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As has been discussed throughout this document, there are a number of complex and difficult issues that require resolution before there can be a realistic expectation that a workable scheme to limit fleet capacity can be achieved. Some of these have already been mentioned, but only briefly. They are further discussed in the paragraphs that follow.

8.1 The Resource Base

It is obvious that some knowledge about the amount of fish available for harvest is a necessary prerequisite to setting realistic capacity limitations. As noted in Kirkley and Squires (1999a), excess capacity in fisheries should be defined relative to a biological reference point pertaining to sustainable resource use. To set the desired target capacity, a target resource stock size, or target catch, must first be specified. This implies that fundamental information relative to the productivity of the stock be available. This fundamental information would ideally include estimates of the AMSY, the average potential production that could be sustained at various levels of fishing effort or fishing mortality, and the ability to monitor changes in these estimates of potential productivity as a result of natural or anthropogenic changes. It is important to determine this for each of the species in the fishery, so as to evaluate which are fully exploited, which are overexploited, and which are capable of sustaining increased yields. The current situation in which most of the stocks of tuna are fully exploited, while in some regions skipjack tuna is capable of sustained increases in yield, is an example of the complicating factors in trying to set optimal limits on fleet capacity. If capacity limitations are set on the basis of skipjack productivity, there might well be overexploitation of yellowfin and bigeye, as explained earlier. Unless a means of harvesting skipjack without capturing yellowfin and or bigeye is developed, the difficult decision as to whether to forego increased production of skipjack to protect the other species will have to be made.

Of course the objective of most of the scientific programmes of regional fisheries bodies is to provide this kind of information, but the degree to which it is available differs considerably among the organizations. This is particularly the case when considering the various species of tunas harvested in a single fishery. Knowledge about abundance and potential production is better for some species than for others in the same fishery. When good information is available it might be a fairly straightforward task to determine target catch levels, thereby providing the requisite information needed to adequately assess target fishing capacity for the fishery in question. When such information is not available, or is inadequate, then it is essential that the first priority would be to initiate programmes to acquire the information. In the meantime, there is still an international obligation to consider action, failing adequate data. The Precautionary Approach, which has been codified in several recent international instruments, states that the lack of scientific information should not be a reason not to take management action, so in many cases some action will have to be taken, even though information is lacking on the exact effect of that action.

8.2 Fleet Statistics

It is also obvious that before any realistic attempts can be made to define fleet limits, it is essential that information about the size and characteristics of the fleet that is currently operating be available. In most tuna fisheries, a variety of fishing gears is used to take the total harvest. In some, such as that in the eastern Pacific, one type of gear is dominant. In this case, purse-seine vessels account for about 90% of the total catch, or nearly 100% of skipjack, 95% of yellowfin, and 50% of bigeye, while longliners account for most of the remainder. Pole-and-line vessels take about 1% of the catch from the EPO. Therefore, limiting the fleet size of purse-seine vessels alone could be an effective means of controlling capacity, and would require only information on this gear type. However, from a political or “fairness” point of view it probably would be necessary over the long term, to set capacity limits for all gear types.

For the western Pacific, the largest tuna fishery in the world, purse seiners take about 70% of the total catch of tuna, while longliners and baitboats account for slightly more than 12% each. In the Indian Ocean, purse-seine vessels account for about 41% of the total catch, longliners about 21%, baitboats about 13%, gillnets about 15%, and miscellaneous gears take about 10%. In the Atlantic Ocean tuna fishery, as in the Indian Ocean, no single gear type accounts for an overwhelming majority of the catch; purse seiners capture about 44%, baitboats about 27%, and longliners about 17% of the catch. Certainly for the Atlantic and Indian Ocean fisheries, any effective means of controlling fleet capacity would have to include limits on all major gear types, and therefore information on all of these would be required.

Under ideal conditions, information extending back for several years, on the number of vessels operating in the fisheries, by gear type, size characteristics, and relative fishing power would be needed, along with corresponding catch information on a per-trip basis. For most tuna fisheries this level of detail is not available, but for purse-seine fleets data on the numbers and carrying capacities of vessels are available. This limited information on the number of purse-seine vessels currently operating in the various fisheries could be used to set preliminary or provisional capacity limits for purse-seine fleets, allowing time to improve the purse-seine vessel data base and the capacity limitation programmes, and to collect data for the other gear types in anticipation of instituting controls on these other gear types.

