stage, an approach being put forward by some is to facilitate that right through the lease of rights allocated to charter members. The political and legal rationale required to underpin this approach is being examined further.

A further potentially more difficult issue is how to deal with non-members that wish to operate in the Convention Area. This is particularly relevant given the increasing difficulties experienced by international fisheries in dealing with ‘flag of convenience’ vessels.

Under UNFSA13, non-members of an arrangement are able to continue fishing in the area of competence of that arrangement14 if they abide by its conservation and management rules. The question arises if a TAC that has been set and 100% of the shares of the TAC allocated, whether a non-member would then be in breach of the rules if they operated in the fishery. If this argument can be sustained then, as with new members, the maintenance of the right of freedom of fishing on the high-seas for non-members would then be through the lease of existing rights from a charter member.

13 UNFSA - the 1995 UN Fish Stock Agreement (sometimes given the inappropriate acronym “UNIA” - UN Implementation Agreement - Editor)

14 Note that access to the EEZs of coastal states would continue to be a matter determined by that State. However, by granting access to non-MHLC participants prior to the determination of allocated rights there is a danger that ‘real interest’ could be created that would erode the allocation to existing MHLC participants.

Discussions at plenary sessions of the MHLC have clearly shown participants’ strong desire to introduce some form of moratorium on new entrants to the fishery for the period between signature and entry into force of the Convention. The initial stages of an attempt to ‘close the door’ on additional fishing capacity entering the WCP were agreed via a resolution adopted at the fourth session of the MHLC plenary. This resolution was revised at the fifth session of the MHLC to reiterate the previous statement on capacity and also that ‘...requests for participation in the MHLC will not be entertained until the draft Convention enters into force’.15
15 Resolution of the participants in the fifth session of the Multilateral High-Level Conference on the Conservation and Management of the Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific (“MHLC”), meeting at Honolulu, from 6 to 15 September 1999
The resolution also states that MHLC participants ‘...agree further that in future members of the proposed Commission...will refrain from consideration of catch history of non-members in the proposed Convention Area during the period of the interim regime in any future decisions by the Commission on allocation’.16
16 Ibid.
If the resolution is given practical effect by the MHLC participants it will not only avoid additional capacity coming into the WCP but will also limit attempts by non-MHLC participants to secure a charter member allocation. If effective, this would firmly establish charter membership of the new Commission. Reinforcing this is the fact that the current draft text of the Convention states that new members of the Commission can only be admitted by a consensus decision of the charter members.

3.3.3 Mobility issue

Dealing with the mobility of tuna is likely to be the greatest challenge faced by Pacific island architects of rights-based management in the WCP. The distant-water fishing nation view is that the logic of attributing rights to a highly migratory fish stock to a coastal state is fundamentally flawed. This is because the abundance of the resource within a given EEZ can vary by as much as 200% from year to year and the assumption that a national quota could not be applied outside the coastal state’s EEZ.

For any allocation to be meaningful the allocation to a coastal state must be based in part on the long-run average abundance in an EEZ. In addition, the right will need to be transferable so that the allocated right of a coastal state can be exercised in areas outside its EEZ, either on the high-seas or in the Zone of another coastal state. A legal issue being examined in regard to the latter transfer (EEZ to EEZ) is whether the right will, in effect, be on exercise of the coastal state’s sovereign rights and therefore be unable to be exercised in another country’s EEZ.

3.3.4 Monitoring and enforcement

For all parties to ensure that they are willing to commit to short-term constraints for long-term gains from a rights-based management regime there needs be effective monitoring and enforcement within the fishery to minimise illegal, unauthorised and unregulated fishing (IUU).

In this regard, the Commission will need to have a strong role in ensuring that individual parties abide by the agreed rules. Even if the Commission detects IUU fishing, given the significance of flag state responsibility under the UNFSA, there may be limited scope for the Commission to act. In the WCP, given the likely size of the Convention area as well as the limited monitoring capacity of the Pacific island countries to regulate fishing activity in their EEZs, this presents particular difficulties.

