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The Malagasy Prawn Fishery - B. Coûteaux
QMS in Argentina - The Uncommon (?) Tragedy of Property Rights - C.A. Verona

The Malagasy Prawn Fishery - B. Coûteaux*

Malagasy Prawn Fishery Industry Association
GAPCM Villa Maria, Lot VA 20 BE - Tsiadana, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar
<[email protected]/>


Madagascar is a large island to the south-east of Africa. This developing country has a challenge to reduce its great poverty and to improve its economy. It is a great challenge for such a country to manage the marine resources of its 1 000 000km2 Exclusive Economic Zone and its 5000km of coastline! The continental shelf has an area of 112 000km2 and is narrow on the east coast. An important prawn fishery has developed which at present has annual catches of about 12 000t and is one of the primary sources of foreign exchange earnings for the State. Consequently, it is important to ensure a sustainable future both for the resource and the fishery activities and to improve the economic and social impacts.

One characteristic of the fishery is that the resource is very close to the coast, in shallow waters. The first trawling trials occurred in 1951, but the industrial fishery mainly started in 1967. Of the five species harvested, the white prawn (Penaeus indicus) is the major species in the catch.


There are three sub-sectors in the prawn fishery: the industrial-sector with trawlers up to 500 hp, the artisanal-sector, which is more varied in its vessel characteristics (more ambiguous) with trawlers up to 50 hp, and the traditional-sector. For historic reasons the prawn fishery is divided into 14 fishing zones; with 10 zones on the west coast and 4 on the east coast. Licences are granted and individual boat trawling zone authorisations are given each year for the industrial fishery. The development of the fishery has resulted in conceding 5 exclusive zones to 2 companies. The others are common access zones accessible to all companies.

The yield, or productivity of the fishery, is very heterogeneous. On the east coast, annual yields are about 70 to 80 tonnes/industrial boat; in the common zone, they are 125 to 150 tonnes/boat and more than 200t in some exclusive zones. Such differences were the beginning of the problems that the fishery has to face: some of the companies fishing only in the common zones are claiming that they should have equitable access to the resource in all areas. One must add that there is a bycatch of small fishes of very low value and currently a requirement to land one unit of bycatch for every unit of prawns landed.

Table 1: Data on the Malagasy Prawn Industry
(Dollar values are expressed in millions)

Taxes revenues


GDP contribution






Licence fees

Balance of Trade




- 208



Prawn fishery

+ 32.6







Added value (direct)


Direct employment

10 000

Indirect employment

30 000


The first precise economic data for the prawn fishery were collected for 1996 and are presented in Table 1.

It can be assumed that the economic impact has considerably increased since 1996. The total tax revenue has doubled and licence fees almost tripled. The contribution to the Gross Domestic Product is now (1999) about 1.5% and the revenue of the fishery is about $US100 million. The first licence taxes were imposed in 1996. In some particular cases, for exclusive areas, the fees have been increased six-fold.


There are 75 trawlers (between 250 hp and 500 hp), 68 of which are based on the west coast, and 36 artisanal boats. The latter have licences, but do not need trawling-zone authorisations because they are limited to the areas surrounding the main commercial harbours.

An important condition to obtain access to the Malagasy fishery is the requirement to have onshore processing facilities. The industry approves of this rule because it considers it provides security for the government. However the law is a little ambiguous and this creates misunderstandings among some participants as well as informal abuses. Today, there are 15 onshore facilities, which are mainly processing-and-freezing plants.


As everywhere, the Malagasy industry, which is 100% export-oriented, has adapted to international market exigencies, prepared for the future, and maintained its competitiveness. This has mainly consisted of adopting the international hygiene standards (EU/HACCP-based) and of horizontal integration by merging companies.


Madagascar recently adopted a new constitution. Six Provinces have been created and will acquire autonomy. Our association is concerned that this will multiply the fishery management problems. Already, five marine Provinces are claiming the right to grant licences. Also, the central province is claiming access to the sea, and therefore, the right to grant licences. As the prawn fishery is important from a socio-economic point of view, considering the level of development of the country and the weakness of the provincial administrations, the industry considers that the only way to create a sustainable and secure fishery is through central management. Thus it is important to consider the sector from a strategic and constitutional point of view. However, the industry considers that the point of view of the Provinces should also be considered. So, taking our cue from practice in the United States and in Canada, we have proposed the creation of a National Council for the Conservation of Prawn Resources. Such a Council would gather together everyone concerned with the prawn fishery (central government, provinces, research, surveillance and enforcement, professional association, etc.) to find the best solutions for the challenges to the management of the industry.