Once capacity limits are set, it will become imperative that the management body be able to monitor changes in efficiency of those vessels fishing under the capacity limits. Experience tells us that when limits are placed on fishermen with respect to the type of gear that they can employ, or how long they can fish, there is a tendency for them to apply their ingenuity to improving their ability to catch fish with that gear, or increase the catch they can take during the time they are permitted to fish (“capital stuffing, Wilen 1985 and 1989). For example if the number of vessels, or capacity of vessels permitted to participate in a fishery is limited, the catch per vessel, or per carrying-capacity ton, has a tendency to increase through time as a result of technological developments by the industry, assuming of course that the stock is not being overfished. Therefore it becomes of great importance to monitor these changes in efficiency, and to be able to adjust the total capacity limits accordingly, as otherwise a fleet capacity set to harvest a certain level of catch, would, through increased efficiency, take more than that amount without a change in carrying capacity. (Of course, as defined by economists (Squires, 1994), capacity expands through “productivity growth” since potential maximum catch increases). The result would be exceeding the target catch, and possibly overfishing the stock, with possible economic disruption of the industry. Similar problems related to relative efficiency among vessels can arise when limits are set on the basis of fleet capacity. For example, say country A has a fleet of 10 vessels of 1 200-tonnes of capacity each, and by agreement it is limited to that capacity. Assume that a 600-ton vessel and a 1 200-ton vessel have the same fishing power and spend, on the average, the same number of days at sea fishing during a year (which is, in fact, the case in some tuna fisheries). Under a restriction on the size of its fleet, economic considerations not withstanding, country A may decide to replace its 10 large vessels with 20 vessels of 600 tons each, thereby theoretically doubling its fishing power. Such a situation would defeat the objective of limiting fishing mortality by limiting fishing capacity. Measuring efficiency changes is a difficult technical problem, but high priority should be assigned to that task in any capacity limitation programme.

8.3 Optimum Fleet Size

If the type of information on catch and fleets discussed above is available, it can be used to determine the size and composition of the fleet (optimum fleet carrying capacity or target fishing capacity as defined by FAO) needed to harvest a predetermined level of catch, or total allowable catch (TAC). To determine the optimum fleet capacity, or target fishing capacity, the management institution will need to determine what the TAC should be, for example the best estimate of AMSY, or some catch level less than AMSY in an attempt to improve economic rents, or some level greater than AMSY to maximize such things as employment of fishermen and shipyard workers. This, of course, assumes a fishery can be in “equilibrium” at various levels of population abundance, at, above or below the level of AMSY. It also assumes that keeping a population below the AMSY level is an acceptable alternative to the currently-held opinion, expressed in a number of international instruments, that populations should be maintained at or above the MSY level. In most of the tuna fisheries this task will be complicated by the fact that several species are taken by a single vessel. There are few tuna fisheries that are truly species-specific, the troll fishery for albacore perhaps being a notable exception. Most vessels tend to “fish for dollars”, and capture whatever species of tuna is available to them. They seldom catch a single species during a trip or over a year, although they may concentrate in areas where the catch of one species is normally higher than those of the others. For many of the tuna fisheries fleet sizes will have to be established on the basis of combined-species TACs, which may limit the amount of catch from one species, most notably skipjack, to much less than the stock might be capable of yielding on a sustained basis, in order to protect the more heavily-exploited species, or to limit overall supplies in an attempt to increase ex-vessel prices. Once this level is determined, the ability of the fleet to take that harvest needs to be evaluated. If the fleet is fully utilized and cannot harvest the TAC, then there is room to expand capacity, if it is underutilized relative to the TAC, then there is overcapacity. Kirkley and Squires (1999b) discuss this matter in terms of capacity utilization (CU), that is, the proportion of available capacity that is utilized, which is usually defined as the ratio of actual output to some measure of capacity output such as defined by DEA.