3.4 Role of institutions

3.4.1 Institutional participants

In order to overcome the hurdles outlined above and to make rights-based management work in the WCP, effective supporting institutional structures will be essential. The two main supporting institutions will be:

1. the WCP Commission and
2. Forum Fisheries Agency
3.4.2 The WCP Commission Decision-making

Perhaps the most crucial element that will determine the effectiveness of the new Commission in supporting a rights-based management regime will be its ability to make decisions. Past practice of consensus decision-making, or voting with an opt-out clause, by other international organisations has led to a weakening of the management regime, including any participatory rights developed by those arrangements. As stated by the Chair of the MHLC, Satya Nandan, opt-out clauses are obsolete in regard to bringing about effective conservation and management regimes. Efforts are therefore underway to develop a more innovative decision-making process under the new Convention.

At this stage in the negotiations, a multi-layer approach is being considered whereby different matters would be subject to different decision-making processes. The inclusion of different forms of majority votes is being hotly contested, given the fact that the FFA member countries (whose generally common interests are anticipated to result in a bloc vote) represent 16 of the around 22 participants17 in the negotiations.

17 It is not yet clear whether individual territories will be entitled to a separate vote within the Commission.
In regard to the specific issue of allocation, the current draft text of the Convention attempts to respond to some of the concerns raised by participants (particularly distant-water fishing nations) by requiring that decisions on allocation be taken by consensus. Of course, this may well mean that no allocation will ever be made, as achieving consensus among over 20 parties with divergent interests and expectations will be extremely difficult. It will be interesting to see whether, in the end, individual parties will conclude that it is better to reach some form of compromise on their preferred allocation position rather than continue with an open-access type regime on the high-seas, with its concurrent impact on the amount resource available on a sustainable basis to be exploited by coastal states. Allocation

In addition to the essential decision-making role of the Commission, a crucial issue is whether a top-down or bottom-up approach is adopted in the allocation of a participatory right. Under the ‘top-down’ approach the Commission would assume authority for determining allocations of the overall TAC to all eligible parties, regardless of whether they are coastal states or flag states. This approach is favoured by distant-water fishing nations and some coastal states as the only practical way to ensure that the sum of the individual allocations does not exceed the overall TAC.

Under the ‘bottom-up’ approach, coastal states would establish ‘provisional’ national TACs (that is, their share of the overall TAC) and then bring these to the Commission table. The Commission would only determine allocations in regard to the high-seas portion of an overall TAC, but would act as a coordinating forum to ensure that the sum of the shares did not exceed the overall TAC. This approach is favoured by many of the Pacific island countries. Distant-water fishing nations, among others, have strongly criticised this approach, partly on the basis that defining national TACs is incompatible with management of highly migratory fish stocks. It remains to be seen how this sensitive issue will be resolved in practice.

3.4.3 Forum Fisheries Agency

The language of the draft text of the Convention is relatively general in nature. It will be left largely to the Commission to discuss and resolve the detail of how the new regime will operate. The FFA will provide a forum in which its member countries can discuss and, where appropriate, develop a consensus approach to issues to be discussed at the Commission. Such issues would include allocation processes, and monitoring control and surveillance. This regional approach by Pacific island countries has the potential to make the commission more effective. In addition, the FFA Secretariat would continue to provide support at the national level and advice on a range of technical and policy issues outside the scope of the new Commission.

Given the restricted resources of Pacific island countries it is unlikely that they would be willing, or able, to support two fisheries organisations with closely linked mandates. If the Commission is established to focus on co-operation and compatibility (on the high-seas) with existing in-zone arrangements - this will considerably reduce what needs to be done by the Commission. This will in turn reduce costs.

Apart from the WCP Commission and FFA, external international organisations are likely to play a key role in shaping the new regime and making it work. Such organisations will include international environmental groups who are beginning to devote more resources to fisheries issues, particularly those fisheries in which the stocks are still in a relatively healthy state.

A little over two-thirds of the members of the new Commission are likely to be developing countries. Individually, such countries have little scope either to take censuring action against economically powerful distant-water fishing nations or absorb short-term loss of revenue from the fishery. What will most likely be required is either cooperative action by these countries (through the FFA) and/or external pressure through the organisations mentioned above.


It will be extremely difficult for the parties to the Commission to develop a fully-functional management regime with well-developed property-rights. As has been seen repeatedly, there will be a tendency for the Commission to move towards a lowest common denominator outcome, which will call into question the value of an individual party showing constraint. Coastal states will be required to balance the need to secure as strong a property-right to the resource as possible without going as far as to remove the incentive for DWFNs to agree and comply with management measures.

