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6.1 Strategic Choices

This study has essayed a general review of the Libyan marine wealth sector in order to facilitate the tasks of national policy and planning decision making on issues of fisheries and aquaculture conservation, management, and development. It is apparent that SMW authorities and indeed all national marine wealth stakeholders stand at something of a crossroads. Two broad and fundamentally different strategic options present themselves. The first amounts to little more than a variation of the orientation that has guided sectoral development since the establishment of the Secretariat in 1988. It has featured a very strong development expansion emphasis reflected in high levels of direct and indirect state capitalisation and capacity building. The result has been a very significant increase in the national inventory of productive equipment, post-harvest facilities, and aquaculture installations from levels prevailing in the 1980s and before. Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to reduce state/SMW involvement in ownership and operation of fleet units and post-harvest facilities, consistent with national policy moves favouring privatisation and small-scale business partnerships under the tasharukia approach. Whilst these changes mark a significant tactical shift in the way fisheries authorities encourage growth in productive and value-added activities, they do not really address the critical matter of sector investment costs versus volume and value outputs. Although analysis is hampered by lack of sufficient evidence, there appears to be cause for concern that harvest and post-harvest capital equipment and infrastructure inventories are becoming increasingly ‘top-heavy’ or out of balance with what the industry is capable of generating, on a sustainable basis, in terms of real earnings and socio-economic benefits.

The second strategic option, and obviously the one being firmly advocated in this review, would entail a reorientation of planning to guide sector development into a kind of consolidation and rationalisation phase. In this scenario, development priorities are for optimum performance in all aspects of industry harvest and post-harvest operations, quality consciousness, and overall improvements to the process of conservation and management measure design, application, and review. Basically what is involved is a commitment to refrain from seeking ‘quick value’ and short-term advantages that compromise chances for securing better value and advantages on a more enduring scale. The concerns for careful harvest and post-harvest practices, environmental protection, and maximisation of human welfare benefits implied by this kind of commitment are embodied in the voluntary Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries now being finalised through the work of a Technical Committee appointed under the FAO Council on Fisheries (FAO 1995).

The present study has included a preliminary ‘audit’ of present fisheries policy measures in the Jamahiriya, and their application in practice, in terms of compliance to Code provisions related to fisheries management, fishing operations, aquaculture development, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade, and fisheries research. It is strongly recommended that the Code, once officially completed, be adopted as a reference framework through which policies, policy instruments, and institutional arrangements related to Libyan marine wealth conservation and management can be reviewed and, as indicated, elaborated or revised. The ‘audit’ in its present form could perhaps serve as a starting point for this effort. Key themes and points for priority attention already highlighted in earlier discussion are recapitulated below as concluding observations and recommendations of this sector review.

6.2 Capture Fisheries

Figure 1. The fisheries bioeconomic model*

Figure 1

* Source: Aiken and Sinclair (1995)

The classical bioeconomic model shown above is included as a basic reminder of the dynamics and risks that are entailed in capture fisheries regimes. It serves effectively as both invitation and warning for planning and management decision-makers. As explained by the authors of the article from which the figure is taken, in an ideal situation revenues are maximised where resource harvests are high and total fishing effort low; but

[at] some point …along the axis of increasing fishing effort the sustainable yield declines sufficiently that the cost of catching fish is equal to the revenues derived from selling them. This is E - the ‘open-access equilibrium point’ - a quantitative statement of Harding's tragedy of the commons (that which is owned by everyone is cared for by no one). Two principles emerge from this graph: a) some form of effort restriction is needed to ensure the success of stock management and conservation efforts; and b) stocks that are harvested consistently at or above MSY have little opportunity to recover, particularly if the abundance is driven below the minimum spawning stock size required for average or good recruitment levels [Aiken and Sinclair 1995: 23].

In the Libyan context, where a) there are clear indications that effort restriction is not being effectively applied, and where b) the situation has been exacerbated by policies that tend to encourage overcapitalisation, and further, where c) at least in the western trawling grounds, demersal harvests already stand somewhere close to MSY levels, the messages conveyed by the bioeconomic model need careful attention.

Heeding such messages implies recourse to the strategy option of moving the sector away from a ‘development expansion’ phase and into a mode of ‘development optimisation.’ Overall industry performance improvement would be encouraged through, amongst other things, a better balance of fishing power with available resources and more consistent and comprehensive application of existing regulatory mechanisms, allowing for adoption of new or modified mechanisms as appropriate. In keeping with ‘responsible fisheries’ precepts, high priority concerns would include:

6.3 Culture Fisheries

Aquaculture has for some time been regarded as a field for major development initiative in the Jamahiriya, and several substantial projects are either now being undertaken or are in the pipeline. Clearly there is a potential for considerable expansion of culture fisheries, and in the medium-to long-term they can be expected to make very significant contributions to overall sector prodution. For this potential to be realised, however, present SMW policy provisions and institutional arrangements will have to be subjected to fundamental review and modification. There is above all a need for gradualism and careful deliberation in approaching problems of aquaculture development, remembering that many environmental, technological, and socio-economic factors must be taken into consideration and that projects must be placed within the context of other and sometimes competing marine and coastal resource use interests. Because aquaculture activities are still largely at a formative stage in Libya, the opportunity exists for promoting them along a development course closely defined in ‘responsible fisheries’ terms. As noted earlier, immediate actions are indicated in three principal areas.

6.4 Integrated Coastal Zone Management

Fisheries and environmental authorities in common with all individuals and groups with marine wealth sector interests in Libya urgently need to begin addressing the serious and indeed in some cases critical problems the country faces in terms of marine and coastal environment pollution and habitat degradation. Immediate actions should also be undertaken to secure protected or marine reserve status for natural and scenic shorelands, coastal waters, lagoons, and wetlands that are of special importance as fish nursery and breeding grounds, or that have other special natural or scenic value. Many such sites have been identified through survey work along the coastline, and many are currently or potentially under threat of development encroachment and ecological disruption. ‘Responsible fisheries’ ICZM-related actions that warrant priority consideration and follow-up in the Jamahiriya include:

6.5 Post-Harvest Activities

The post-harvest industry holds immediate possibilities for enhancing the economic role of fisheries, providing that initiatives are taken to improve operational efficiencies, onboard and onshore product handling practices, and general product quality management in existing processing and marketing facilities. The formulation and pilot marketing of new products or innovative presentations of established products is a further important area for initiative to strengthen the sector's earning and employment contributions. In line with the ‘optimisation’ strategy for industry development as guided by a ‘responsible fisheries’ orientation, suggested points for priority attention in the post-harvest domain include the following:

6.6 Research and Technical Advisory Services

Although the MBRC is under mandate to serve as the national research and technical reference agency for the Libyan marine wealth sector, there is a general need to reinforce its capabilities to fulfill this function. In accordance with provisions of the ‘responsible fisheries’ Code, the following measures warrant follow-up:

In addition to the above, and as recommended on the basis of Project LIBFISH team assessments of the Centre's requirements and overall sector circumstances, technical advisory services should be built up at MBRC in the areas of fish technology (Technological Research Unit and Quality Control Team), fish disease (Fish Disease Control Unit), and aquaculture (basic research and development involving aquaria operations, brood stock, hatchery, and nursery units, live and pelleted feed production, and pilot/demonstration rearing facilities). Establishment of such services and their operation on a permanent basis would require a staff training programme designed with a strong practical orientation.

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