To face the coming changes, to safeguard the industry, to avoid economic over-fishing, and to reduce informal management of the fishery, the fishery companies have decided to organise themselves into an association. I have the honour to have been chosen by them to prepare a work programme, to run the association and to propose changes in the management of the fishery. This Association has been helped with start-up subsidies from French bilateral co-operation and is now fully operational and funded through its own revenues. In practical terms, the Association co-manages the prawn fishery. From the date of its creation in 1996, all the major contributions to the sector came from the Association. A basis of our management method is the well known Greek maxim: “Know yourselves”. We are convinced that development of knowledge and information will facilitate the debate and enable the establishment of good fishery management. This will reduce disorder in the industry. The Association is financing the National Prawn Research Programme which is conducting resource assessment and tagging programmes, a socio-economic assessment, and an anthropology programme in the traditional sector. The association has made an important macro and micro-economic study of the sector that will be followed up with economic monitoring. We also are involved in several other activities: bringing the processing plants into line with EEC standards, a satellite survey (forthcoming), improvement in port facilities by dredging, space management studies, a study on conflicts (around the world) between industry and traditional fishermen, a study on the concept of Concerted Management Zones (CMZ), and so on.


As Madagascar is one of the poorest countries of the region, a lot of people, mainly poor farmers, are migrating to areas richer in resources, in particular the regions where prawns are abundant (west and north-west). Unfortunately, a lot of non-governmental organisations are facilitating such migration flow by giving money, gillnets and other incentives. This creates conflicts with the local communities, conflicts over space with the industrial and artisanal fishery, negative impacts on the resource through exploitation of juveniles, problems for the environment (mangrove-wood exploitation, over-exploitation of sea-cucumbers and shark, for their fins) and quality problems. Gillnet fishing is expanding a lot and now there are claims from the traditional sector for a reserved 2-mile zone. This claim is now more or less supported by some NGOs and politicians, but also by some small businessmen for political and financial reasons (elections, securing fish resources to sell to the industry). The problem comes down to the fact that Madagascar has an ambiguous law regarding the sea that it is not really adapted to the fishery problems. A 2-mile reserve-zone on the existing baseline would exclude the entire industrial and artisanal prawn fisheries. It would be irrational, first because of the strategic importance of the prawn fishery for the economy of Madagascar, and second because it is a 100% export-oriented industry, and the traditional fishermen depend on the industry to sell their products.


After having obtained first the research information on the prawn resource and the economy, it was necessary to summarise the different problems that the fishery was facing. But the difficulty was the major issue of conflict of interest between the prawn industry members them-selves, and the resistance of politicians who had found good informal opportunities to benefit from the prawn fishery themselves. As a result, nobody was able to tell the truth and propose real changes. Finally, the Association overcame its conflicts and requested a committee of ‘wise men’ to state the 10 major problems of the fishery. This committee consisted of three fishery experts (J.Wilson from Canada, W. Griffin from the U.S, and I. Sommers from Australia). They were fully independent in terms of nationality and business from anybody dealing with the Malagasy fishery. Their conclusions were as follows:

i. Restructure the Commission Interministerielle and strengthen its role.

This Commission, comprising representatives of different ministries is theoretically consulted before cancelling or granting any licences. In fact, it does not work and its power of granting licences is discretionary.

ii. Freeze the number of licences.

Scientists concluded that the maximum sustainable yield has been exceeded and that it was essential to freeze fishing-effort.

iii Increase licence fees and rationalise Agency funding.

This agency for fishery development, funded by a portion of licence fees, was considered as managed with a discretionary and non-transparent power.

iv. Establish a viable system of surveillance and enforcement.
Compliance with the rules of the fishery is essential for its conservation.

v. Recognise the recommendations on the ongoing nature of fishing-rights.
Strengthening of fishing rights will lead to a more prosperous industry and more rational benefits.

vi. Remove the requirement of onshore facilities for retaining fishing-rights.
In some cases more rational benefits will be created from at-sea processing.

vii. Consider the establishment of Industrial Zones.
We prefer to speak about Zone d’Aménagement Concerté (ZAC) (see below).

viii. Integrate the traditional fishery into fisheries management.
Effective fisheries management must encompass all sectors.

ix. Revise the two-mile protection zone.

x. Enforce quality-control and different level of standards.
Failure to ensure optimum levels of product-quality will result in forgone benefits.


To set up a programme to reduce the poverty, the multilateral development agencies, e.g. World Bank and IMF, together with the bilateral co-operation agencies, proposed to negotiate with the Malagasy government a rapid development through a structural adjustment programme. In exchange for a significant programme of loans and subsidies, the government committed itself to a letter of intent (DCPE) on the common objectives to be reached. This consisted in improving key macro-economic data, reducing the debt, developing health, social welfare and education, improving important sectors (energy, communications, etc.). The programme may also include the private sector, which is considered a driving force for development.

