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The Development towards Co-management in the Dutch Demersal North Sea Fisheries - W. P. Davidse
Community-based Approaches to the “Fishermen’s Problem” - B. J. McCay
Direction of Future Fishery Management - K. Katsuyama

The Development towards Co-management in the Dutch Demersal North Sea Fisheries - W. P. Davidse

Agricultural Economics Research Institute, LEI - Burgemeester Patijnlaan 19
2502 LS The Hague, Netherlands
<[email protected]>


The author of this contribution is not a policy-maker but a researcher employed at the Netherlands Agricultural Economics Research Institute, LEI. As such he has been an independent observer of the Dutch fisheries management process during the past thirty years. There is a Dutch expression saying “The best steersmen stand ashore”. This makes their wisdom more relative but on the other hand their position enables a good overview of what is happening. From this observer’s position the paper briefly describes the development towards a rights-based fishery in the Netherlands, with special attention to institutional changes. To identify these changes the broad definition of Anthony Scott about institutions is used: “...socially recognised and supported procedures and rules. They are unchanging relative to the fluctuating economic activities that they guide and constraint”.

The next sections cover the developments since 1975 to illustrate that the current Dutch rights-based demersal North Sea fishery1 is the result of a 20-year implementation process. The paper contains subsequent measures of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries (MANF)2 and reactions from the vessel owners to the regulations. A number of these measures have been also reactions of MANF to the behaviour of the vessel owners. Table 1 lists relevant information concerning this fleet.

1 In the Netherlands better known as the cutter fishery.
2 Up to the 1990s the name of the ministry was ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Table 1: Dutch demersal North Sea Fishery, characteristics (1998)

Number of vessels


Engine power (KW)

319 000

Number of crew

1 860

Gross earnings (mln EUR)*


Main quota: (tonnes, 1999)


14 555


35 281

* 1EUR = US$ 1.05
Source: LEI

2.1 Institutional characteristics

The development towards a rights-based fishery started in 1975 with the decision on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). The main institutional characteristics of the Dutch demersal North Sea fisheries at that time were:

i. Responsibility for fisheries management by MANF, Fisheries Directorate. The policy of this Directorate had been favourable for the industry because a programme for modernisation of fisheries had been implemented in the past. This policy also had somewhat liberal features in that the responsibility of individual fishermen was emphasised.

ii. Representation of the industry and also execution of some management tasks by corporate industry organisations, structured vertically (the Fish Commodity Board) and horizontally (the Fish Board).

iii. An organisation under civil law of the fishermen, the Nederlandse Vissers Bond (Dutch Association of Fishermen), having a say in both the corporate organisations3.

iv. An attitude of competition amongst most of the fishermen living in more-or-less closed fishing communities.

3 In 1979 a substantial number of members separated from this Vissers Bond and established the ‘Federatie van Visserijve-renigingen’.
2.2 Limiting measures

The TACs decided by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) in 1975 meant important reductions (10% and 40%) in catches for plaice and sole, two of the Netherlands’ main species. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries delegated the enforcement of these catch-limitations to the Fish Commodity Board, which has the competence to impose regulations. The Board implemented a regulation to limit effort and landings in the sole and plaice fishery for the year 1975. However, the Board faced too many difficulties to enforce this regulation and returned this quota-management task back to MANF in the beginning of 1976.

To comply with the NEAFC TACs the Dutch Ministry implemented individual quota per vessel (IQs) for 1976. These IQs were in fact a fixed share of the NEAFC quota that had been allocated to the Netherlands. The Dutch ministry wanted to give the individual vessel-owners more certainty and responsibility in taking up their quota. The IQs for 1976 were based upon the highest individual track record for sole and plaice in the years 1972-19744.

4 This contribution regards the Dutch demersal North Sea fishery (cutter fishery).
2.3 Reactions of vessel-owners

The vessel owners heavily objected to the effort limitation in 1975 and the IQs for 1976. In particular owners who had expanded their fleet’s fishing power by purchase of a new cutter with more powerful engines and those who had laid up their vessel for some time (e.g. because of re-engining) appealed against their allocated IQ level.

2.4 Revision of the system of individual allocations in 1977

MANF revised the allocation procedure in 1977 to take into account the important investments in the previous period. This change included a 50% dependency of the IQ on historical landings and a 50% dependency on the engine horsepower. This system still is the basis for the current sole and plaice ITQs. Representatives of MANF promoted the IQ system in subsequent years by emphasising their own responsibility and the flexibility in taking up the quota. “It is up to the fisherman whether he takes up his quota with a Mercedes or with a Deux Chevaux5 has been said repeatedly by them.

5 A well known very cheap French car at that time
There was no very heavy enforcement of quotas in 1977 and subsequent years. To understand this one has to keep in mind that the NEAFC countries interpreted the TACs differently at that time. Some countries considered them as an advisory rather than obligatory catch level. In this situation the Dutch ministry could not enforce the quota very heavily. Moreover, such major production-limitations were quite new at that time and they conflicted with the previous MANF policy This included support for production increases, especially for agricultural products.

2.5 Reactions of fishermen for the period 1977-1983

Compliance with the limits of the IQ system was low in this period. Fishermen felt that if they had to stop fishing or obtaining the quotas then to fully comply there would be with a landing reductions of 30-40%. They revealed a very strong intention to remain in the fishery, in many cases because of desires for future succession to the fishery by their children. Enforcement was carried out by taking samples of landings, which regularly resulted in fines. However, the level of enforcement was too low to cause substantial financial damage to the industry so that over-fishing practices were continued.

From a management point of view the situation even worsened in the late seventies and early eighties because of fleet expansion. A general investment subsidy was implemented in 1978, which was in force for all Dutch economic sectors. This undermined the limiting-effort policy for the fishery sector of MANF. Vessel owners were heavily inclined in 1979 and onwards to make use of this subsidy that was received as a fiscal allowance of 12% or more from the cost of new constructions and a substantial number of new cutters were put into operation in the period 1979-1983. This development that was intensified by the severe competition among the vessel-owners. Consequently the engine capacity of the Dutch demersal North Sea fleet increased from 240 000kW in 1978 to 367 000kW by the end of 1983.

The IQ system came under further pressure in the early 1980s because of transfers of vessels that were in fact transfers of IQs. A cutter could be bought with the right attached to it and sold without this IQ, in order to aggregate the IQ on an existing cutter.


3.1 Introduction of ITQs and licences

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), established in 1983, meant an important institutional change for the Dutch fisheries sector. Annual TACs and the Multi-annual Guidance Programs (MAGPs), which last four years, are the two main pillars of the CFP. Each country is allowed to implement these catch and capacity limitations in its own way.

The Dutch IQ system for sole and plaice was maintained in 1983 and extended to an ITQ regime in 1985. In this way MANF legalised the practices that had arisen of transferring rights via vessel-sales, as has been mentioned before. Codfish entitlements had been introduced in 1981 and they remained not-transferable. This policy was intended to protect the segment of the demersal North Sea fishery targeting cod and whiting.

To comply with the first MAGP target, MANF introduced an engine-power licence scheme for the sea-faring fleet at the end of 1984. These licences are transferable and divisible. An expansion of the fleet as occurred in the period up to 1983 was impossible from that year on. Vessel-owners who wanted to add a new vessel to the fleet or intended to expand their engine-capacity had to acquire sufficient horsepower-rights by purchasing them from others. New vessel-constructions in the pipeline at the time of implementing the licence scheme caused a problem. MANF allocated horsepower-rights to new investments if the vessel owner could prove that the new vessel had been ordered before 31 December 1984.

3.2 Reactions of vessel owners

By the end of 1984 vessel-owners became aware of the upcoming licence system and a substantial number of them ordered a new cutter before 31 December in order to get additional horsepower-rights. Many of these orders were just contracts with the yard and there was no intention to start the new vessel construction immediately. The absence of these actual vessel constructions led to ‘floating licences’, licences not attached to a vessel, in 1985 in subsequent years. The capacity-targets of MANF had been undermined heavily by this expansion of horsepower-rights. LEI estimated that a total of 60 000 horsepower existed in the form of such ‘floating licences’ in 1988.

3.3 Measures to strengthen enforcement

To reduce the number of ‘floating licences’ MANF limited the validity of these rights to a period of two years. In the second half of the eighties MANF developed a more stringent policy to prevent over-fishing of ITQs. This included:

i. A national quota reserve, created in 1987, whereby 5% of the national quota was not allocated to cover individual over-fishing of ITQs and to allow others to fully utilise their rights.

ii. Promotion of uniform prosecution of fishery offences, also in 1987, by creation of regular consultations among the responsible Attorneys General.

iii. Limiting a maximum engine-power of new to-be-built cutters of 2000 HP in 1987. Previously, vessels up to 4500 HP had been built. The maximum beam length of the gear was set at 12m.

iv. A system of obligatory days-in-port for the vessels in force from 1987-1992.

v. Strict monitoring of landings with 120 inspectors on 600 vessels, aiming at systematically controlling each landing of fish. This was implemented in 1988 and strict rules were set regarding places, times and other conditions for unloading fish.

vi. Introduction of a de-commissioning scheme, co-financed by the EU and the industry. Firms which would remain in the fishery would benefit from exits of colleagues and had to contribute together to approximately 10% of total cost of de-commissioning.

vii. Heavier sanctions for those who over-fished their ITQs, consisting of taking away the gain from this illegal action through an appropriate fine and reducing next year’s ITQ by the quantity of over-fishing in the current ITQ-year.

Through these measures MANF intended to comply with the Dutch quota, allocated by the EU (the Council of Ministers) and with the MAGP capacity-requirements. The expectation was that strict control and punishments would force out of the industry those vessel owners who had a lack of rights, and de-commissioning could thereby act as an extra stimulus.

3.4 Reactions of vessel owners

The intensive monitoring of landings from 1988 and onwards led to heavy conflicts between MANF and the industry. A substantial number of fishermen circumvented the rules by unloading at illegal places and times, hiding fish in special holds on board, putting extra fish in boxes, etc. Several violent encounters between fishermen, controllers and riot police occurred in that period.

