Governance of Capture Fisheries

Recent history shows that natural renewable resources - such as fishery stocks - are depleted in the absence of effective governance as soon as the demand outstrips the biological capacity of sustaining the particular fish stock. Effective governance of those engaged in capture fisheries is vital for the optimal and long-term use of marine fisheries resources. Restrictions to open access is an essential, though not always sufficient, condition for effective governance. Rights, and institutions that surround these rights, need to create a set of incentives that encourage limiting fishing effort to what is consistent with the long-term optimal, sustainable productivity of the resource. But even where these types of rights exist, their enforcement is necessary.

In effect, monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) is a key feature of an effective fisheries management process. This is a particular challenge in the governance of small-scale fisheries, which produce about 50% of the harvest used for human consumption of world's capture fisheries. Where large numbers of fishers are involved, using a large number and variety of vessels, successful MCS requires innovative arrangements that involve fishers, at a local level, in the design and implementation of the process.

Today, new technology such as Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have facilitated MCS in a growing number of fisheries. In addition, the distribution aquatic resource often extends into more than one jurisdictional area so that any meaningful governance requires that the management authority exercises control over the entire range of the target fisheries resources. This has implications at all scales, from local decentralized management systems to international fisheries management and from shared stocks to straddling stocks.

While there is agreement that free and open access to fishing is not an option, there is still an ongoing debate about the most effective and equitable way of authorizing access and allocating resources. The existence of an excess fishing capacity adds considerably to the pressure on governments and fishing authorities to agree to higher (more lenient) limits, larger quotas, higher number of permits, etc., than otherwise tolerable for responsible and sustainable fishing.