Can all participant states enhance their sovereign rights through cooperation at the Commission? This question is being examined at a variety of pragmatic and theoretical levels, including through a game-theory approach. Such approaches will examine and attempt to quantify how individual states can be made better-off by cooperation, and the tuna fishery, whilst complex, would seem to be an ideal ground for such an approach.

There is also the issue of the multi-species, multigear issue. The FFA has developed a bioeconomic model that shows, among other things, the value to the overall fishery of changes in the mix of gear types. For instance, a decrease in the number of purse-seiners landing small, surface fish would lead to additional recruitment to the longline fishery. Overall, it has been shown that such an activity would make the whole fishery better off, but is unlikely to yield equal benefits, if any to some parties. More work in this area will be necessary if economic efficiency for the fishery is to be obtained.

Will the concept of freedom of fishing on the high-seas become a freedom that will erode the rights of the coastal state? The UNIA and the MHLC processes have certainly placed many caveats to that freedom, but it remains to be seen if they are sufficient to prevent the erosion of rent available from the fishery, or at worse, place some species in jeopardy.

There is little doubt that some sections of society are its broadest sense are increasingly growing intolerant of blatant abuse of natural resources and are prepared to act either directly or via market-based measures. The way in which public opinion changed the face of the eastern Pacific tuna fishery due to the tuna-dolphin interaction problem and the recent moves to establish eco-labelling are examples of such reactions.


The task facing the region in the implementation of comprehensive fisheries management arrangements cannot be underestimated. A total of around 30 states and territories with diverse social, economic and political objectives will need to co-operate if the sustainability of the tuna resources of the region are to be assured. For coastal states and DWFNs alike, the establishment of some form of relatively robust long-term rights in the fishery would seem to the most logical way of avoiding the disasters that have befallen other international fisheries management organisations.

So far, there are encouraging signs that the new Convention will provide the foundations for something innovative, but already those who question the loss of short-term gain for long-term benefit are arguing for types of mechanism that are essentially ‘more of the same’. It would be a tragedy if the region’s major renewable resource and the world’s largest tuna fishery is eroded because international law and the diplomatic process cannot come to grips with what is essentially a technical fisheries management problem.

The Norwegian Fisheries: An Unregulated Common Property Resource in Transition by the Introduction of Quotas, Closed Access and the Industry’s User-right Perception - J. H. Williams and S. Hammer

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries
PO Box 8118 - Oslo N-0032 - Norway
<[email protected]>


The Norwegian coast benefits from an upwelling system that makes its fishing grounds among the most productive coastal marine areas world-wide. This has provided Norway with rich fisheries that throughout its history have been of great importance, both as a source of livelihood to the coastal population and as a major source of export revenuess to the nation. Throughout history the Norwegian fisheries sector has played a major role in the development of the Norwegian society and has consequently also been a major player in national politics. The fisheries are still a strong contributor to settlement and income for the people living on the western and northern coasts of Norway, though Norwegian oil production during the last 20 years has been, and presently is the main contributor to the Norwegian economy as a whole.

The annual ex-vessel value from the Norwegian capture fisheries in 1999 is expected to be approximately 9 billion Norwegian kroner (NOK)1. The total market revenue of fish and fish products is approximately 35 billion NOK, of which the export value is expected to be around 30 billion NOK. One third of this is derived from export of the fast-developing Norwegian aquaculture sector, at present mainly of Atlantic salmon. This has made Norway, as of 1997, the world’s biggest exporter of fish and fish products.

1 NOK 9 billion (9 000 000 000) equivalent approximately US$ 1 000 000 000 (in 1999).
The fish resources have always played a major role for the economy of the Norwegian coastal communities, especially for northern Norway. A strong coastal culture has developed, based on the local exploitation of the fish resources, as well as on the nationally-agreed policy that the fisheries sector shall contribute to the settlement of the coastal region. When the rebuilding of Norway started after the Second World War the Government formulated a strategy in which the development of the fisheries sector formed the backbone in the development of the coastal communities. This policy has been maintained, although modified following the general developments of the economic policies of Norwegian society. In the last Norwegian Government White Paper to Parliament “Perspectives on the development of Norwegian Fisheries Sector” No. 51 (1997-98), this policy objective is formulated as:
“The Fisheries policy shall contribute to establish a sound basis for an economically viable development of the fisheries industry. A sustainable management of the living marine resources is pre-conditional. Through marked orientation and increased value adding, the fisheries sector shall contribute to good employment and living opportunities in the coastal communities.”
Thus, the main objective for the Norwegian Government fisheries policy is not only to maximise profits through an economically efficient use of the resources by seeking the highest possible rate of return from the fisheries sector, but also to achieve a socio-economic optimum with respect to the total benefits for the communities of Norway. The Norwegian fisheries sector still plays an important role in the Norwegian government’s overall policy to maintain the settlement structure in the coastal communities, especially in the northern parts of Norway.