Initially the fines in cases of over-fishing were not high enough to prevent poaching. Fishermen calculated that the extra proceeds of over-fishing exceeded the amounts of fines. A saying went around like ‘the last haul for the judge’. However, the amount of fines increased by the end of the eighties and more vessel-owners started to buy high-priced ITQs. A dramatic increase in prices of sole/plaice rights, from NLG 10-15/kg of permanent sole/plaice quota in 1986 to NLG 100-120 by 19886 demonstrated the effects of the strengthening of enforcement.

6 NLG=US$ 0.49
Re-flagging of vessels to other countries was another reaction of vessel-owners towards the enforcement measures in the early ‘nineties. In this way they could transfer the ITQ from the re-flagged vessel to another one, still operating in the Dutch fishery and also the licence became available for aggregation or sale on the market. The re-flagged vessel was expected to have good fishing opportunities abroad, favoured by buying of cheap foreign-rights for these beam trawlers.

Although the enforcement became more effective around 1990, poaching and cheating still continued. A debate about these practices was held in that year in the Dutch Parliament whereby it was concluded that the Minister of Agriculture, Nature management and Fisheries (MANF) had failed to meet his policy targets. A motion of no confidence against this Minister was adopted in 1990 and he had to resign.

3.5 Development towards co-management

In the first half of the 1990s more and more fishermen disliked their illegal activities, e.g. to landings by night or at more or less hidden places. Several of them and of their representatives were jailed for questioning or as a punishment for offences. But a feeling arose that ‘we should return to normal business practices’.

On the other hand MANF faced an increasing burden of regulations in the early 1990s and the policy-makers felt a need to delegate responsibilities to the industry. This fitted with the principle of owners owning the responsibility that had driven the Dutch fisheries management more or less from the beginning.

Both these circumstances led to a process of consultations between MANF and the fishery sector aimed at designing a system to implement a form of co-responsibility with the industry for compliance with the national quota. This process resulted in the establishment of seven co-management groups in 1993. A former Prime Minister, Mr Biesheuvel, played an important role in this development by chairing the meetings between the ministry and the industry and subsequently these co-management groups became known as ‘the Biesheuvel-groups’.

In this system, the Group Board is responsible for compliance with the total quota of their members, i.e. the totals of their ITQs. Ownership of the rights remains with the individual members. Compulsory sale of fish via the auction is an important measure to record the landings reliably. An independent chairman of the Group Board has to be appointed (someone from outside the fishery sector) to prevent difficult judgements of vessel owners about their colleagues. The Fish Board, as a corporate industry organisation, acts as a co-ordinator between the Groups to harmonise their regulations if necessary.

After the establishment of the co-management groups almost all the vessel owners in the Dutch demersal North Sea fishery became member of one of those groups. Allocation of extra days-at-sea to members and more flexibility in renting out and leasing of ITQs have been effective incentives to promote this membership. A threat from MANF to compulsorily reduce the individual capacity in terms of engine-power of the vessels in case the group-system failed has been another incentive for promoting group membership.

The activities of the co-management groups were favoured by the absence of major quota problems in the period 1993-1995. In particular the national sole quota allowed the ITQ holders to operate their vessels profitably in most cases. The groups came under threat in 1996 due to a 32% decrease of the national plaice quota. However they managed the uptake of the reduced ITQs effectively in that year, resulting in a sharp rise (17%) in the auction-price of plaice.

The Dutch experience demonstrates that co-management can secure the ITQ right successfully by sound management of group-quota. This includes monitoring of landings and measures (warnings not to land abroad etc.) when a group member has almost taken up his ITQ. And, such group management guarantees that the individual holder can fully take up his own ITQ. The threat that other colleagues will take a part of his ITQ by over-fishing their own one has been removed7.

7 This advantage of co-management in an ITQ fishery has been emphasized by Dick Langstraat, Chairman of the Dutch Fish Board. Transfer of some competence from the individual right-holder to the collective of the management group is necessary in that case (pers.comm.).
3.6 Further steps towards a rights-based fishery

Up to 1994 ITQs were in force only for sole and plaice. This changed in that year because the non-transferable codfish entitlements were transformed into ITQs. They acquired the same rights as in the sole and plaice fishery and the same applied for the herring and mackerel fisheries in 1996. MANF has followed the opinion of the industry in both cases.

Nowadays, the demersal North Sea fisheries are fully rights-based, with ITQs for all quota species. Moreover, input-rights exist as licences, specifying the capacity of the vessel, and also entitlements for the coastal zone. These rights are also transferable.


The following points illustrate some lessons that have been drawn from the developments in the past twenty years. These lessons focus on institutional arrangements in the Dutch fishery:

i. The basic philosophy of the government, i.e. the relevant ministry, is important for the development of a rights-based fishery. In the Dutch case this includes a principle of owner-responsibility for the industry and the development towards a partnership between the government and the industry. The Deputy Director of the Fisheries Directorate of MANF expressed this as “Together we have to solve the problems”, when speaking about effort-reductions during the annual meeting of the Nederlandse Vissers Bond in 1999.

ii. ITQs alone are not effective and should be accompanied by adequate enforcement and also by input measures.

iii. Pooling of ITQs into management groups importantly promotes compliance with the TACs, due to better guarantees for not exceeding full uptake of each ITQ (over fishing by colleagues is less likely) and also because of a certain say in the rules by the fishermen themselves.

iv. Under these conditions catch-limitations can change into rights. Measures that used to be circumvented evolve towards rights that are subject to investments and form a separate production factor for individual firms.

v. Institutional arrangements for a rights-based fishery result from an implementation process and cannot be established at once.

vi. Institutions and regulations outside the fisheries management area may hinder an effective policy for the fishery sector. This may refer to general investment subsidies and enforcement systems applicable to other industries.

vii. The same principles should apply for different management levels. The Dutch fisheries management is executed in the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy. Therefore it is for example bound to generic reductions of fleet capacity under the current MAGP. This more or less command-and-control approach now conflicts with the national co-management situation since the fishing effort should be reduced to such an extent that ITQs may not be taken up fully. This would heavily undermine the Dutch system of co-management of quota.


Davidse, W.P. et al. 1997. Property rights in fishing, LEI-DLO report 159, 328pp.

Davidse, W.P. et al. 1999. Property rights in fishing: from state property towards private property? Marine Policy, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp 537-547.

Hoefnagel, E.W.J., et al. 1995. Experiences in Dutch co-management of marine fish resources, OECD issue paper.

Langstraat, D.J. 1998. The economic contribution in policy process, Proceedings of the Xth Annual Conference of the European Association of Fisheries Economists, The Hague.

Ministry of Agriculture 1997. Nature Management and Fisheries, Balancing economy and ecology. A survey of the Dutch fisheries policy.

Salz P. et al. 1998. Vooruitzichten voor de Nederlandse plat - en rondvissector op korte en midellange termijn, LEI-DLO report nr. 5.79, 64pp.

Salz, P. 1996. ITQs in the Netherlands: twenty years of experience, ICES paper. 17pp.

Smit, W. et al. 1998. Visserij in cijfers, annual edition, LEI.

Smit, W. 1996. Bijdrage aan de eindevaluatie van de uitvoering van de voorstellen van de stuurgroep Biesheuvel, LEI, Mededeling 575, 103pp.

Community-based Approaches to the “Fishermen’s Problem” - B. J. McCay

Rutgers the State University
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA
<[email protected]>


1 Parts of this paper are based on a chapter in The Commons Revisited: An Americas Perspective, edited by Joanna Burger, Richard Norgaard, Elinor Ostrom, David Policansky, and Bernard Goldstein (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, in press).
Marine fisheries provide the most persuasive cases for the conventional theory of the “tragedy of the commons”. This is a class of social dilemmas in which each self-interested rational actor has an incentive to behave in ways that are sub-optimal, or even tragic for the resource, the larger group of users, and, ultimately the actor himself. Sometimes called “the fisher’s problem” (McEvoy 1986), it can be exemplified by an imaginary fishery, where everyone is fishing the same stock of fish (the “subtractibility” feature of a common pool resource: what you do affects what I can do) and it is difficult if not impossible to exclude others from it. Even though there is evidence that the resource is declining, for example the average fish being much smaller than before, the individual fisherperson’s rational strategy is to continue, or even fish harder, because there is no way to stop others from doing the same. Another way to think about the dilemma is in terms of the “free rider” problem. Because the fish are like a public good, in terms of difficulty of excluding others, the optimal strategy is to let others do the conserving, be the good stewards, because they cannot prevent one from reaping the benefit. That would be a “first order” collective action problem (Olson 1995). A second order problem concerns difficulties creating the institutions required to manage the problems of the commons: again, being a “free rider” is the rational strategy of each participant, and it is thus difficult to get people and organizations to work together to come up with rules and systems for monitoring and enforcement, even when it is clear that they share interests in, for example, a more sustainable system of resource use. Hence recourse to governance by outside governments.

These abstract ideas have some application to real life fisheries. Marine fisheries share practical, legal, and cultural obstacles to exclusion, particularly where they are often perceived as highly cherished frontier economies, underscored by concepts such as the public rights to fishing and navigation in tide waters (McCay 1998). The resource users, or appropriators (Schlager and Ostrom 1992), tend to be in competitive relationships with each other (Crutchfield and Pontecorvo 1969); although often fiercely independent, they are also interdependent because they are appropriating from the same common pool resource or related resources within an ecosystem. They usually experience high levels of both risk and uncertainty (Hilborn 1997), the effects of which permeate through the entire system including family relationships, the structure of crews, attitudes toward safety precautions, strategies of investment and of finding the fish, and the regulatory process (Acheson 1981, Smith 1988). Risk and uncertainty also make collective action more difficult to accomplish in the abstract theory: for example, uncertainty about whether a particular set of rules will make the desired difference surely is a reason not to bother.