The assessments of the tuna stocks being exploited, their current levels of abundance and their ability to sustain catches at a certain level, are mostly matters of a biological or technical nature, and should not be the object of negotiation, or a source of great controversy among the Parties. However, determining the size to which the fleet should be limited is a much more difficult problem, and the subject of negotiation among the Parties. Once this limit is decided, then setting into motion a programme to actually limit fleet capacity is yet another matter, one that is more subjective, open to negotiation among the Parties, and much more difficult to resolve. It involves the issue of allocation, that is how to apportion the limited fleet capacity among the Parties: coastal states with vessels currently fishing in the area, coastal states without vessels in the area, but with aspirations to acquire vessels, distant-water fishing nations (DWFNs) with vessels in the area, and DWFNs without vessels in the area, but desiring to acquire such fleets.

8.4 Fleet Capacity Limits

For many tuna fisheries, especially if skipjack is excluded, CU is believed to be less than one, indicating an excess capacity problem. Therefore the issue is not one of just limiting capacity, but one of reducing the current capacity to the optimum level. Before there can be meaningful discussions as to how to reduce fishing capacity, an approach to allocating capacity among participants must be developed. There are a number of ways that this can be accomplished, with the simplest being a “default” scheme, which implies allocating capacity limits among the participants in the fishery solely on the basis of the current distribution of fleet. This means that the fleet would remain at its current size and distribution by flag. Obviously it would be difficult to reach a consensus on such a scheme. Those states with small or no fleets would be in opposition, while those with currently large fleets would be in favor of such a scheme. To resolve such issues, a scheme that allocates fleet capacity to nations, allows for reducing fleet size to the optimum, addresses the issue of new entrants into the fishery, and allows national fleets to increase or decrease within the overall limits would have to be developed.

Probably the most important first step in developing such a scheme will be to define a set of criteria that can be used to determine allocations. The various criteria that have been discussed by different fisheries bodies dealing with tunas have been listed earlier. Two among this list that are considered to be defining criteria, are historic participation in the fishery and coastal adjacency to the resource; however, the others will probably not be ignored in any negotiations to select criteria. Respecting historic participation, over the last several decades most tuna fleets have been owned and operated by fully-developed countries. For years, more than 85% of the world catch of tuna was taken by Japan, USA, France, Spain, and Taiwan, Province of China. Recently this trend has been changing. The Philippines, Indonesia, Ecuador, Mexico, and other coastal states, particularly less-developed nations, have been increasing their participation in world tuna fisheries. On a global basis, probably about 65% of all tuna taken is captured within 200 miles of shore. Most of this is within the EEZs of developing coastal states, and is taken by DWFNs.

How should these facts weigh in determining allocation formulae? Should the fact that a nation has a long history of tuna fishing be an important consideration in determining whether it should be allowed to continue to fish in the future at that same level? Considering the highly migratory nature of tunas, should the fact that a coastal state happens to have tuna spending part of their life in its EEZ provide any special privileges or rights to that state regarding preferential harvesting of the resource while it is in the EEZ, or when it leaves the EEZ? Given that most fishery resources, including tuna, are fully, or overexploited, should this be a reason to question the right of every nation to exploit the resources of the high seas? Perhaps Article 116 of LOS should be revisited respecting the rights of all states to have their nationals engage in fishing on the high seas. What benefits should accrue to nations that have invested political and fiscal resources to conserving tuna resources? Should a developing nation that has not previously been involved in tuna fishing be given preferences for fleet development over nations that have been previously involved and have expended capital and exercised political will in the conservation of those resources? Should preference be given to nations with a “genuine interest” in the fishery in question? And what, in fact, constitutes a genuine interest? Must there be a certain number of the nationals of that state employed in the fisheries, or a certain level of capital investment that has derived from nationally-owned and -capitalized enterprises. If there are vessels flagged under a state, but no shore-side infrastructure or investment in tuna fishing (a flag of convenience) does this constitute a “genuine interest”? These are the kinds of questions that must be grappled with during the development of set of criteria that can be used to define an allocation scheme. It is unclear as to whether the treaties of some international bodies allow them to deal with issues of allocation and economics. If there is doubt about their legal authority to do this, then their treaties must be amended to permit such dealings.

