Doc. 9383

15 March 2002

Preservation and management of fish stocks


Committee on the Environment and Agriculture

Rapporteur: Mr Francis Agius, Malta, Group of the European People's Party


The fishing effort is too high, the potential for exploitation of fish stocks has reached its limit, fish resources are dwindling and several species are in danger. Socio-economic changes and technological progress are increasing competition and the future of the fisheries sector is becoming more uncertain, while the jobs and incomes of 30 million people depend on fishing, and fish represents 17% of human consumption of proteins.

Urgent measures should be taken by all possible means to halt overfishing and overcapacity in the fishing industry. This report therefore recommends reducing catches, limiting fishing zones and periods, tightening up technical rules relating to fishing vessels and methods, avoiding by-catches and discards, developing aquaculture, increasing checks and penalties, and promoting the training and retraining of fishermen.

The Assembly calls on member states to ratify the legal instruments and international agreements relating to the conservation and management of fish stocks, to implement practices aiming at responsible and sustainable fisheries, to develop international co-operation. It also supports the reform of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy and asks that its social, economic and environmental dimensions be strengthened.

I.       Draft resolution

1.       Fish resources are dwindling, and stocks of a growing number of species are reaching alarming levels. There is an urgent need for drastic steps to restrict catches and to reduce fishing effort, so as to safeguard resources, enable stocks to be replenished and guarantee the future of the fisheries sector.

2.       To this end, everything possible must be done to bring to an end both overfishing and overcapacity in the fishing industry. Catches need to be reduced, fishing zones or periods limited, technical rules relating to fishing vessels and methods tightened up, by-catches and discards avoided, aquaculture developed, checks and penalties increased and fishermen encouraged to undergo training or to retrain.

3.       Socio-economic, technological and institutional changes are bringing greater competition, at a risk of aggravating overfishing. In analyses of the situation, account needs to be taken of the concept of sustainable development, both in the environmental sphere and in relation to social and economic issues. When consideration is given to the future of the fisheries sector, allowance must be made for the biological dimension (regulation of an excessive fishing effort), institutional issues (definition of access and fishing rights) and economic matters (fleet specialisation and liberalisation of trade).

4.       Certain important facts must not be overlooked. Two-thirds of the world’s population live within 60 km of a coast; 80% of marine biological resources are concentrated on the continental shelf; the jobs and incomes of 30 million people depend on fishing; fish represents 17% of human consumption of proteins, while both world population and food needs are increasing, and the potential for exploitation of fish stocks has now been reached (at 80 million tonnes per year).

5.       The Assembly draws attention to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to date ratified by thirty Council of Europe member states, under which the “protection and preservation of the marine environment” and the “conservation of living resources” are obligations, as well as to the associated Agreement relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

6.       The competent international organisations have made it known that they favour improved management and better supervision of fisheries, with the OECD working on sustainable and responsible fisheries, the FAO producing a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related international plans of action, as well as the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, the European Union having its Common Fisheries Policy, and so on.

7.       The Assembly welcomes the progress represented by the introduction of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but notes that this has not enabled some significant problems to be solved, such as the preservation and optimum management of resources. It also endorses the analyses and proposals contained in the Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy and intended to lead to CFP reform after wide-ranging consultations.

8.       The Assembly itself has already indicated its views on these issues in Resolutions 1091 (1996) on fisheries management policies, 1170 (1998) on sustainable exploitation of living marine resources, and 1208 (1999) on challenges, advantages and development of extensive aquaculture.

9.       The Assembly supports the conclusions of the FAO conference on responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystem (Reykjavik, 1-4 October 2001). It acknowledges inter alia the interaction between marine ecosystems and fishing, which necessitates an integrated approach with a view to sustainable management of resources. It also recognises the need to take a precautionary approach to the conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources.

10.       The Assembly therefore invites member states to:

i.       sign and/or ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) and the Agreement relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks (1995);

ii.       apply the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO, 1995) and the associated international plans of action, and accede to the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (FAO, 1993);

iii.       implement the Final Declaration of the FAO conference on responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystem (Reykjavik, 1-4 October 2001), and, in particular, take decisions intended to encourage “responsible fisheries and sustainable use of marine ecosystems”;

iv.       develop international co-operation between states and with regional fisheries organisations with a view to improving fisheries management and preserving resources and the marine environment;

v.       minimise by-catches and discards and take measures to ensure that these are landed and counted, so that these resources are used and better data are available about actual fishing effort;

vi.       produce scientific studies and statistics concerning, in particular, the seas or species in danger, so that data are available which enable appropriate and effective management policies to be adopted;

vii.       draw up indicators relating to the sustainable development of fisheries which reflect all ecological processes, the limits of the ecosystem, the resources and activities of the fisheries sector, and so on, based on objectives to be achieved (reference points-objectives) or on the thresholds not to be exceeded (reference points-limits);

viii.       establish new fisheries growth and development models corresponding to the concepts of sustainable development, responsible fishing and the precautionary approach;

