Challenges in small-scale fisheries governance

The characteristics, performance and impacts of small-scale fisheries are particularly defined by the policy environment in which they operate. In some cases, these fisheries have been relatively undefined and unconsidered in national policy or implementation, while in many others, formal measures of regulation and control have been established, with legal frameworks and sanctions.

These have normally comprised various regulations for access and/or fishing methods and targets, but have often proved to be too complex or demanding to implement, with increasingly limited management resources in public sector agencies, and hence little practical control over fishing effort. While economic efficiency might be better achieved by conferring rights to specific groups -- who would protect their own resources -- there are also concerns about maintaining adequate levels of social return within communities, permitting at least some level of open access. 

Trends in small-scale management systems

A widely-developed trend has consequently been to engage small-scale fishing communities directly in the decentralized management of their resources, often based on traditional forms of rights, access and sanctions – as in community management, or very commonly to develop a partnership between public agencies and communities, found in co-management. These management systems often also need to connect with those for other user sectors, in processes of cross-sector management, as found in watershed or coastal area (zone) management.

The policy and governance issues of small-scale fisheries are often very complex and demanding, and good approaches and best practices are still in the process of being explored and defined in the very wide range of social, environmental and economic conditions which are to be encountered.


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