In 1950 Norway had about 33 000 registered fishing vessels and 86 000 fishermen. Details of the structure of the industry are given in Table 1. The technical developments in boats, gear and equipment during the last 50 years, in Norway as in most other fisheries nations, has contributed to a fishing fleet capable of over-exploitation of most of the fish stocks. The economic development of Norwegian society in this period has led to a large reduction in numbers of fishing vessels and fishermen, while the catching-capacity has been maintained, and in a number of fisheries increased. Thus, in 1998 the numbers were reduced to 13 250 registered vessels and less than 17 000 fishermen.


The Norwegian model for sustainable marine resource management rests on the principles of (a) sustainable harvesting, (b) multi-species approach, (c) adequate regulations and (d) an efficient control and enforcement scheme. It is vital that these principles are accepted as legitimate by the fishermen themselves and that violations are subject to legal sanctions. It is also of utmost importance that these principles form an integral part of the fisheries agreements concluded with the neighbouring North Atlantic countries for the management of shared stocks.

Since Norway’s economy is heavily dependent on the income drawn from exploitation of its living marine resources, prudent management of fish stocks is decisive to safeguard the future of its fishing industry. Nature always plays a significant role in the determination of fishing possibilities, but despite the whims of nature, it is firmly believed that it is both possible and necessary to pursue a policy of sustainable management and conservation of the living marine resources. Thus, maintaining and rebuilding stocks to levels that can give predictable and sustainable yields, forms a fundamental basis of Norwegian fishery policy.

Table 1: Development and structure of the Norwegian fishing sector












Number of vessels

19 336

21 352

25 931

33 579

41 636

36 201

26 504

17 392

13 252



< 9





> 40


















86 400


30 819

25 388

25 140

17 160

16 661

Figure 1: Norwegian fish catches and number of fishermen and fishing vessel 1985-1997


Internationally, there is a growing understanding for the need to see the marine ecosystem as a comprehensive whole. The utilisation of the different species must reflect their inter-relationship. The objective of Norwegian management policy encompasses both the commercial harvesting of large variety of species, and simultaneously maintaining them at safe levels. As more than 80% of the Norwegian fisheries are derived from shared stocks, the Norwegian management objectives can only be achieved in close co-operation with other North Atlantic fisheries nations.

The establishment of the exclusive economic zones of 200nm in the late 1970s required new forms of international fisheries co-operation as the most important fish stocks were shared between two or more states. Thus, agreements were concluded with the two main collaborators in management of the Barents Sea and North Sea resources; Russia and the European Union respectively. In addition agreements were concluded with the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, to enable a balanced exchange of fish quotas to help maintain traditional fishing pattern. An agreement regulating the fishery on the joint capelin stock in the Iceland/Greenland/Jan Mayen area was later concluded with Iceland and Greenland. Following the development on joint regional management on high-seas resources, based on the UN-agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, an agreement between Norway, Russia, European Union (EU), Iceland and the Faeroes was concluded on the management of the ScandoAtlantic Herring, including a regime for the fishing of this stock in international waters, negotiated within the framework of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). A similar management agreement for the North Atlantic mackerel stock is being negotiated (November 1999) with Norway, EU and the Faeroes as the three coastal states.

Over the past decades Norway and Russia have co-operated to ensure rational and responsible management based on joint measures and close co-operation has been developed between the Norwegian and Russian control authorities, with a continuous exchange of data on catches and landings in Norwegian ports. At sea, close contact has been established between the two Coast Guards. Joint efforts made by Norway and Russia in the management of the resources in the Barents Sea have provided a common approach to resolve new problems.

The major challenge in fisheries co-operation with the EU, is to rebuild the major stocks in the North Sea to sustainable levels. Norway and the EU have both adopted comprehensive regulations and measures to control fishing and promote rational exploitation of fish resources. However, the principle of sustainable management and exploitation is applied differently in certain important cases. Norway has introduced a ban on discards based on the notion that all catches should be accounted for and deducted from the quotas to control the mortality of each particular fish stock. The EU, in contrast, imposes mandatory discarding of fish above the quotas or below size-limits as a central element of their management regime.