ix.       impose strict limits on, or even suspend, catches of overfished species, and prohibit catches of juvenile fish, in order to replenish stocks and maintain activity in the long term;

x.       reduce fleets and limit vessels’ fishing zones, periods or time, so as to help to reduce fishing effort;

xi.       tighten up the technical standards applying to vessels (restriction of power, tonnage and size) and promote more selective fishing methods and fishing gear;

xii.       develop aquaculture to supplement the exploitation of natural resources and cater for growth in demand;

xiii.       increase the number of checks, surveillance resources and the level of penalties, so as to increase their deterrent effect, and make fishermen and their professional organisations act more responsibly;

xiv.       prohibit transfers of fishing activities or fleets to third countries, carried out with a view to evading national or European regulations;

xv.       regulate access and fishing rights and negotiate fishing agreements on the basis of the principles of responsibility and of the sustainability of the fishing grounds concerned, taking account more of the state of stocks than of market criteria;

xvi.       develop training and retraining for fishermen, inter alia making use of their skills for the collection of statistical data or for the supervision of fishing;

xvii.       increase assistance for the laying up of fishing vessels and for fishermen’s retirement, until a balance is achieved between fishing effort and available stocks;

xviii.       improve international co-operation, especially so as to penalise illegal fishing and unlawful fishing practices, including the use of flags of convenience, inter alia by applying the International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (FAO, 2001);

xix.       strengthen the role of regional fishery organisations and adopt a regional approach to fisheries management;

xx.       make the measures taken to preserve fish stocks and to protect marine ecosystems compatible with territorial, economic or social policies affecting the fisheries sector;

xxi.       involve fishermen’s professional organisations and the industrial and research sectors in the preparation of fisheries policy measures.

11.       The Assembly invites the European Commission to:

i.       incorporate these proposals in new Community regulations and in CFP reforms, as well as in the relevant financial instruments, including the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG);

ii.       strengthen the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the Common Fisheries Policy so as to achieve sustainable development of ecosystems, of fish stocks and of the fisheries sector;

iii.       pay attention to the principles of food safety and consumer information in respect of fisheries products, by laying down standards and quality controls and by guaranteeing all useful information about the origin of the fish and the fishing or packaging methods used;

iv.       base the new CFP on the principles laid down in the Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy, especially by incorporating in it environmental, food, territorial, economic and social considerations and increasing its capacities for supervision and punishment, without neglecting the international dimension;

v.       give particular attention to the situation of the Mediterranean Sea, including it more in the CFP, strengthen the role of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, and promote scientific studies of the state of stocks.

12.       It supports the European Commission’s proposal that drift nets be internationally prohibited where highly migratory species are concerned.

13.       The Assembly invites the FAO to continue its work on implementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and, in particular, to adopt its draft International Plan of Action on improving information on the status and trends of capture fisheries.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Agius1


1.       Introduction        5

2.       The dimensions of the analysis       6

3.       Regulation of fisheries and bio-economic analysis        11

4.       The different regulatory mechanisms       13

a.       The allocation of stock ownership rights

b.       The setting of limits on operating rights

5.       Towards a new global strategic framework        15

6.       Sustainable development indicators in the fishing sector        16

7.       Individual fishing quotas and assignment rights       20

8.        The new territorialisation of the fisheries sector       21

9.       Conclusion       …23Ap

Appendix 1:        List of Council of Europe Member States Parties to the UN Convention

Appendix 2:        List of Council of Europe Member States Parties to the FAO

1.       Introduction

1.       Processes of change are intensifying the drive for greater competitiveness and are at the root of the rapid transformations broadly affecting the technological, organisational and social foundations of the world we live in.

2.       In these processes of change, the notion of the environment and its resources had until very recently been excluded from both theoretical and applied analyses. There is growing recognition of the need to replace these limited, short-term views with concepts that incorporate sustainable development.

3.       We are aware that certain resources are neither infinite nor infinitely reproducible, and we must therefore take steps to ensure that they are not destroyed, depleted or misused.

4.       The fisheries sector is one of the economic activities to have changed most in structural and operational terms. This applies both to its internal aspects (attitudes, sensibilities, specific characteristics, specialisation etc) and to external aspects (arising from changes in the international maritime order).

5.       The far-reaching changes that have taken place in the fisheries sector lead us to approach our analysis from an overall strategic standpoint, in other words to focus on a study of the problems and methods of multidisciplinary analysis. The aim of this study will be to identify, assemble and classify the knowledge currently available in order to arrive at a proper understanding of the problem and provide a description of it. It will also incorporate innovatory approaches derived from the use of competitive strategy concepts, which are commonly encountered in other areas of the economy, such as business management..

6.       We shall attempt to explain the pattern of unstable balances caused by opposing interests, and the existence and spread of conflicts of economic, political, territorial and technological interests. We are of the sincere opinion that fishing is an activity that does not lend itself to forward planning.

7.       We shall also address issues relating to the “new ownership of maritime space”, as a consequence of the new positions adopted by coastal states in their policies with regard to changes in the law of the sea and the exploitation of fish stocks.