In considering the first results of the fishery studies, the Association came to the conclusion that the time had come to take some strong management measures on the fishery. This explains why the prawn fishery has now been included as a pilot sector in the structural adjustment programme, with conditions to be met in terms of income (licence fees) and fishing-rights. Therefore an important study is ongoing to set up a transparent, non-discretionary and competitive system for cancelling or providing fishing-rights.


The fishery companies really desire to secure their investment and to realise a sustainable fishery, and are ready to pay to ensure that. However their ability to manage or co-manage the fishery must be fully recognised. I will use an image as a gentle hint to our colleagues in the multilateral funding agencies: the industrial fishermen do not want to be considered as sharks defending their territories and their privileges, they are serious partners wishing to negotiate. I would like also to emphasise that the industry fears dogmatic recipes for success and stresses that pragmatic, efficient and effective solutions are required. They are aware of the weak economic environment of Madagascar as a developing country, as well as average world fee-level practices to be considered, before any specific licence fees are fixed.

Are ITQs really adapted to such a context? How does one take into consideration existing investments and facilities and specificity of fishing zones? How does one control total fishing effort with the uncontrolled growth in the traditional fishery? How does one avoid the race for the resource and the considerable associated bycatch losses? How does one allow modernisation and renewal of investment? What will be the cost of any new system that is proposed? These are the main questions asked by the industry, and suggestions are welcome.

One option that the industry is studying today is the concept of Zone d’Aménagement Concerté (ZAC). Different companies could negotiate with local communities and bid together for a zone to be allocated. If they are allocated, a collective will co-manage the zone.

QMS in Argentina - The Uncommon (?) Tragedy of Property Rights - C.A. Verona

Calle 28 #977 (7620), Provincia de Balcarce, Argentina
<[email protected]>


1 This paper forms part of a large work on QMS implementation prepared under contract by requirement of nine of the major fisheries enterprises of Argentina
1.1 Facing the issue

This presentation is about issues and queries of the Argentine fishing sector to show where it is, where it is coming from and where to go from here. During the presentation it will be clear that we need to search for a minimal set of conditions that must be fulfilled to accomplish our purpose, that is: the improvement of the fishery administration.

With passage of the Federal Fishery Act 1998, the Argentine Congress for the first time mandated in January the adoption of a quota management system (QMS) to administer all Argentine fisheries. The new legal framework introduced individual transferable quotas (ITQs) as the core property-rights of the system. The stated policy objective is to avoid the risk of falling into 'the tragedy of commons' and its consequences.

Although some people in the government are working hard on the system, until now the attempts to implement the new regime have failed for several reasons that signal future conflicts. However, high expectations still remain in the fishery sector because of the need to overcome current problems - stock depletion by over-fishing and excess of fleet capacity.

The central government is facing the dilemma of continuing with a short-term strategy adopted during the last ten years and the need to design a long-term strategic orientation toward the build up of a sustainable fishery. New federal authorities (recently elected in a general election) will be urged to find the way to migrate from the weak traditional management practices to a full operative and effective QMS.

1.2 The nature of the solution

The rational behind 'the tragedy of commons', as it was originally stated by Garret Hardin in 1968, was that certain dilemmas do not have technical solutions. And, a successful implementation of a fishery administration under property-rights is not straightforward application of a technical recipe. International experience is clear that proactive attitudes to adopt the best social organization, with the power, skill and motivation to solve problems are essential to fully accomplish the job. Otherwise, countries that attempt to install a new order in the fishery sector will find that 'the tragedy of commons' changes her name adopting a new one: 'the tragedy of property-rights'. It could be useful to consider, as an hypothesis, how uncommon these circumstances are.

1.3 A prophecy

A 1998 mission by the World Bank began its final report titled: Argentina. Towards Rights-Based Fisheries Management, saying:

“The fisheries sector is currently faced with a choice between continued export revenue and employment growth, and the collapse of the most important commercial marine species. The distinction between these two scenarios is based primarily on the implementation of an effective fisheries management regime.”
1.4 Truisms about the prophecy

First. A rights-based management system can be a good idea in theory but it will only be a good system in the reality, if and only if, all the potential stake-holders, mainly the industry, agree on that. Second. Besides this, much depends largely on the will of the government to head the transformation and on its effective ability to lead the process.