The technological development of the Norwegian fishing fleet proved early the need to impose regulations on fleet capacity and in 1908 the first restrictions on fishing activities were established by law. This, the so-called “trawler act”, encompassed prohibitions on fishing with trawls in Norwegian seas. The first regulation regulating access to the fisheries came in 1932 when a licence-system for the trawler fleet was implemented. Since these first regulations, directed at restricting the development of trawling in the demersal sector of Norwegian fisheries, a number of different regulations have been imposed to protect fish stocks from over-exploitation while maintaining the right to exploit these resources by the fishermen.

Today, the Norwegian system of fisheries reflects a well-tested system of policies and instruments for the monitoring and regulation of key stocks based on multi-species management objectives. The overall objective is to provide for a sustainable development and a long-term optimal use of the living marine resources. This implies that catches of any TAC-regulated species must not exceed the agreed quotas based on the best biological advice available.

Norwegian conservation philosophy stipulates that, as a starting point, all regulations and corresponding enforcement should be directed towards the fishing activities themselves. The basic legal starting points are the prohibition to fish “illegal” fish, i.e. fish below the required minimum size, and the ban on discarding of all commercially valuable species. Moreover, every catch of an individual species is registered and counted against the quota for that particular species.

Participation in Norwegian commercial fisheries is restricted and regulated by a body of legislative and administrative instruments. The restrictions on fishing effort can be divided into terms controllling entry into the fishery and limitations relating to the use fishing gear which are a form of input regulations, and quantitative restrictions such as different kind of quotas that refers to output regulations. There are also a number of regulations to reduce the fishing capacity in different vessels categories.


Norwegian input-controls relate to vessels that are allowed to join the different fisheries and to who are allowed to own fishing vessels.

To be registered as a fisherman one must fulfil a number of criteria. These have been established to achieve the political objective that the ownership of fishing vessels, and thus the right to exploit the Norwegian fisheries resources shall be given exclusively to fishermen. Thus, the law states that only active fishermen can own the majority of assets of a vessel. For example, one criterion is that one must participate in more than three of the last five years in some Norwegian fishery to be entitled to own a fishing vessel. When these criteria are met, the individual can be registered in The Fisherman Register established in 1941, and the right to ownership of a Norwegian fishing vessel is permitted. There are, as well, a number of output-regulations based on the Register.

It is generally recognised that the current fishing capacity of the Norwegian fishing fleet is far too large relative to the resources available. To meet this imbalance, a number of input-controls have been established. Two basic models have implemented concessions and permits to regulate the number of vessels in the different fisheries. The difference between these is that concessions are granted for an unlimited time, while fishing permits are limited to one year.

Thus, while by law and in theory there are two different conditions, in practice, the annual permits are renewed indefinitely. In 1994, within the Norwegian fisheries, 14 different groups are regulated by concessions mainly within the off-shore vessel groups, eight groups with annual permits are established mainly among the coastal fleet. A few Norwegian fisheries are unregulated by either concessions or permits, and thus within the Norwegian fisheries a system of closed-access prevails for all important economic fisheries such that the in-principle open-access to fisheries by fulfilling the requirements of owning a fishing vessel, has only a theoretical value.


Norwegian fisheries are regulated by annual regulation of the share of the Norwegian TAC of all regulated stocks among the different groups and participating vessels. In addition, rules pertaining to periodic regulations of harvest bycatch, fishing-season dates, sanctions when the regulations are broken, and eventual criteria for exemptions from the main rules of the regulation. For some fisheries the group-quotas are divided equally among the vessels, in others the vessel-quotas are differentiated by vessel-length, tonnage or other technical criteria. Regulations are implemented on North Atlantic Cod, North Sea Cod, North Atlantic Saithe, North Sea Saithe, ScandoAtlantic Herring, North Sea Herring, Mackerel, Sprat, Capelin, Shrimps in the Barents Sea, Shrimps in the North Sea/Skagerrak, Flatfishes, Blue Whiting, Redfish, Greenland Halibut and a number of smaller stocks.

In addition to the regulations on fisheries inside the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone, the Norwegian fisheries authorities also regulate fisheries Norwegian vessels working outside the Norwegian EEZ as a part of agreements with other states. A number of regulations are also set annually on the foreign fishing vessels to work in Norwegian waters. Norwegian fisheries authorities also regulate both input and harvest levels annually in the sealing and whaling sectors.