What then can be said about prospects for sustainable development of marine fisheries? Can resource users participate in effective management of fisheries commons or must it be forced upon them? In theory - and here I will not discuss exactly which theory - the numbers of actors or scale of the system, homogeneity/heterogeneity of positions, wealth and interest among the actors, degrees of trust and forms of reciprocity, beliefs, values and other cultural attributes, the workings of markets, and the embeddedness of commons dilemmas within larger systems should affect answers to these questions. They may help answer the question of whether the imperatives of open-access, competition, and uncertainty overwhelm attempts by appropriators, and even their representatives in government, to come to terms with each other and the rather unruly, elusive, and unknowable resources on which they depend.

Community is the keyword to my approach. The classic model of the tragedy of the commons, whether proposed by William Lloyd in 1834, by Garrett Hardin in 1968, or by H. Scott Gordon in 1954, has no “community”. The cartoon shown (couple of people outside a theater; billboard announces that “The Tragedy of the Commons” is playing. One person says to the other: “I hear it lacks dialogue”) is about this fact and about the importance of “dialogue,” of interaction and communication.

Communities are usefully thought of as social entities whose members share some identity and opportunities for social interaction. A spider diagram for community would include a shared past, or history, and shared goals or expectations for a future, which would bear upon such qualities as predictability of each others’ behaviour, trust, and reciprocity, qualities well known to affect the outcomes of “commons” situations, Some communities are transient and contingent on the actions and resources of particular people; others are “corporate”, enduring beyond the lives and persons of particular members or families. Communities have various and variable assignments of collective and individual political and property rights and responsibilities. They are nested within other social and political structures and they may vary with respect to the autonomy they have within those structures. They may be thought of as contexts for decision-making and action by households, firms, individuals, and other social units; they may also be the forum for collective decision-making and action.

What kinds of communities are there? The simplest division is between “communities of place” and “communities of interest”. The places where people live and from which they work are usually how we identify communities. But the communities within which we actually live and interact are also constituted by people with shared interests and occupation regardless of place. In fisheries, communities are often constituted in terms of shared participation in a fishery, i.e. a particular area or fishing grounds; a particular technology (gill-netters versus purse seiners); a species focus (crayfishers versus prawn fishers).

As fisheries management develops these may become the basis of communities defined in terms of regulatory regimes. All of the licence-holders in a particular sector of a managed fishery have shared interests and concerns and may have opportunities to interact both on and off the fishing grounds, particularly vis-à-vis management authorities and law enforcers. That is one form of what we might think of as a “fisheries management community”. When and where the resource users gain more of a say in, and responsibility for, fisheries management (the “user pays, user says” paradigm), this may be a “co-management community”. Both the managers and the resource users (and other stakeholders) interact fairly regularly, come to know and trust, if not like, each other, and work together for more or less shared goals. Yet another form of management community may exist, something like the “epistemic” community identified as playing a major role in international environmental governance: organized around challenges of knowledge and science, and the application of science to policy, communities develop that involve scientists, industry members, government officials, NGOs, media personnel, and more, negotiating toward, if not entirely creating, shared visions of a future and goals for action. This discussion presupposes, of course, government agencies as key actors. Spinning off to the side may be other management communities: of coordination and accommodation within and among various groups, including communities formed to cope with conflict among various interests (commercial fishing and recreational fishing; environmentalists; indigenous groups). And, of course, management communities created in the course of devolved, self-regulatory regimes.

A gross generalization is that the trend is toward management and co-management communities; this trend is encouraged by private rights-based management schemes. However, in many countries and fishery-dependent regions, this carries the risk of further marginalizing already vulnerable place-based and occupational communities. Hence, a counter-movement can be discerned, to protect and build upon place-based, local-level communities. That is what most people mean by the term “community-based fisheries management,” even though, as I have suggested, community can have many other referents and as such be effective in dealing with collective action problems.

I address these topics by briefly examining some international and national fisheries institutions in terms of the challenges faced in developing effective collective action for fisheries sustainability and restoration. I focus on the United States and Canada and discuss new directions in marine fisheries management, including IQs/ITQs, the market-based alternative to top-down, command-and-control management, and various other institutional arrangements that can be seen as “community-based” alternatives. What we are really looking at, in resource management, are improved systems of governance, not government, and the governance powers of states, based on hierarchical structures of authority, are supplemented by or compete with market forces that govern behaviour. A third source of governance comes from the arrangements of civil society, or, loosely speaking, “community”. This may be thought of as participatory governance (Van Vliet and Dubbink 1999). Consequently, in this paper particular emphasis is given to community-based management, including self-regulation by fishermen, cooperative arrangements between resource users and government agencies, and other manifestations of “community” in fisheries management.

Types of “community”
Communities of place
Communities of interest; ethnicity; occupation; religion
Communities of shared activity (fishing area, gear type, species)

Management communities
Within the same regulatory regime
Co-management communities
Epistemic communities
Non-governmental communities


Truly “open access” fisheries remain in the high-seas, beyond national boundaries of extended jurisdiction (since the late 1970s, these are in most cases 200 nautical miles from coastal baselines). These include fisheries for highly migratory species such as the tunas and swordfish, and also for squids and many other species. The high-seas fisheries provide the worst cases of “tragedies of the commons”. In the realm of international environmental management, there is no central authority. The system is technically one of anarchy and thus monitoring and enforcement are problematic depending as they do on the voluntary participation of member governments, which have no jurisdiction over the activities of vessels belonging to other governments, especially those of non-signatory countries (Peterson 1993).

Nonetheless, management regimes for many of the high-seas fisheries have developed within the aegis of the United Nations; they are based on regional and international treaties and the work of dedicated individuals, scientific institutions, and governments. A small but illustrative set of examples includes: the International Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the International Fur Seal Treaty, and the International Whaling Commission. Another significant organization is ICES (International Commission for Exploration of the Seas), which was founded in the late 19th century and brings together scientists from governments with interest in the North Atlantic and provides scientific advice for some of the European fisheries.

Ostrom (1990, in press) and McKean (1992) have come up with design principles for overcoming free-rider and other obstacles to effective management of common resources by the users themselves. Included are, for example, having well-defined boundaries and criteria for membership; the capacity to monitor and enforce; ways to handle heterogeneity of interest, value and wealth; time to experiment; and considerable autonomy from other structures of governance. Although these principles came from studies of small-scale communities, they may be relevant to international fisheries regimes as well. Noonan (1998) uses this framework to compare reasons for the relative success of the South Pacific Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the relative failure of the European Union (EU) in managing their fisheries commons. For example, the FFA has done better than the EU in providing arenas for conflict resolution and in providing incentives for monitoring and enforcement by the member nations (Noonan 1998) (see also Cartwright and Davidse, this volume). Another comparative analysis of international fisheries regimes using Ostrom’s design principles (Hall 1998) showed that in five out of six cases the fishing nations involved have cooperated to create and maintain robust institutions for certain issues, namely access rights and resource allocation. But this does not necessarily mean conservation effectiveness.

A major challenge concerns “straddling stocks,” fish stocks such as walleye pollock in the North Pacific and cod and other groundfish off Newfoundland which are found in both national and high-seas domains where national sovereignty applies to part of the stock and open access to the other (Burke 1997, Munro 1996). The United Nations has helped reduce the third-order collective action problem by providing information and infrastructure for deliberation on this as on other problems, but is hamstrung by the traditions of national sovereignty and flag-state enforcement.

At the international level, national governments are thought of as the key actors. However, in this domain as in others one can see increased involvement of fishermen, representatives of fishing communities, representatives of environmentalist and business NGOs. For example, in ICCAT, longliner fishermen from the US may participate on the team of US representatives to the negotiations. NGOs have difficulty getting “seats at the table” but they are increasingly given “standing room” in international negotiations. And some fishery-dependent communities are engaged in transnational activities which ignore or complement the actions of their national governments, because of the uncertainties and costs of relying on their governments and international politics to protect their interests. A notable example is the National Fishworkers’ Forum in India, which used its international connections to help it force the government to cancel licences issued to joint ventures that were fishing indiscriminately in Indian waters (Kurien 1998).


With extended national jurisdiction over fisheries in the late 1970s - a key part of the United Nations’ Law of the Sea negotiations that led to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (Sanger 1987) - the governments of coastal nations gained newfound powers and responsibilities for fisheries management2. How have national governments managed their newly-enlarged commons? Appraisals for the US and Canada are not positive despite the wealth and scientific expertise of both nations. This discussion focuses mostly on Canada and the United States. I do not, however, see any reason for optimism for developing countries, where resources for fisheries science, monitoring, and enforcement are even more limited and where oceanographic phenomena such as “El Niño” play such a direct and often devastating role (Lagos and Buizer 1992).

2 The South American nations of Chile, Ecuador, and Peru had much earlier claimed “patrimonial” rights to 200 miles of ocean and hence the tunas and other fishes found off their shores. Canada too had a major stake in expanding its jurisdiction, particularly on its Atlantic coast, which had become the focus of a major international fishery for cod and other groundfish during the 1960s and 1970s, seriously depleting fish stocks of the region. The U.S. had a more ambivalent position because some of its fishing fleets depended on ready access to fish stocks off the shores of other countries (especially the South American ones mentioned above), while others were experiencing distress from foreign fishing off their shores (especially those of the Eastern seaboard) or saw opportunities in the rich foreign fisheries that had developed off their coasts (e.g. the Bering Sea fisheries for pollock off Alaska).

In anticipation of, and closely following extended jurisdiction, Canada quickly developed a combination of science-based management and limited entry into most of its marine fisheries. By 1990 there was virtually no “open access” fishery of consequence left in Canada, but its fisheries were in trouble. Reasons are numerous and contentious but include errors in the practice of stock assessment (Finlayson 1994), misuses of science in the policy process (Hutchings et al. 1997) and unknown ecological factors (Hutchings 1996). The great cod fisheries of Newfoundland collapsed leading to a closure of those and other fisheries in 1992, which remains for most of the coast into 1999. Some of the salmon stocks of British Columbia are now in serious trouble as well.

In Canada, decisions about marine fisheries reside in a cabinet-level appointment, the Minister of Fisheries, who utilizes a complex system of technical and political advice from the regions but retains singular decision-making authority (Apostle et al. 1998). This appears to enable rapid decision-making about controversial measures such as shutting down entire fisheries or imposing individual transferable quotas (an attempt to use quasi-private property in managing the fisheries. Fisher-involvement has been limited to a complex “consultative management” scheme in which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) retains control over the nature and extent of input that industry can provide (Apostle and Mikalsen 1995). But, policy appears to be moving in several directions. Recognizing that Canada’s fisheries continue to be plagued by biological and economic instability (Parsons and Beckett 1997).