The present outlook can be characterized by a single word: uncertainty. Let me explain the reach of this concept based on a number of points:

i. Although fishing resources as anchovy or hoki could be developed, and still others seem to be reasonably well-managed (shrimp, squid, scallop) the species of main economic interest (the common hake) has almost collapsed.

ii. It is estimated that as many as 10 000 workers could lose their jobs if catch-level reductions are enforced to prevent stock collapse (Argentina currently has an unemployment rate of 18.9%, higher in coastal communities).

iii. The Federal Fishery Act was temporary suspended by the effect of an Emergency Fishery Act whose mandate is to postpone the implementation of a QMS until December 31.

iv. Argentina has a legal framework to administrate the fishery but has no policy to establish where we wish to go.

v. The Federal Fishery Council, created by law, did not get the full support of the marine coastal provinces (only one on five provinces expressed explicit support). This situation created additional doubts about the formal power of the highest level of authority in the fishery.

vi. The Federal Fishery Council has neither been able to adopt a structure and legitimate operation mechanism, nor to understand its responsibility as the main institution for the political management of fishing.

vii. On the contrary, it has become a situation of disputes and controversies, where the parliamentary manoeuvre of not giving quorum to block government's administration has been used. The persistence of these sorts of problems will not enable recovery of the sector.

viii. The Argentine Exclusive Economic Zone includes 11 administrative regions plus another four inter-provincial limits. This creates many constraints to reaching a common approach to administrate the fisheries industry.

ix. The main course of the hake fishery's history could be inferred from Figure 1, in which the dramatic increment of official catches, during the period 1988-1997, could be clearly seen.

x. In this decade the National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP); by far the most reliable component of the fishery-administration system, recommended for hake a total allowable catch (TAC) in the range of 400 000 tonnes.

xi. Notwithstanding that during the same period the catches doubled, causing a decrease to less than a half of the total biomass and the spawning-stock biomass, and

xii. The fishing success expressed as catch per unit effort (CPUE) also diminished considerably (see Figure 2).

This anarchical and irrational situation, frankly contributes to the behaviour that hinders the development of the proactive attitudes that are required to favour negotiation and initiatives toward overcoming the crisis.


In order to frame the analysis, I found appropriate to bring an adaptation of Figure 3 originally from Csirke, J. and G.D. Sharp, 1984. Reports of the Expert Consultation to examine changes in abundance and species composition of neritic fish resources. FAO Fisheries Report No. 291, FAO, Rome.

The figure describes a fishery cycle, from its beginning as a mainly subsistence-exploitation phase. Then follows much growth, when the development of the fishery occurs by the entry of new vessels and by maximizing the profitability through the implementation of the best available technology, until full resource-exploitation is achieved. From this point to the over-exploitation of the resource is only one step, and this is unavoidable if the race-for-fish is not stopped. Traditional administrations have proven ineffective to limit the increase of investment of the private sector, which gives rise to over-capitalisation of the industry and collapse of the fishery.

Taking as a variable of analysis, the fishing efficiency expressed as the catch per unit effort (CPUE), the figure shows that, at the beginning the CPUE has high values due to the existence of a few harvesters with a low investment level in fishing capacity, and relatively abundant resources.

As soon as the development phase begins, the CPUE plunges because of the entrance of new vessels in the fishery. This tendency continues in the following phase, now due more to the progressive reduction of the abundance of resources than to the increase in the fishing capacity, that anyway continues growing. During the over-exploitation and collapse phases, the CPUE reaches its minimum values, before beginning to increase again during the recovery phase, mainly due to the reduction of the fleet and the incipient increase of the resource abundance and catches.

Figure 3 is an excellent backdrop to illustrate the reality of the Argentine fishery, but it is also useful to describe the attitudes of the actors involved, since at each stage their strategies and tactics are often deeply conditioned by the short-term perspective that characterises them.

What follows is an attempt to describe the responses that appear in each phase of the evolution of a fishery with the intention to schematically infer the current situation of the Argentine fish stocks and the attitudes needed to be adopted to promote, or to discourage, the actors and to achieve the necessary and adequate consensus required to solve the problems.

Figure 1: Total catch, Argentina and Argentine CPUF

Figure 2: CPUE and total effort, Argentine fleet


Pre-competitive attitudes

Before entering into the growth phase, the fishery usually consists of a marginal activity that provides constant revenues instead of income maximization. Under these conditions, the actors play within a scenario of cooperative attitudes, reaching a stable equilibrium among their members.

Competitive attitudes

During the phases of active development when decreasing CPUE levels prevail, the dominant game is characterized by non-cooperation. In their struggle to gain profitability, each company zealously looks to maximize its benefits over the other ones. Non-cooperative games impose a demanding competitive scenario in which only the fittest survive.

