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Symposium 2009

Proposal - Accountability, Incentives, Risk & Value

The Challenge

Three quarters of the global marine fish stock are deemed fully exploited oroverfished. Declining or collapsing fish stocks imply not just the loss of economic benefits but also the loss of liveliho ...

Three quarters of the global marine fish stock are deemed fully exploited oroverfished. Declining or collapsing fish stocks imply not just the loss of economic benefits but also the loss of livelihood for many people in developing countries. The global challenge is to come up with management approaches to sustain global fish stocks in the future without withdrawing the basic food for developing countries in the present.

1. Improve Fishery Manager Accountability

Those responsible for managing fisheries – whether national or local governments, regional fisheries management organisations, or stakeholders – must be held accountable for their performance in managing fisheries. For too long fishery managers have managed fisheries badly without any official sanction. It has mostly been left to non-government parties to highlight poor fisheries management performance.

Recent moves to review the performance of regional fisheries management organisations are positive although it is unclear how much this will improve their fisheries management performance. The performance of most fisheries managers – including national governments – is not officially reviewed. An improved system of accountability is required, initially focusing on measuring and reporting fisheries management performance – including against strong environmental and sustainable utilisation standards – and then requiring improved performance.

2. Improve Incentives for Fishers

Fishers respond to incentives and, therefore, fisheries managers must ensure bad incentives are reduced and eliminated and good incentives established and enhanced.

Examples of bad incentives:

  • Open access encourages too many fishers to enter a fishery and results in excess fishing capacity
  • Subsidies encourage fishers to continue fishing despite their fishing operations being uneconomic, put additional stress on fisheries management systems, and result in overfishing and increased environmental impacts.
  • Competitive catch limits encourage fishers to invest in too much fishing capacity and fish in ways that reduce the value of their catch and compromise safety.

Examples of good incentives:

  • Secure long-term fishing rights encourage fishers to fish in a responsible manner because they can be confident that they will receive future benefits from their stewardship. Where practicable, individual transferable catch entitlements provide a strong fishing right and can encourage stewardship.
  • Providing relevant information enables fishers to adopt good fishing practices.
  • Environmental certification can increase the value obtained by fishers operating in well-managed fisheries and encourage them to support good fisheries management practices.
  • An appropriate compliance programme, including both encouraging voluntary compliance through support and respect for the fisheries management system, and creating effective deterrence through enforcement action.

 

3. Focus on Managing Risk and Value

For many fisheries in developed and developing countries there is insufficient information to support current management within an acceptable level of risk – both to fish stocks and the marine environment. Common responses are to undertake more research or maintain current management with insufficient information. However, fisheries research is often expensive and the cost of obtaining the information necessary to support current management may not be justified by the value of the fishery – however value is measured. Maintaining current management with insufficient information presents an unacceptable risk to fish stocks and the marine environment.

An alternative is to adjust management measures to reduce risks to an acceptable level. Adjustments could include reducing fishing mortality, maintaining fish stocks at higher biomass levels, and establishing non-fishing areas. The key change is to view both fisheries management measures and investment in research as variables to be manipulated to achieve acceptable levels of risk. This approach encourages levels of investment in research appropriate for the value of the fishery.

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