One trend is to remove allocational decisions from the agency by giving them to markets, as in individual transferable quotas (ITQs) or placing them in advisory bodies (a proposal not yet implemented). Another is to find ways to reduce capacity, including the numbers of people and vessels in the fishery, and increase the professionalism of fishers. A third is to delegate more responsibility and authority to user-groups. As Les Burke explained, “co-management” is a reality in many Canadian fisheries, especially the IQ or ITQ fisheries. Attempts to formalize co-management in a new Fisheries Act (the existing act is almost a century old) are in terms of “partnerships” between interested groups and the fisheries agency. In the meantime DFO has implemented such agreements in a system that could be called “contractual co-management” (Rieser 1997) and has more widely adopted a system whereby groups of fishers must present conservation harvesting plans for approval before allowed to fish.

The United States

There is much more political resistance to limited entry in the United States, but by the late 1990s most of the important commercial fisheries required licences based on prior involvement in the fishery or other criteria. This is partly in response to evidence that other management measures had not protected most fish stocks and an agency analysis that “open access” was a major cause of the problems (Sissenwine and Rosenberg 1993). It is also the result of protectionist moves of particular industries in response to competition from newcomers and outsiders as well as use of government to help cope with collective action problems.

In the United States, fisheries management within 3 nautical miles is delegated to the States; beyond that it is federal government responsibility but has been delegated by Congress to Regional Management Councils. The councils prepare fishery management plans that must be approved and implemented by the federal government (through the federal Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service). The delegated powers are limited by national standards and other laws established by the US Congress. The councils are designed to allow for considerable user-group and public participation in the process; voting members are not only representatives of state and federal fisheries agencies but also people who represent fishing interests, commercial or recreational, as well as academics and environmentalists. They are under repeated attack for being captured by special fishing interests but are diverse in structure, function, and problems.

New directions in US policy includes stronger representation of environmentalists and such ideas as biodiversity, the precautionary principle, and reliance on marine reserves. Note, I use the term “representation” rather than implementation, which remains a major technical and political challenge. We also have a more cautious approach to individual transferable quotas in management (as of 1995 a moratorium on them - and on even considering them - was imposed by the US Congress), and far less interest in devolving and delegating management roles to resource users and communities than in Canada. The regional councils are seen as devolution and delegation enough. Nonetheless, reviews of problems and solutions appear to recognize the values of improved user participation and attempts to better match the scale and scope of management regimes and natural systems (NRC 1994; 1996, 1999a, 1999b). In addition, the legislature and lobstermen of the State of Maine in the US have committed themselves to a system of devolved management of lobster (Acheson and Steneck 1997), and there is considerable co-management between many of the separate states and local fishing groups for fisheries inside 3 nautical miles.


4.1 Introduction

Policy emphasis on local-level, community-based and cooperative fisheries management is divided and wavering. Nonetheless, such forms of management are significant. The following section reports on “self-regulating” management regimes in relation to ideas about the nature of the resource and the size and heterogeneity of the resource users as well as other variables that affect the success and failure of collective action for sustainable resource use (Ostrom 1990 in press, McKean 1992, Miles 1989, Felt et al. 1997).

According to recent reviews of literature (Schlager 1994, Acheson and Wilson 1996), small-scale fishers are most likely to regulate access to valued fishing sites, open and closed areas and seasons, the technology used, and special areas thought to be essential for fish reproduction. Much rarer is user-group restriction of how much fish or shellfish they catch, i.e. what most contemporary fisheries science accounts mean by “management”.

4.2 The virtues of staying put and local

Self-regulation is particularly apt for sedentary species, such as shellfish, and those targeted by stationary fishing gears, such as fish traps. It is far easier to create and maintain boundaries when the resource or the technology used to capture it does not move than when it does, particularly when both are close to land and hence readily monitored.

The history of fisheries for bay clams and oysters, highly sedentary species found close to shore, includes many instances of local regulation by the users or by local governments, such as the townships of Cape Cod, New England, or counties in New Jersey. In the US, even where state governments claimed exclusive rights to manage fisheries on behalf of the “public trust,” management rights and responsibilities are often delegated to the local level, such that the management systems become examples of co-management (McCay 1998; Pinkerton 1994). Similarly, the successful cases of co-management as a vehicle toward sustainable use of small-scale fisheries in Chile concern benthic invertebrates such as conchs and sea urchins (Castilla and Fernandez 1998). Crabs and lobsters are more mobile but often found within a well enough defined area so that the fishers find it worth their while to defend exclusive territories and, in some cases, impose catch limits (Acheson 1988).

Fishers are also likely to manage sites of access to mobile resources in order to reduce the costly and dangerous effects of conflict and competition and achieve social norms such as fairness and equality. On Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada, access to inshore sites for placing large netted twine cod traps was regulated in locally distinct ways until the inshore fishery declined in the late 1980s (McCay 1978). Along the rocky shores near the communities of Joe Batt’s Arm and Tilting, on the northeast and eastern sides of the island, no one could set a trap in a “berth” until a certain day in June, and then only after a gun was fired, so that all of the crews left for the berths they wished to use. If two or more crews converged on the same berth, the local fisheries officer drew straws to determine the occupant. On the other side of the island, particularly around the port of Seldom-Come-By, the regulatory system was different: the best trap berths were allocated according to inherited rights, the rest on a first-come-first-served basis. The system of Joe Batt’s Arm and Tilting was devised around 1907 as a way of handling conflicts arising from increased demand on the trap berths due to increased population and to attempts by fish merchants to expand the use of traps. The situation had also become dangerous and costly: crews sometimes staked their claims early in the season, when high seas and ice were still likely. The new system addressed this with the opening gunshot.

Other rules in Fogo Island’s fishery included restrictions on how close fishing gear could be placed to each other, particularly competing gears (i.e. gill-nets versus cod traps) and whether or not bait-less hooked fish-lures called jiggers could be used on certain more distant fishing grounds. The jigger rule was partly protectionist: local fishers could more easily get bait for fishing on those grounds, so an anti-jigger rule kept others away. It was also conservationist: the hooks on jiggers strike the fish at any part of the body, ripping them open but not always bringing them to the surface. This rule was particularly important at places and times when very large female cod were expected; these were referred to as “mother fish,” i.e. fish to be protected for the future.

A supportive legal structure is often important to local-level systems of common pool resource management. The Newfoundland regulations described above were developed locally but written into the law of Newfoundland - as local rules - and enforced by the government’s fisheries officer (see also Martin 1979; Andersen and Stiles 1973). When Newfoundland became part of Canada in 1949, and the fisheries became subject to federal management, the local rules were no longer legitimized at higher levels, but local observance of most of the rules continued, supported by the fishery officers (Matthews and Phyne 1988).

The scope and intent of the regulations described were, of course, inadequate to the task of conserving the fishstocks, which were migratory and covered huge areas and more subject to predation by large offshore fishing fleets. Nonetheless, when the Canadian government abandoned the local rules, particularly after the 200 mile limit of 1977 allowed it to take a major role in managing the fishstocks, it also left behind social and ecological lessons about the local scale (Matthews 1993). Only today, and in a halting way, are fisheries scientists in Canada and the United States recognizing the importance of highly localized phenomena, such as breeding and overwintering grounds, otherwise defined at large scale, and of locally-derived knowledge about such stocks (Neis 1992) for the viability of fishstocks.

4.3 New Jersey cooperatives: Managing heterogeneity and free-riding

Local-level regulation of how much fish is caught and landed is rare particularly for highly migratory species found over a large area. However, it did occur during the late 1970s and 1980s at two fish marketing cooperatives in New Jersey (McCay 1980, 1987, 1989) where the critical motivating variable for self-regulation was the price of fish. The cooperatives not only regulated members’ catches but also found ways to handle heterogeneity. The cooperatives each had between 18 and 22 vessel-owners as members. Becoming a member was, and is, difficult. Making it worthwhile to try were attractions such as the cooperatives’ control over a critical scarce resource: waterfront space for offloading and tying up boats. There were other benefits as well, including help in marketing catches and the possibility of annual “patronage refunds” of the profits.

The Point Pleasant cooperative was studied in some detail (McCay 1980). Entry was limited by the amount of dock space available and members’ notions of who could be relied upon to be (a) “highliner” or very productive fishermen; and (b) willing to go along with the informal and formal rules of the cooperative. This in effect imposed limits on entry into the fishery in the region because of the scarcity of dock space and fish packing houses.

The fisheries were diverse and wide-ranging, but during the winter months most members specialized in fishing for a whiting species, called silver hake. Although the cooperative sold to the large fish markets of the Atlantic seaboard, such as Fulton Market in New York city, demand for whiting was limited. Market “gluts” - when so many fish were offered for sale that the price plummeted - were common and problematic: the price could vacillate by factors of 10 or more (i.e. from 10 cents to $1.50).

The Point Pleasant and Belford fishing cooperatives developed systems of imposing catch limits on members’ boats when the market had the potential of being glutted. A sign was posted: for example, “40 boxes today”. It made sense to do this even though the fresh-fish urban markets were served by fishing fleets around the globe, because the winter whiting fishery was virtually theirs alone. At this time during the cold-weather months the fish were found fairly close to the New Jersey ports, in the warmer waters of deep submarine canyon emanating from the Hudson River system. The fish were less available to New England fishermen who fished for them in the summer months instead. Accordingly, the New Jersey ports as well as some in New York, had a near monopoly on the domestic part of this fishery during the winter months (far offshore foreign fishing boats targeted whiting as well but rarely for the fresh-fish markets). This helped keep the prices reasonably high, but gluts were still a problem. It was to this problem that self-regulation was directed.