Harvests from regulated stocks are controlled through the allocation of the Norwegian TACs to different groups of vessels; these Group Quotas maybe in their turn allocated to each, either by Individual Vessel Quotas IQVs) or by Maximum Quotas. With IVQs, the Group Quota is shared amongst the participating vessels with a fixed and “guaranteed” portion. Using the system of Maximum Quota an upper limit is set to the annual catch. As the sum of the allocated Maximum Quotas is higher than the Group Quota, the participating vessels of the group have no “guarantee” that they will be allowed to fish the quota before the total Group Quota is taken, and fishing stopped. This system of “over-regulating” is used within vessel-groups that have a large variety of boats with large differences in activity level and thus catching-capacity. By this system the group gets the opportunity to catch the total Group Quota, though a number of the participating vessels only fish a portion of their allotment.

With the system of Maximum Quota, a boat owner risks that the fishing for that group is stopped before his boat has fished his Maximum Quota. On the other hand the system allows individual vessel to harvest extra quantities, which leads to motivations to invest in higher catching-capacity than on an average basis will be needed. The general renewal of vessels within a Maximum Quota group is, however, low as the competition to get as high a portion as possible of the Maximum Quota reduces profitability and thus the financial basis for renewals.

The regulations implemented for North Atlantic Cod in 1999 illustrate the combination of quota models used in Norway.

At the start of each year the regulations, in principle, are set for the whole calendar year. The main objectives, including those intended to achieve structural changes, are sought through a consultation process that leads to the annual regulations, which basically cover all important Norwegian fisheries. Adjustments such as increased vessel-quotas due to lower participation than expected, changes in the periodic Group Quotas, cessation of direct fishing, changes in bycatch regulations, etc. are implemented by the authorities without formal industry consultations. This occurs throughout the year as assumptions upon which the starting regulation were based upon change.

As most Norwegian fish stocks are migratory and shared with other countries, the application of the single-species regulations must consider this. The large variation in the availability of the different fish species throughout the year and along the coast also bears upon the details of the regulations. Norwegian fisheries regulations also consider the processing sector’s need for a stable supply to achieve highest possible quality, market prices and provision of regular jobs. As value-adding and maximum market-output is one overall economic objective of management, each of the fisheries regulations are also aimed at this objective.

Regulations in the Norwegian fishery for North Atlantic cod in 1999


A quota-transfer system with the main purpose of reducing the number of vessels was first introduced in Norway in 1984 in the cod trawler fleet. The scheme was expanded in 1990 to include other groups and again in 1996/1997. It will exist on a permanent basis from early 2000. The scheme, the “Unit Quota System” (UQS), enables vessel owners to buy another vessel, remove the original vessel from the Norwegian fisheries, and fish both quotas with the remaining vessel for 13 years. The UQS has so far only been implemented for the offshore fishing fleet. The capacity, measured in number of vessels, withdrawn from each of the three groups due to the introduction of the UQS is about 10 %.

In addition the Norwegian Government has spent approximately 1.4 billion NOK since 1979 on different de-commissioning schemes. The schemes reduced the number of cod trawlers from 122 in 1990 to 103 in 1997 when the UQS took over, and the purse-seine fleet from 215 in 1980 to 98 in 1998. Since 1998 a new de-commissioning scheme was primarily directed at coastal vessels between 15 and 34m in vessel groups with closed-access. The present scheme has two components:

i. De-commissioning. The concession(s) or access-permit(s) is withdrawn and the vessel is removed from the fishery and destroyed.

ii. Combined de-commissioning. The vessel is permanently taken out of fishing and the concession(s) or access-permit(s) withdrawn. New concession(s) or access-permit(s) may be granted for a replacement vessel (new construction or used vessel). The aim of the combined scheme is to modernize the fishing fleet without increasing the number of vessels.


The evolution of Norwegian fisheries from open-access when all who fulfilled the requirements of being a fisherman, would get a licence to fish with his boat, to limited-access and different vessel-quota systems has naturally developed a notion of rights within the fishing community. Although in principle the Norwegian fisheries have open-access, closed-access on a stock basis exists such that it is impossible to be a professional fisherman exploiting only unregulated stocks, as more than 90% of the catch value comes from access-regulated stocks.