Once an allocation scheme is agreed on there will be two additional components of this scheme that must be decided before a workable programme to limit capacity can become a reality. The first component would be to decide whether, after allocating the fleet capacity limits among nations already in the fishery, to allow fleets of nations not previously in the fishery to enter it, and, if such an allowance were made, how it would be implemented. Obviously, it can be assumed that there is already enough, or too much, capacity in the fishery in question, or the subject of fleet limitation would not be under discussion. Therefore, it would not be realistic to expect that any nation that wished to enter the tuna fishery could do so. The same sorts of criteria used to make the initial allocations of capacity would have to be developed to determine which new entrant nations would qualify. Also, where would these quota limitations for new capacity come from? Would there be a reserve for new entrants set aside that is taken from the overall capacity quota, or would there be assigned property rights that could be traded among players? The second component would be to determine if and how changes in national allocations could be made. Tuna fishing is a very dynamic business. Vessels move from fishery to fishery, are bought and sold on a regular basis, and enter and exit fisheries as economics and politics dictate. Once capacity is limited and allocated among players it would not remain static. As overall efficiency of vessels increased (or decreased) adjustments in capacity limits would have to be made. A vessel owner with vessels under the capacity limit of country A might wish to increase the number of vessels owned. How could new capacity quota be acquired? Would the government under whose jurisdiction the vessels fished need to negotiate additional capacity quota, or would individual property rights be assigned in the fishery - rights that can be traded or transferred, or should the allocation criteria be renegotiated periodically as conditions in the fishery changed? These dynamic characteristics of the tuna fisheries would have to be accounted for in any capacity limitation programmes that might be developed.

Returning to the matter of reducing fleet capacity, this would have to be dealt with as capacity limitation schemes are developed. For most fisheries there is probably already too much capacity, so any schemes developed to reduce capacity would have to start with fleets that are too large. Once a reduction programme was initiated, capacity could then be reduced through attrition, without replacement, through some sort of a buyback scheme, or through some other mechanism. If an attrition scheme is used, it would probably have to be one in which an “attrition target” would be included in each country allocation that was proportional to the allocation. There has been a great deal of skepticism shown over the usefulness of buyback schemes. In fact, the FAO Working Group was generally negative about such schemes, indicating that even though they result in an immediate reduction in capacity, they encourage further investment in capacity. They also can act as an incentive to increased efficiency, resulting in increased fishing power, or capacity. However, given that changes in vessel efficiency (productivity growth) are monitored and accounted for, buyback schemes could be an effective means of handling some of the dynamic demands of tuna fishing. Although it may be too early to tell, the scheme developed by the Japanese fishing industry for the world longline fleets may provide a useful example that can be used for other tuna fisheries.

8.5 Enforcement

Once a capacity limitation scheme is implemented, then for it to remain effective there must be some assurances that the parties follow the rules laid down within the scheme. This will entail monitoring the numbers and capacity of all vessels included in the scheme. Likewise, some way of monitoring the entry into the area of vessels that are not part of the scheme would be needed. This would be a difficult task and would involve surveillance by member states of the agreement, by vessels operating within the programme, and cooperation with other regional tuna bodies. It may also involve requiring every tuna vessel desiring to fish on the high seas to be equipped with a GPS, which would allow the position of the vessel to be monitored by a regulatory body. To ensure compliance, a standardized series of sanctions will need to be implemented by the nations of the agreement. These could include port state controls and economic sanctions taken on the recommendations of the organization and applied against nations that diminish through their actions the effectiveness of the capacity limitation or conservation programme. In some cases this would require protocols to the instruments creating these tuna bodies, which would allow them to establish compliance committees and to generally treat the matter of enforcement.

Along these same lines, it would be important to institute mechanisms for exchanging information on the various fleets and their activities among the different tuna bodies. When capacity limitations are instituted in one region, there will be a “slop-over” effect of vessels from the restricted area migrating to fish in areas where there are no restrictions. It would be essential that such information be exchanged among the regional bodies. If there were no provisions within the instruments creating these bodies to enter into such cooperative arrangements, then they would have to be added.

These are some of the important issues that nations will need to address if long-term solutions to solving the problems of too much fishing capacity are to be successfully resolved. This will require the acquisition of much information, the cooperation of nations, the political will to find solutions to the difficult issues defined above, and international institutions to provide the necessary technical and logistic support. Obviously, it is highly unlikely that all of these issues would be resolved before a scheme could be implemented to limit fishing capacity. It would be necessary to create provisional and/or transitional schemes that could operate on limited information, but which could be modified and improved as additional information became available.

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