At Point Pleasant, the catch limits were implemented in ways that dealt with the problems of rewarding high performance while punishing those who violated the rules. During the early part of the fishing week, captains who came in over the limit were given credit for the catches. There was slack in the system. However, later in the week, closer to the critical marketing period of Thursday and Friday, payment for anything they brought in over the limit was redistributed equally among the rest of the members. In these ways the cooperative recognized the heterogeneity of its members while keeping internal free-riding at a manageable level.

Free-riding, the bête-noire of collective action, was a far more serious problem at the regional level: other whiting fishers benefited from the market-price effects of the catch limits imposed by the New Jersey cooperatives. From time to time, in the 1960s and 1970s, leaders of the cooperatives tried to persuade people in the New York ports to adopt a similar system. This did not work, although they were able to organize several regional “tie-ups” to protest low market prices. Even with free-riding the cooperatives persisted, members aware that their “sacrifices” benefited others but convinced that without the catch limits, the price would plummet, hurting everyone.

This institutional arrangement was suspended throughout most of the 1990s. Free-riding was rampant and the resource itself declined as many new boats entered the fishery in response to sharp declines in TACs in the traditional groundfish fisheries of New England. Whiting were scarcer on the inshore grounds for which New Jersey boats had an advantage. Accordingly, the limits on entry created by the cooperative’s control over scarce dock space were inadequate for the task. It became an open access fishery and self-regulation no longer made any sense. Members of the cooperatives had to find other fisheries, such as squid, and redirect their regulatory efforts to the workings of the regional fishery management councils, including attempts to use limited entry to protect their positions.

4.4 The surf clam fishery: Heterogeneity in a participatory setting

One of the constraints to self-regulation of common pool resources in the United States and other capitalist economies is that it can be interpreted as anti-competitive behaviour, coming up against anti-trust laws. The cooperatives noted above were absolved from this by a federal law protecting registered agricultural cooperatives from anti-trust challenges. Participants in another important fishery of the Eastern seaboard of the Atlantic coast, the fishery for surf clams, confronted this problem and turned their commons-dilemma over to one of the regional management councils, showing yet another way that the embeddedness of locally-devised systems can make a difference.

By the 1960s and early 1970s participants in the relatively new surf clam fishery3 recognized that they had created an open access monster: more and more vessels, larger and more powerful all the time, entered the unregulated fishery. The clams, immobile and hence easily harvested once located, were quickly depleted. The fleets moved from patch to patch, from Long Island, New York, to Virginia. There were discussions of industry-based regulation of catches or gear, but anti-trust issues loomed large. Therefore nothing was done until the regional fishery management council system was created in 1977. The surf clam fishery was the very first to be regulated under the new US system for managing fisheries from 3 to 200nm also to limit entry. The Council created a moratorium on new vessels, an overall TAC, and a system limiting how much time each vessel could be fishing for clams in order to spread the fishery over the year on behalf of the processors.

3 The surf clam fishery began in the late 1940s when a hydraulic method was invented to help dredge up the clams; the clams quickly replaced bay clams in the important clam chowder market and other markets.
The industry was ready and eager to use the management system to accomplish goals it could not legally accomplish by itself. The new Council system provided the institutional solution to their second-order dilemma, that is, incentives not to participate in management because being a free-rider is an option. It is probable that the industry could not have come to agreement anyway, given the large number of participants (over 180 boats at the peak) and their economic heterogeneity (a few very large vertically-integrated firms; many “independents,” some owner-operator vessels but some large fleets of vessels also; plus of course geographic, personal, and ethnic differences).

The obstacle posed by heterogeneity was evident in the new system. Between 1978 and 1989, the surf clam industry4 had some co-management powers vis-a-vis the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC), which at times asked the industry to come up with its own plans for adjusting the system (Turgeon 1985). The heterogeneity depicted, and the real differences in power and interest it suggests, made it difficult for the industry to reach consensus on important issues, namely how to correct distortions created by the limited-entry system. As fishing capacity increased, and certain year-classes of clams grew large enough to be fished, the amount of time each vessel could fish had to be reduced in order to spread the quota over the year. By 1986 surf clammers could fish only 6 hours every two or three weeks. From as early as 1980 there seemed to be agreement that some kind of allocation of the quota to individual vessels would be necessary, but agreement on exactly how that would be done was elusive. The size and heterogeneity - the power structure - of the industry played a major role in causing an 11 year delay in the decision to make a major institutional change to individual transferable quotas (McCay and Creed 1990). This one a market-based system of management which has the potential of changing the conditions that had led to overcapitalization and dangers at sea (i.e. the race to fish against limited time or quotas).

4 To keep this account simple, I ignore the ocean quahog fishery, an outgrowth of the surf clam fishery.
ITQs went into effect in 1990, the first instance of this method of fisheries management in the US. In this case, ITQs rapidly led to fleet down-sizing and intensified the existing patterns that concentrated ownership and control in relatively few firms (McCay and Creed 1994; NRC 1999b). Nonetheless, the surf clam management regime remains a collective commons institution. Setting the annual TAC and other conditions of the fishery remain responsibilities of the regional fishery management council, on behalf of the public trust which remains in the clam resources themselves. The ITQ holders must continue to interact with each other, government regulators, and other members of the public as part of a management community. This is a good example of a “fishery management community,” with some elements of co-management.

4.5 The Pacific whiting cooperative: How small size and homogeneity can work

In the context of the US moratorium on ITQs and the broader set of conflicts and concerns that lay behind resistance to ITQs, some successful experiments in alternative self-regulation have occurred. A recent case of self-regulation in the marine fisheries involves large, expensive catcher-processor vessels in the fishery for Pacific whiting in the cold waters of the Bering Sea in the North Pacific (NRC 1999: 128-129). (This has recently been followed by similar cooperatives for pollock fishing in the North Pacific; special legislation was passed to enable this in 1998). This case is a reminder of the virtues of small size and homogeneity in realizing working agreements for managing a common pool resource.

In the North Pacific, the annual TAC of whiting is divided among various sectors, including the catcher-processor vessels, which hold 34% of the 1997-2001 TAC. In the past, they competed for their quota in the familiar process which creates incentives for overcapitalization as well as wasteful practices such as taking and discarding other species (i.e. bycatch) and hurried processing leading to lower than optimal yields. In April 1997, the four companies involved agreed to eliminate this “fishing derby” and its side-effects by allocating the quota amongst themselves, forming a cooperative for the purpose. To avoid possible anti-trust prosecution, a significant barrier to user-based management agreements in the United States, members submitted their proposal to the Department of Justice, which approved it. This meant that the companies could use fewer vessels; the company announced that in the remaining portion of the 1997 fishery yield from on-board processing had improved by nearly 20% and there were significant reductions in bycatch.

The whiting cooperative continues. It may have had the negative effects of any limited entry system, in deflecting effort to other fisheries which might also be fully or over-capitalized, but the companies did succeed in developing a more rational system for their own fishery. Their success seems to have been made more likely because of the small number of actors involved, all of whom knew each other very well and who were fairly homogeneous in terms of investments. It was also increased by the fact that there was little uncertainty about the quota itself nor were other groups immediate hurt by the decision: the cooperative allocated a known quota that had already been allocated to the at-sea processing vessels5.

5 Very similar arrangements are found in Canada under the rubric of “Enterprise Allocations,” precursors to individual transferable quotas. The difference is that in the Canadian cases, i.e. for offshore groundfish and lobsters, the government, not the companies, made the allocations among the companies involved in the fisheries. However, it is arguably the same: only a handful of companies are involved, they are working with a portion of the overall allowable catch that has been allocated to their sector of a larger fishery, and the representatives of those companies work very closely with government decision-makers such that it is difficult to determine where the rule-making initiative and power to decide actually reside.
4.6 Size, homogeneity, and co-management in a Canadian setting

In comparing the surf clam management regime with a Canadian ITQ fishery for groundfish (McCay et al. 1995; McCay et al. 1998), several points emerged. One was that size and heterogeneity did matter, but not that much. The Canadian fishery, a small-boat (<65ft) dragger fishery for cod, haddock, and pollock, mostly in Nova Scotia, experienced the dramatic institutional change of ITQs quickly, within a year after the possibility was announced, even though the size of the affected group was much larger. There were over 440 licence holders in the Canadian fishery compared with fewer than 60 vessel owners (about 120 vessels) in the US surf clam fishery prior to ITQs. The Canadian fishers were scattered over a huge area, in dozens of small and large fishing ports. The US fishers in this fishery worked out of only about four ports. On the other hand, the Canadian fishers were more homogeneous in economic terms: few were vertically integrated into processing firms and the goal and spirit of egalitarianism was supported by the rule that the owner had to be a vessel operator. But the main point, for the decision to make the change in property rights, was that the decision in Canada was not made by members of the industry; it was made by the Minister of Fisheries. The more democratic, participatory process of deciding upon ITQs in the US set up a situation were strong differences within the industry and which could result in long delays.

A second point was that whereas in the US the industry played a strong role in deliberations about the institutional change that led to ITQs, in the Canadian case, also begun in 1990, the industry emerged as a strong player in the next phase of management, deciding upon and implementing the actual details of the ITQ-based management system. A co-management arrangement was created once the major decision was made and representatives of the industry worked closely with government officials, and those they represented to design the details of the new system. This resulted in a system (like the ITQ system that went into effect in Alaska more recently, in 1995 [NRC 1999b]) designed to prevent the rapid downsizing and consolidation of property and power that occurred in the surf clam case. Holders of ITQ had to be vessel operators as well as owners (although exceptions were grandfathered in), there were upper limits on how much ITQ anyone could own, and, at first, there were strict limits on transferability, which was allowed only within the fishing season, not permanently.

Another significant feature of the Canadian system is that in exchange for gaining exclusive rights to quota, the ITQ holders had to pay for, and help design and implement, a system of dockside monitoring. This was another focus for the co-managing group that emerged and continues to meet regularly.

Whereas the ITQ system applies to the entire US surf clam fishery, the Canadian ITQ system is embedded with a larger management regime for the groundfish species, leading to a highly conflictual situation. The overall TAC is allocated between offshore vessels (belonging to a few vertically integrated companies, under an enterprise allocation system) and a fairly large set of nearshore and inshore vessels, by fisheries area and by species. An important distinction is between mobile gear (i.e. draggers) and fixed gear (i.e. gill-nets and lines). Government efforts to expand the ITQ system (and user-fees for monitoring and enforcement) are resisted by the fixed-gear fleet, as noted above in the discussion of efforts to develop community-based management.