Post-competitive attitudes

When arriving at the collapsed stage of the stock everything turns out to be different. Even the better-positioned companies suffer its impact. It is here that the limits of the rationality are reached. The CPUE is at its minimum level - below the economic viability - and game-theory is no longer useful. The open-access fishery is in chaos, and those involved in it do not realize that the only convenient measure is to stop the over-exploitation as soon as possible. If this is a good description of a collapse, then Argentina has one.

Figure 3

But, today some actors still refuse to accept the new reality and they persist in attitudes characteristic of the pre-collapse stage by trying to “catch the last fish”. Others, generally those who feel weaker, try to present themselves in front of public opinion as the only sector armed, by appealing to the easy argument that the culprits are among the members of the strongest sectors. Notwithstanding this, there is agreement in the private sector, to blame the Administration by attributing the problems to its inability or attitudes, and quarrelling over the ethics, although many in the fishing sector took advantage of both weaknesses.


The previous situation described constituted the “reactive attitude”, and even the last, that of the individual's survival is only heard half-heartedly, given the characteristic scepticism that sums up the anarchy, distrust and uncertainty of most fishers involved.

If the repertoire of reactive attitudes can be resolved, one option can appear: on one hand their stillness represents resignation to cope with the unavoidable, but on the other hand, the difficulty of a “pro-active attitude” able to encourage hope in finding a common solution to a problem shared by all.

It is time to negotiate over how to search for alternative solutions to a common problem. It is neither about an unconscious willingness nor an irrational ingenuousness, but the opposite. There must be a coherent effort directed to create trust, on which a cooperative understanding can be built. This is not an easy task, but a worse problem will arise in the absence of other options. In any event, it is important to act responsibly, because to define a cooperative action and to give room for decision, the pursued objectives and the game rules must be clearly set out beforehand.

Participation and transparency are two essential elements when a process of this type is considered, as well as the capacity, seriousness and leadership with which the authority must act. There is no room for unproductive deliberations any more. The objective is to emerge from the disaster; which means that in the future those attitudes that have brought about the present situation should no longer persist. The Argentine fishery is experiencing the necessity of migrating from the present state to a new more reliable one, in which ecological sustainability, economic efficiency and social equity can be granted. If an administrative regime based on property rights can be implemented with success, it is because it will have had the minimum active consensus required, but once started, it will perhaps be necessary to play a competitive game again. The government's orientation and ability will define whether competition will operate in the global market, maintaining cooperation at the internal level or, on the contrary, in the national business sector competition will be encouraged also.


What everyone has learnt from this FISHRIGHTS99 Conference is that:

i. the transformation process to rights-based management is neither simple nor is always obviously what should be done

ii. a set of minimal condition must be present, or must be created, in order for such a new management regime to succeed and

iii. warnings, or other industry alerts, must be recognized early in order to enable timely recognition of problems and to avoid falling into trouble again.

i. The current strategic responses of the industry to QMS have been reduced to finding the best answer to a simple question: How to survive in a sea of uncertainties?

ii. The main concerns are about intended outcomes and unintended consequences of QMS implementation: the losers versus winners dilemma.

iii. The arrival of a new government has created high expectations about the short-term decisions and the long-term policy on fisheries.

iv. In the near future, the government will have much work to do, but a job well done will require commitment, consensus skills negotiating partnership, transparency and motivation. The debate has just started; it has not ended yet.

v. In reconsidering the title of this presentation (including the question mark) it could be said that the status of QMS implementation in Argentina is not such an uncommon situation after all and that it could exist in many other places under similar circumstances.

Table 1 summarizes the changing course in which Argentina's fisheries may be involved.

Table 1: Changes in course from the present and the desirable state of Argentine fishery management


Present state

Desirable state

Thinking process



Time horizon



Prevailing attitudes




On means

On ends

Social interactions



Nature of the game




Quantity and commodity oriented

Quality oriented


Minimization of present risk

Maximization of future benefits

Management style


Ecosystem and rights-based co-management


Focused on enforcement. Mandatory

Focused on voluntary self-benefiting compliance

Performance evaluation


Efficiency + Effectiveness


Top down: Command and control; Unaccountable

Participationary; Consultative; Accountable


Autocratic; Power-based

Democratic; Knowledge-based


Nothing explicit

About intended results; About unintended consequences


Government monopoly

Shared with stake-holders


No explicit objectives

Stewardship + ownership; Sustainable benefits

Management costs

Paid by the society

Paid by the private sector

Rents and profits


Society as a whole


On individual interest

On shared values

Fishing practices

Fishing the future

Fish for the future

Management responsibilities


Government + stake-holders

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