Fisheries Governance

Governance of fisheries, that is the sum of the legal, social, economic and political arrangements used to manage fisheries, has international, national and local dimensions. It includes legally binding rules, such as national legislation or international treaties, and it relies on customary social arrangements as well as on the respective national framework provided for all economic activities.

Focus on the governance of fisheries has increased during recent decades because of the growing realization that fish stocks in different parts of the world were being increasingly harvested beyond their optimal level and the fishery sector was in economic and social difficulty. The need for limiting the harvesting of fish and thus end open access in fisheries became widely recognized.

The future challenges in fisheries management and the effectiveness of fisheries governance rests on whether institutions - that is, an agreed sets of rules - can be established and the practical arrangements made to coordinate and manage conflicting claims for access to resources and markets. The capacity to form effective management entities with authority over the whole sea area normally occupied by a fish stock is crucial to achieving effective governance of that particular stock or fishery.

While the basic concepts and problems remain essentially identical in the national exclusive economic zones and the international high seas, the systems of rights and duties and, hence the governance systems, are different.

The set of rules agreed between states to govern the usage of global fisheries resources also establishes a framework within which, at a national level, fisheries management arrangements are made. National fisheries management is itself a nested institution, or set of rules, in a global system of governance.

Where management is devolved to a local level, the institutions developed to manage the fisheries are nested, in turn, within national fisheries management arrangements. The management entity may also be regional fishery bodies, involving two or more fishing nations, working co-operatively to regulate access to resources in which they have common interests.

The United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (1982), complemented by other related international agreements, establishes the global framework for the governance of capture fisheries. The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted by FAO members in 1995, is considered to be the basic foundation on which to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development for the future.

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