4.7 Communities and co-management

As noted earlier in Section 3 above, Canadian fisheries policy is to develop formal partnerships between industry (or other groups) and the government fisheries agency. The partnership proposal is controversial in that it raises the question of what a “community” is. In fisheries, the truly active communities often become defined in terms of people engaged in the same fishery, such as all lobstermen in an area. With intensified government management - which in Canada includes management by gear-type, by fishing area, and by species - communities can also be defined in terms of regulatory regimes. Thus, all licence holders in a particular area engaged in a particular fishery become a community regardless of where they live, their personal and ethnic identities, or their social ties. Indeed, new social ties and identities are created in the process of regulator/regulated relationships.

These new communities can be the bases of contractual co-management as has happened, both formally and informally, in Canada. However, the co-managing communities and the government’s “partnership” proposal have been seen with suspicion by people in the smaller-scale, inshore fisheries and people dependent on fish processing in coastal communities. Management-based communities, where membership is often limited either formally or de facto to those who hold limited privileges, have interests that are not necessarily the same as those of place-based communities.

Consequently, there are attempts to build upon place-based and local-level communities in creating alternative institutions for fisheries management. Assigning a part of a TAC to a community has been done. One case of community-assigned quotas occurred in 1995; there was agreement to allocate part of the TAC for a particular area to the fishers of the community of Sambro, Nova Scotia, who could decide themselves how to allocate it rather than have it assigned as ITQs (Apostle et al. 1998). Subsequent grassroots efforts and civil disobedience expanded the principle of community-based management to the “fixed-gear” sector in the Bay of Fundy region (Kearney et al. 1998). The DFO informally agreed to allocate quotas to “community management boards,” based on the collective catch history of the fishers they represent. The boards then developed management plans through a participatory, consensus-based process. The boards have no formal legislative capacity to enforce these plans; instead they use contract law. Fishermen who wish to participate sign a contract agreeing to follow the plan and accept designed penalties for violation. If they decline, they may participate in a government-run competitive fishery. The boards are intended to become the basis for fishermen’s participation in scientific research and an overarching council for the bay as a whole.

As Burke (2000) noted on Monday, some of these community-based management efforts have led to the use of ITQs by members of the communities. Thus, they are not necessarily alternatives to ITQs; the point, though, is that decisions about modes of allocation should be devolved to representatives of a broader notion of community than the usual licence-holder-based management community.


5.1 Summary remarks

All fisheries regimes, from international to local, must deal with similar problems, namely how to manage access to, and use of, common pool resources without depleting both the resources and the coffers of those involved beyond the point of no return. To date, governments have not accomplished much for the international high-seas fisheries largely because of the persistence of the rule of flag-state sovereignty and right to enforcement, but opportunities for change are perhaps more evident than before (Burke 1997). Within their own jurisdictions, national governments too experience difficulties in using their powers and abilities to support scientific research to make marine fisheries sustainable. In some places, this is because of the persistence of open access as an ideological position or the de facto outcome of difficulties enforcing restrictions. Open access, combined with attempts to conserve fish by setting TACs, sets up conditions for overcapitalization, which in turn creates immense pressures on management organizations to up the ante (Ludwig et al. 1993). In these and other places the problem is also due to the uncertainties of knowledge, scientific and otherwise, and social barriers to effective utilization of the knowledge of people actually working on the water.

Both Canada and the United States are grappling with these and related problems. Among the somewhat disparate directions that policy is taking in both countries there is interest in delegating and devolving some management authority to groups of resource users or “communities”. Qualifications of local communities and groups of resource-users as resource-managers are mixed, affected in part by size, heterogeneity, and other variables identified in academic studies.

The cases reviewed show some realized potentials for user-based resource management within the play of such factors as the nature of the resource, the size and heterogeneity of the resource-using group, and the political economy within which they are embedded. In another work, we deal at length with the issue of embeddedness from a more social and cultural perspective (McCay and Jentoft 1998) is discussed at length. Here I close with a note on an expanded notion of “community-based management,” which is another way of talking about self-regulation by appropriators and local-level management.

5.2 Virtual or epistemic communities

A recent National Research Council report (1999b) focused on “virtual communities,” by which was meant communities of resource users who may or may not be from the same geographic or cultural communities, but shared involvement in a particular fishery and, I might add, more often that not depend on satellites, cellular phones, fax machines, and computers for communication and social interaction. Although I agree with the spirit of that suggestion (coming as it did from the experiences and thinking of people like Nat Bingham, a former fisherman and major coordinator of cooperation among fishers, landowners, and conservationists in protecting salmon, and journalist Brad Matsen) it seems too narrow for today’s realities, and those of tomorrow. For one thing, many other “stakeholders” are not included. I propose some variant on the notion of “epistemic communities” instead.

There are intriguing congruences between the “epistemic communities” of the individuals, institutions, and governments that sometimes form around international regimes (Haas 1989, Young 1982), and the communities that form around national/regional government-based fisheries management issues. In both the US surf clam and the Canada small-boat dragger ITQ cases, epistemic communities evolved over the years. They include scientists, agency officials, paid representatives of the industries, industry members, even journalists and academic observers. Like the international “epistemic communities”, the effects of the diversity of backgrounds and interests present is modified by shared focus on tasks at hand, some consensus on values, or at least understanding of differences in values and objectives, and a history of interaction. People come to know each other, share information and ideas with each other, predict each other, and trust each other, with or without expectations that they will come to consensus. This, too, might be considered “community-based resource management” and it may be the only real hope for participatory management institutions that encompass a wide diversity of interest groups or stakeholder, achieve some fairness and some equity, and, above all, promote sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.


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Direction of Future Fishery Management - K. Katsuyama

Japan Fisheries Agency - International Affairs Division,
1-2-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan
<[email protected]>


After Exclusive Economic Zones were established at the end of 1970s, there arose mounting international interest in marine living resources. Not only traditional fishing nations, but also newly-developing fishing nations, and even those countries with no tradition of consuming fishery products as food, began to take an interest in fisheries and fishery products. At present, quite a number of countries consider fisheries not only as a means of food production but also as important resources for obtaining fishing-fees and foreign-exchange earning from exports. It is not rare that large enterprises and new capital, which previously had no relations with fisheries, are entering into fisheries.

While the utilization of marine resources is being promoted rapidly, demersal fish targeted by trawlers are being depleted in many areas throughout the world. This has prompted large trawl fisheries to shift their target species from demersal species in the bottom-waters, such as cod and flounders, to schooling pelagic fishes in the mid-waters, such as horse mackerel, chub mackerel and sardine. Also, modern purse-seine fisheries have expanded the range of target species so as to increase their profitability and have been rapidly increasing their catch of schooling pelagic fish using fish-aggregating devices.

On the other hand, in the coastal waters of the developed countries, environmental changes caused by human activities and pollution from land-based sources have exacerbated the depletion of fishery resources, and this depletion is now expanding from coastal- to offshore-areas. Furthermore, in the newly industrializing countries and developing countries, coastal fishing grounds are being rapidly lost by: littoral development and construction in addition to the lack of sewage-treatment systems. Such damage also affects the primary production and the fish stocks. As a result, it often happens that small-scale artisanal fishermen living along the coast are forced to change their profession from fishing to the non-fisheries sectors.

There are also cases where fishermen themselves destroy the fishing grounds. In some developing countries where capital and fishing facilities are inadequate, there are still fishing practices that use explosives and toxic substances. In particular, the loss of coral-reef from destructive-fishing practices is comparable to the loss of many forests caused by slash-and-burn agricultural methods.

The rising global concern about utilization of the resources and their proportional decline and decrease, raises serious problems both internationally and in individual fishing nations. The importance of fishery management is now gradually recognized, not only by fishermen and managers, but also by consumers who are the final beneficiaries of those resources.


While most of food production on land is subjected to artificial management in all its processes, almost all fish depend solely on natural reproduction within the oceans and seas until they are harvested as produce of the fishery. According to the statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the overall quantities of beef and pork used for food are 132 million tonnes per annum, while the quantities of fish (excluding fish raised by aquaculture) are 96 million tonnes.

In the agriculture and livestock industry, production and management costs involve such elements as: elimination of weeds, pest control, investment in fertilizers and feed. By contrast, the cost of the reproduction and growth of fish stocks is almost zero because it is almost exclusively dependent on nature’s capability. If we focus our attention on this aspect of fisheries, the marine living resources are indeed gifts from the oceans and seas.

On the other hand, the location of harvesting in the agriculture and livestock industries is mostly fixed to the area where farmers live, the risk to the harvest is relatively low and the necessary costs of production are also low. In fisheries, conversely, there always exists a big risk in terms of revenues versus harvesting costs (for the construction of fishing boats and maintenance of expert fishermen), because the fishing grounds are distant and are often subject to drastic changes. In other words, agriculture has transformed itself from its original state of harvesting uncultivated crops, into an artificial industry changing the environment and harvesting crops within limited ranges. But in the case of marine fisheries, harmony with the natural environment is indispensable because the fish resources are still largely depend upon it.

Under such conditions, is it possible to realize in fisheries the kind of planned production and management as in agriculture and livestock industries? Agriculture that produces grains is sometimes affected by natural factors such as sunlight and rainfall, but planned production comparable to that for industrial products can be implemented because it is possible to carry out production-adjustment by increasing or decreasing the area cultivated.

For some specific fisheries resources, such as some shellfish and crabs, the estimation of stock-size seems to be relatively easy and planned production may be possible, at least in theory, because the habitats are relatively stable and there is little migration. Nevertheless, with respect to highly migratory fish-species, there are considerable difficulties in planning production because the estimation of stock-size is still uncertain at present, while the relationship between spawning-fish stock-biomass and recruitment after reproduction can fluctuate considerably, and moreover the range of distribution of the stocks is relatively wide and changeable.