The exclusivity to participation and grant of the annual portion of the TAC - which is then repeated annually in perpetuity - has given the industry and the individual fishermen the notion of a right. And, the development of this right-based system has also led to a system of transferability.

In June 1992 the Government in Norway presented a White Paper to Parliament proposing the introduction of ITQs. This was rejected by Parliament, and in its pure form, ITQs are not at present an issue Norwegian fisheries policy.

Earlier the Norwegian fisheries were characterised by low status, low income and subsidies. In this situations the public showed no or little interest in the management of the fish-resources, and the management of the resources was left to the participants in the sector. At present in the Norwegian fisheries there is a focus on the marine resources as the future of our nation. There has been a rapid growth in export-income, and subsidies remain. As a consequence, the public shows much interest with the common view:

“This resource is too important to the Norwegian society that the management of it can be left for the fishermen alone - and for the fisheries administration alone for that sake.”
This development has been parallel with the process of closing access to fishing and introducing quotas in the Norwegian fisheries.

It is generally accepted in Norwegian society that: (a) it is necessary to have TACs; (b) it is necessary to have closed-access; (c) it is necessary to have Individual Vessel Quotas; and (d) there is a high degree of legitimacy that this exclusive right to fish be distributed to a limited number of fishermen - based on precedence, i.e. to the one who had taken up fishing before its access was closed. While there is a high degree of legitimacy that this exclusive-rights privilege is given to those who actually fish, a right to benefit from our nation’s common heritage, it is not generally accepted within Norwegian society that anyone be given the right to trade it, and thus make profit and benefit from the fisheries resource - without actually being a fisherman. Thus, while there is in Norwegian society a high degree of acceptance of the closed-access and quotas, there is little support for the use of ITQs.

But when you have an exclusive licence to fish, and a fixed annual proportion of the TAC - which will be granted the next year also, and you can sell your boat, with the fisherman who buys the boat will get a licence to fish with the boat, (if he fulfils the requirements of being a fisherman entitled to own a boat), and he will get the same quota-portion of the TAC you had, and this is basically the Norwegian system, but then of course, ask the question “Does Norway have an ITQ-system?” You do have to buy the boat. It may be termed more a system of Individually Transferable Access instead of ITQs.

Thus, the Norwegian fisheries struggle with a system with a number of imperfections, unable to meet the major challenge of excess fishing-capacity; the fishery that rapidly over-exploits the fish stocks, and is over-capitalised to such an extent that it is not even able to supply a stable income and thus safe employment in the fishing community. And this of course has major implications for absence of any resource-rent. To answer the question why the fisheries sector in Norway is organised in such a non-economical way must look at the politically-derived main objective for the Norwegian fisheries sector:

“To establish a sound basis for an economically viable development of the fisheries industry. A sustainable management of the living marine resources is pre-conditional. Through marked orientation and increased value adding, the fisheries sector shall contribute for good employment and living opportunities in the coastal communities.”
Over-capacity leads to over-fishing - whatever the quota system. IQs, IVQs or ITQs do not eliminate high-grading, discard of bycatches, black-marketing and so on, as long as the vessels are able to fish more than they are allowed to. The most viable solution that also satisfies the major management objective is to reduce the number of fishing vessels, but to keep most of the resource rent within the sector at such a magnitude that each vessel can run 300 days a year using a double crew.

Maintaining a fishing fleet far to large for the available resources, and investing in fishing that far exceeds that needed to catch the annual quotas is contradictory to the objectives the Norwegian Government has set for the sector’s development, as it reduces the national benefits to be drawn from the fishery resources. Thus, the only argument seen relevant for introducing ITQs in some form is their potential for reducing the fleet size. But, as Norway has experienced in the North Atlantic waters, the use of ITQs has actually increased the total fishing capacity employed in waters adjacent to national EEZs, which in its turn has led to unregulated, increased fishing on already fully utilised straddling stocks.

Use of ITQs therefore, has to include de-commissioning-obligations to address the global fisheries problem of over-capacity. This is a problem that has not been solved through the introduction of the existing ITQ-schemes, as these, to a large extent, have focused on increasing the profitability to limited groups of fishermen.

In conclusion, if the issues of global over-capitalisation and over-capacity are not met in an constructive manner through international co-operation, but more importantly through national actions, one may be able to live happy at home, but the bottom line for global fisheries will always be in the red.

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