It is well known that stock-sizes of small-size pelagic fish, such as sardine, can vary regularly regardless of the impact from fishing activities. Presently, the focus of research is given to annual pre-harvest pilot surveys, rather than to attempting to determine stock size. Further, with respect to annual species - such as squid - that live only one year, difficulties in conducting any planned production have been pointed out, and many cases of drastic fluctuations (including sharp declines) in stock-size have been reported.

The pelagic fish-species which attract the highest attention internationally are the tunas. Many of these stocks have been the subject of stock assessment by existing regional fisheries management organizations and various forums, and various management systems have come into being because of their high market-value compared with other fish species found in Japanese markets.


In Japan, the living resources of the sea have been used from time immemorial and remains of shell mounds have been found in many historical sites, attesting to the fact that fish, shellfish and cetaceans were eaten. As a small island nation, Japan tended to rely on the ocean for protein supplies, taking advantage of the oceanographic features such as the strong Kuroshio and Oyashio sea-currents which transport various marine resources along the near-coastal zones. Major archaeological finds from the shell mounds include a variety of species of fish (sea bream, flounder, salmon, tuna and shark) as well as shellfish, octopus, squid, whales, dolphins, sea cucumber, sea squirt and sea urchin. It can be easily conjectured that fishing activities were already conducted in the offshore areas during those historical periods because the archaeological finds include oceanic fish.

In the Middle Ages, from the 8th century on, records indicate that typical fishery products from each region had been transported to the Central Government in Kyoto. Further, from the 17th century, communities of fishermen having particular techniques of harvesting were formed in various parts of Japan, in part with the encouragement of the Edo Government (1603-1868), and so fishery products from various parts of Japan were available for distribution and consumption, from the northern sub-arctic zone to southern sub-tropical zones. Thus, coupled with the Buddhist custom of avoiding animal meat, the foundation was laid for Japan to become a fishing and fish-consuming nation. As cetaceans were not classified as animal meat under Buddhist criteria, their utilization and consumption was expanded.

Under the Edo Government, feudal lords of the divided provinces encouraged industrial activities. In the area of fisheries also, they recognized the fishing activities carried out by the fishing communities as a type of right and obligation, and to prevent fishermen from failing as a result of through excessive competition, they established restrictive measures for new entrants and control of fishing effort. Through these measures the Authority attempted to ensure the stable development of fisheries as a household business.

Such a system survived in the Fisheries Law instituted in 1949, and those who had been traditionally engaged in fisheries were granted fishing-rights by the government. With respect to the resources targeted by each fishing community, the approach of self-regulating stock-management was encouraged, including adjustments with neighboring fishing communities. In the 1970s, with the aim of strengthening fishery management by the fishermen themselves, regional Fisheries Cooperative Associations were established throughout Japan as community-based management mechanisms for the coastal and the offshore fisheries, which included a mutual monitoring and supervising system.

As a result, those who intend to engage in coastal and offshore fisheries are required to comply with the resources conservation and management measures under fishing permits issued by the Central and Regional Governments. They are also obliged to join at least one regional Fisheries Cooperative Association, thus placing the overall activities of individual fishermen under mutual monitoring and control.

Fisheries in Japan, which in the past have developed centring around fishing communities, have commonly taken the form of household businesses. Maintenance of their artisanal activities on a long-term and sustainable basis was set as the major goal instead of high profit in the short-term. Accordingly, fishermen came to enforce various voluntary management measures to ensure the conservation and propagation of the fish stocks. Fishermen’s initiatives included: preservation of spawning grounds, protection of small-size fish, as well as temporary control measures on fishing activities in cases where stocks were found to be declining.

In recent years particularly, fishermen have developed and enforced stock-recovery programmes through the Fisheries Cooperative Associations in collaboration with the Central and Regional Governments. There have been observed regional examples in which the fishery resources have been damaged by external factors such as pollution of coastal areas from land-based sources, and environmental changes from artificial constructions. Direct measures could be taken relating to the existing status of the stocks, such as reduction of fishing effort to offset the decline in the resources, through curtailment of the operational periods and control of catch-quantities.

However, prompt recovery of fish stocks cannot be expected only from such reductions in catch when depletion of the resources is caused by external factors. With the initiative from fishermen, much more fundamental solutions have been undertaken, in collaboration with regional governments, such as environmental rehabilitation of the fishing grounds, including artificial tidelands and sea-weed beds, in addition to reducing the influx of land-based pollutants. There are limits to the ability of individual fishermen to undertake such measures by themselves, but it is possible to build up cooperation quite effectively and smoothly by calling on other sectors and the public in fishermen’s communities.

In recent years it has been recognized that the cutting of forests in inland areas is negative, affecting the inflow of nutrients into the coastal zone, and has been the mechanism that caused losses of sea-weed beds which serve as nursery grounds for fish. For this reason, there have been a number of instances where fishermen called on the forestry industry and the general public for efforts to restore the forests, and the fishermen themselves, mainly through Fisheries Cooperative Associations, carry out tree-planting in the mountain areas. By accumulating specific examples of environmental improvement of fishing grounds realized from the planting of trees, it will become possible to encourage the recovery of forests, not only for the benefit of the fishermen, but also for the welfare of the general public.


Stock-management in Japan is of the general type adopted by traditional fishing-countries. It is based on an effort-control system by limiting licences that are re-examined periodically on the basis of catch and effort data. Fishing effort is usually controlled through limits, such as on the number of fishing vessels, the fishing period and the number of fishing operations.

The fishery resources cannot be measured directly, and even where stock estimates are made, there is considerable uncertainty compared to similar data for land resources. Further, the impacts that environmental changes such as El Niño and global warming are having on fishery resources is far from resolved to date. Accordingly, based on catch-data obtained from fishing activities and from research vessels, scientists can only estimate and forecast broad-based stock levels and trends.

Those who are involved in management, for their part, determine short-term or medium-term fishery management measures through consultations and by comparing past data and the results of analyses.

For demersal fish it is possible to estimate fairly accurately the stock-size level (or index) by trawl surveys using the area-swept method, because the distribution of fish within an area is generally constant. By contrast, there is much greater difficulty in the stock assessment of pelagic-fish. With respect to small-size pelagic fish, such as sardine, chub mackerel and horse mackerel, the stock-size fluctuates due to natural factors, and therefore management measures such as total allowable catch have had to be used, taking into consideration past catch patterns, and pilot surveys conducted before the fishing season starts. For this reason, the only management step that can be taken is to quickly modify the allowable catch level, with close attention to the long-term variation in catch and CPUE (catch-per-unit-effort).

With respect to squid no direct relationship has been observed between parental fish biomass and the next year’s recruitment, because it is a single-year species, i.e. living its whole life-span within a year. On the other hand, for large pelagic fishes, such as tuna and marlins, Japan is not in a position to manage these stocks alone on a single-nation basis, because these species are highly migratory. Therefore, Japan follows compliance with the resource-management measures within international schemes, such as those of ICCAT, IATTC, IOTC, CCSBT, and meetings among countries involved with Central and Western Pacific or Northern Pacific tuna. These regional management organizations determine management measures for tuna generally from estimates of stock-size and future trends, by using statistical calculations.

Such moves have been adopted by various organizations after the ICCAT Scientific Committee introduced cohort analysis in 1981. Scientists spend enormous amounts of time on stock estimation every year, and managers and fishermen follow the results of the estimates presented by the scientists.

There are some variations in the models of statistical calculation: ICCAT and CCSBT use different types of VPA, while IATTC and SPC/SCTB use non-linear and non-equilibrium Production Models. There exist further complicated variations among groups of scientists engaged in stock assessment. This situation presents enormous difficulties and complexities for managers and fishermen who do not have any specialized background or knowledge of statistics and computer programmes. Added to this, arguments among scientists, are characterized by complex factors that do not necessarily produce a unified view. Under these circumstances, no fundamental solution to these problems has been found in spite of vast energy and costs invested in the improvement of stock assessment methods.

Accordingly, analyses by scientists are given to fishermen and managers in the form of simplified figures and charts, but the latter cannot understand the whole process from the database to the presentation of the results. In extreme cases, it happens that the scientists who conduct the analyses cannot themselves explain how the whole process of the complex computer calculations produced the results.

Based on my experience in various types of scientific meetings of regional fisheries organizations, I have come to conclude that scientists are largely divided into two groups. In one group are those who are ready to share the difficulties in stock assessment experienced by fishery administrators and managers and who struggle as much as they can to find ways of improvement. In the other group are those who insist that they are performing to their best in their capacity as scientists, thus turning the responsibility for the use of the results, including uncertainties of assessment, onto fishermen and managers.

The former is the type of scientist who attaches importance to traditional and historical fishery management, while the latter prefers building stock management programmes based on scientific and statistical calculations. In Japan, fishery resources scientists of the former type constitute the majority, but after introduction of the TAC system for seven fish species we are now witnessing a rise in scientists of the latter-type.


The current management measures for fish stocks can be largely divided into quota-control (output-control) and effort-control (input-control). Management by means of allowable catch-quota, such as TACs, ITQs and IQs can be often found in relatively newly-developed fishing States, while traditional fishing States attach importance to management through control of fishing effort, such as the number of fishing vessels, in conjunction with monitoring of various types of stock index. What is done seems to depend on the degree of experience in fishery management.

Management through catch-quota is management in terms of quantities landed, and virtually no control is extended to the actual quantities caught or discarded at sea. When costs are incurred in the acquisition of catch-quota, fishermen can only begin to make profit after covering this cost.

Management by limited catch-quota will result in retaining onboard the fishing vessels only large-size fish with high-market value, and the continued discard of small-size fish into the sea. To avoid this, it is necessary to prohibit discards at sea or to measure the catch, not at the port of entry but at sea after each fishing operation. However, in both cases high management-costs for observers and inspection throughout all fishing operations are involved, and in some cases, management-costs exceed 10 times the fisheries income. For this reason, such an approach is not practical as it involves the risk of rendering fishing activities un-economic.

Although management based on fishing effort-control is often considered less stringent because there is no limit on catch-levels, it can in reality be managed to provide for a maximum limit of catch. However, the upper limit in this case is not established arbitrarily. It is the limit that is established by the capacity of the fishing vessel, such as trawling-speed or fish-hold size. It is not difficult to calculate fishing effort appropriate for the size of the exploitable stock, from such factors as maximum catch-capacity per fishing vessel and entrepreneurial profit, and no enforcement is required if the fishing operation is not affected by pirate vessels.

Criticisms have occasionally been made with respect to fishing effort-control, that this method does not allow the annual catch to be established beforehand; thus control cannot be regulated for the impact on stocks (which in contrast, is guaranteed by catch-quota management) and management measures cannot be applied with regard to over-fishing by the fishermen.

With respect to the issue of the impact of catches on stock sustainability, I do not expect much from such estimates. The science of fishery resources depends on the construction of hypotheses to explain past results. As long-term interaction within the ecosystem-pyramid and relations between the stock (i.e. parent group) and catch (i.e. sampled group) are constantly changing, assessments about absolute quantities cannot be relied upon unconditionally, even when such results are presented by prestigious scientists.

As fishery managers, what draws our attention most are not the apparent and well-structured figures, but the stock-size indexes and estimates, or assessment values of the impact caused by fisheries on the stock, and how corresponding fishing activities have changed. Further, we fishery managers bear in mind the feed-back system to adjust management targets, judging from experience with respect to interaction of the two [relative stock-size and impact on it caused by fishing] that have not been expressed as numerical values.

I have so far mentioned the potential clashes existing between stock assessment and stock management. Many regional fisheries management organizations solve these issues at generally reasonable levels. But, the largest threat to stock management in recent years is the rise of IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported) fishing. The issue of IUU has already been taken-up not only at FAO and the regional fisheries management organizations but also at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA), but the problem is not moving forward towards to a solution.

With respect to IUU, there does not seem to be any conflict of views in that everyone supports its elimination. But there seems to have been little discussion on the causes of IUU because it is simply recognized as an absolute evil.

There exist two types of illegal fishing practices. One is illegal activity in terms of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Specifically, it takes the form of de-nationalization of fishing vessels operating on the high-seas by concealing the vessel’s registration or by flying flags of other countries [flags of convenience - FOCs]. The second is fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zones of coastal states without their permission while undertaking high-seas operations. The two types of fishing operations should be eliminated immediately, regardless of the diverse justifications given to them.

Unregulated fishing activities are not clearly classified as illegal activities within the framework of current international laws. However, engaging in unregulated fisheries targeting various fish species in various areas of the world will not only collapse international fisheries management arrangements but also accelerate depletion of the fish resources. In view of the fact that the member countries of regional fisheries management organizations comply with various stock conservation and management measures, the continuation of fishing activities outside regulations by non-member States cannot be accepted from an ethical point of view.

However, a State’s decision whether to join a regional fisheries treaty or organizations pertains to its sovereign right, it is not possible to compel it to become a member. Regional fisheries management organizations do request non-member States to participate in their management schemes and request them to take similar measures as those laid down by them, even while the non-member States remain outside their jurisdiction. At present there exist, although only to a small extent, some cooperative non-member States, who comply.

An issue over which Japan has a serious concern is the market-competitiveness of responsible fishing States and the countries engaging in unregulated fisheries. The fact that fishery products from unregulated fishing operations may displace from the market those products from fishing activities by those who clearly abide by the rules, should not be condoned, even assuming that the World Trade Organization (WTO) upholds the principle of free trade.

There is a risk that fishing operators who comply with international regulations may be defeated in market-competition by those engaging in unregulated fisheries. This may mean an eventual collapse of the stock management scheme. Regarding this issue, Japan is urging UN organizations such as the FAO and the WTO to take up this issue seriously. In the meantime, Japan intends to discuss the issue with other member States.


I would like to say that as far as fisheries are concerned stock management under the system of free-entry, open access and free-competition has already become an illusion. On the international front, fishery products have for many countries, shifted away from being only a source of food and already turned into a trade commodity to gain foreign exchange. And there continue to exist incentives to increase catch regardless of the domestic consumption capacity.

Of course, it cannot be denied that the control of fishing vessels at sea or at ports of entry is partly effective, but it is, so to speak, an endless game of “play-tag”, with the result that costs of fishery management largely exceed the profits gained from the fisheries. The defeat of stock management in this game seems predetermined as long as there is a public consensus on ensuring a sufficient food supply, even at the cost of allocating huge amounts of government budget for this purpose.

Management based only on catch-quotas has the aforementioned deficiencies, thus international, regional or domestic control is necessary at least on the number of fishing vessels. Needless to say, Japan is fully committed to take every occasion to appeal to the world on this issue not merely as a fishing State but as a nation heavily depending on fishery products as a source of protein. We have no intention to assert that stock management can be attained only through control of fishing effort, but unless fishing effort controls are the basis for stock management, we fear that all the efforts will come to naught.

Next, I would like to touch on stock assessment for management. Currently, the introduction of the Precautionary Approach is being discussed with a view to reducing uncertainties in stock management. No substantial progress in the scientific sense has been observed on this specific approach. In its annex, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement refers to the establishment of reference points and management in connection with ensuring biological safe limits and maximum sustainable yield. But there is no development of methods concerning the definition of those levels.

For the most part, either existing stock assessment approaches are taken, or debate is continued, depending on the “feeling” of scientists. While it is natural that there exist differences in the “feeling” of scientists, there have arisen substantial differences in the assessment values and estimates in the present situation where stock assessment methods are not unified. If maximum safety is to be pursued, naturally the lowest assessment values are selected, and cessation of unfavorable fisheries is demanded in cases where the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is not secured.

Is the MSY developed with the help of fishery-resource scientists? Originally, the maximum sustainable yield was dynamic, and could be understood as an equilibrium that could change according to the evolution of the stock and not only changes in ecosystem. Or is it intended to sustain the state of the stock state approximately half of the initial stock-level?

In discussion on uncertainties, one may take the view that the proponents of the lowest estimation of catch level are the most sincere scientists and managers. This is like carrying out bidding without a minimum price. The result of such an approach is like skimping on estimates and calculations.

Next, I would like to argue against the view that every depletion of fishery resources from the past to the present should be blamed on the irresponsibility of fishermen or administrative managers. It is true that both in the West and the East, there exist irresponsible fishermen, but it is the fishermen themselves who are most affected by marine contamination and environmental change. Also there are sincere fishermen who continue to be asked to remain responsible in a situation where no early solution is apparent to the market-issue of competition between the products from FOC and IUU fishing.

Given all these factors combined, I am sure that I am not the only one who doubts whether stock management by fishery managers, with reduction of catch-quota and the number of licensed fishing vessels in cases of stock decline, will suffice. Fisheries are not charities nor are they research programmes to provide data for scientists. As long as a fishery is an industry requiring certain levels of profit, is it not necessary to develop the kind of measures that would enable sustainability of fisheries by mitigating the variations of the resources in the natural environment?

Although I do not have the perfect answer to these questions raised above, I would like to refer to stock enhancement and propagation projects as one of the possible solutions. In Japan, projects on stock enhancement-and-propagation have been continued and expanded since the 1960s in the hope of supplementing other measures to restore some coastal resources which had been depleted because of severe pollution especially in semi-closed waters. Regional-based approaches were incorporated into a “Japan Sea-Farming Association” in 1979, and recovery with increases in the resources have been clearly witnessed from release-enhancement projects for such species as Japanese tiger shrimp, sea bream and herring. In the future, such trials giving due heed to the marine ecosystem, will be gradually carried out for predatory fish species such as yellowtail and Spanish mackerel.

As positive steps to stock-recovery, we could assume restoration and rehabilitation of the marine environment itself or the mitigation of environmental pressures. Specifically, one can think of the elimination of low-quality sediments and of making of seaweed beds and artificial tidelands to serve as nursery grounds. In this respect, we see a positive implementation of such measures in Japan, with support not only from fishermen but also from the general public. Needless to say, stock-enhancement is an approach with additional costs, which is implemented through contributions from fishermen, who are the beneficiaries from better resources, which are made the object of stringent stock conservation and management measures.


Needless to say, stock assessment and management should be carried out based on scientific evidence. However, it is true that the management of fishery resources involves large uncertainties compared with terrestrial living resources, because the fishery resources are distributed extensively in the sea and are not usually directly observable.

Since the 1980s, in line with the establishment of Exclusive Economic Zones, there has been a rapid increase in the number of countries interested in fishery resources, not only as food, but also as products for international trade.

To maintain international order with respect to stock management approaches, I believe that it is necessary to include consideration of the entrepreneurial aspects, not only the direct fishery-management issues but also the situation in newly-developing fishing States and developing nations, as well as consideration of international food supply and distribution.

It is my view that Japan, as a traditional fishing and fish-consuming State, has many past instances of success and failure in fishery management. While admitting that we need not learn only from the past, it is my hope that Japan will always remain a good collaborator in research on past experience as well as more effective and realistic stock-management practices in the future.

Japan has adopted and conducts fish-rights management through the effort-control system by limiting licences, and fishermen have also been engaged in management through their community-based mechanisms, which include a mutual monitoring and supervising system.

Since 1996, Japan has introduced TACs for several specific fish species (starting with six species, now seven), and these TACs have been divided and allocated to central and regional Fisheries Cooperative Associations. They have the nature of Individual Quota on a community-basis, without royalties or resource rents.

ITQs (as well as TACs and Iqs) are one option for fishery management measures, but they seem unable to fulfill proper management by themselves because of the shortage of measures to avoid the effects of the discard of small fish, or the proper compensatory or mitigation mechanisms needed, in cases of depleted fish stocks.

My recent concern is that large companies, whether they be Japanese or foreign, might trample upon subsistence and household fisheries in the coastal areas, or that weak fishermen may get involved in IUU or FOC fisheries by serving as a tool of the powerful large companies. Although the relations between IUU fisheries and investment have not been clarified yet, there is no reason why ordinary investors would not focus their attention on the economic efficiency of IUU fisheries. I sincerely hope that my concerns do not take on a concrete shape due to the absence of any regulations to control investment in IUU fisheries within the current international legal system.

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