8.       At the same time, we shall emphasise the successive attempts to reflect the speeding up and intensification of developments with regard to the effectiveness of fisheries regulation and management mechanisms, which would prevent the depletion of fish stocks and lead to more efficient use of fishery resources.

9.       The new developments in ownership rights, together with the “atypicality” of fishery resources, thus form the basis for an analysis of the modern fisheries sector.

10.       Scientific works dealing with the fisheries sector abound with arguments to the effect that the natural resources of the sea do not yield economic rent because they are common property and, for that reason, cannot be considered to be an end product since everyone has access to the same resource and can produce it.

11.       Others say that it is necessary to ensure efficient management of the natural resource and that ownership must be determined on a scale that will permit comprehensive management of fisheries.

2.       The dimensions of the analysis

12.       The three dimensions which crystallise the issues to be addressed by the fishing industry in its competitive strategies for the future are the following.

a.       The biological dimension

13.       It must first be stated that the natural resource is the basis for fisheries exploitation. The levels of exploitation of fisheries have so far been based on methods of resource regulation and management, which have themselves been based almost exclusively on the parameters of biological analysis.

14.       It is easy to identify the scientific developments on the basis of the simple and very useful formula derived from the work of Russell back in the 1930s, according to which STOCK BIOMASS = RECRUITMENT + GROWTH OF INDIVIDUALS - NATURAL MORTALITY - MORTALITY THROUGH FISHING.

15.       According to this principle it is clear that, if stock biomass is to remain stable, the inputs from annual recruitment of young fishes through reproduction of sexually mature individuals from within the stock and the increase in weight of all individuals through growth have to be balanced by losses through natural mortality (sickness, predation etc) and through fishing.

16.       When this quantity is excessive, individual growth and recruitment do not compensate for fish losses and recruitment may be seriously affected because - and this is very important - the terms of Russell’s equation are not independent of each other, but closely interrelated.

17.       This equation may be used for developing various models of population dynamics in order to determine the maximum yield obtainable from a fish stock, thus ensuring that catch levels are maintained over the years.

18.       To put this another way, it is important to ensure that the exploitation system does not damage the stock’s ability to recover. The regulation system itself can thus ensure sufficient annual inputs of biomass for the equilibrium to be maintained at a level close to the optimum.

19.       The various exploitation strategies or systems will then be determined in accordance with these principles with the aim of maintaining catches at optimum levels.

20.       Approaches based on the estimation of fishing efforts, the calculation of catches per unit of effort and the stock/recruitment ratio, among others, have served to develop various models in an attempt to obtain a more detailed knowledge of the biological parameters of populations and determine the best exploitation strategies with regard to both monospecific and multispecific fisheries.

21.       A number of corollaries may be inferred from the conclusions of these various contributions. Firstly, fisheries regulation must be a continuous process in which gradual progress is made towards optimum regulation and the results obtained from fishing activities are analysed each year in relation to the regulation measures put into practice.

22.       It is important to bear in mind that we have overlooked, and therefore abandoned, two essential initial hypotheses. We are referring to the replies needed to two basic questions: i. am I allowed to go fishing?; ii. under what conditions may I fish? In other words, the biological dimension is inseparable from the institutional dimension, derived from what are known in fishing studies as ownership and access rights.

23.       Secondly, recommendations aimed at maintaining equilibrium have not produced satisfactory results. Nor have the methods used to assess the state of fish populations been very precise, given that some analyses are not applicable to all populations. It is therefore essential to succeed in producing an assessment of the state of fisheries that can be used to guarantee sustainability.

24.       A clear example is to be found in FAO studies reporting on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture and describing the trend towards a levelling off in landings of marine fish, stressing that fisheries have evolved from a phase of increasing fishing effort and production to one in which production has stagnated and in some cases declined (ie a “senescent phase”).


(Ratio of 1998 production to the maximum production of the fishing area)





Atlantic, South-east


Atlantic, Eastern-central


Pacific, South-east


Atlantic, North-east


Atlantic, North-east


Indian Ocean, Western


Atlantic, Eastern-central


Pacific, Western-central


Pacific, Eastern central


Pacific, South-west


Mediterranean-Black Sea


Pacific, North-west


Pacific, North-east


Indian Ocean, Eastern


Atlantic, South-west



Source: FAO data

25.       In this connection, it is stressed that: “Judging from known fish stocks and resources of traditional fisheries, the total marine catches from most of the main fishing areas in the Atlantic Ocean and some in the Pacific Ocean would appear to have reached their maximum potential some years ago, and substantial total catch increases from these areas are therefore unlikely”… “Fisheries in the north-west Atlantic, the south-east Atlantic and the eastern-central Atlantic reached their maximum production levels one or two decades ago and are now showing a declining trend in total catches”… “In the north-east Atlantic, the south-west Atlantic, the western-central Atlantic, the eastern-central Pacific, the north-east Pacific and the Mediterranean and Black Seas, annual catches seem to have stabilised, or are declining slightly, after having reached a maximum potential a few years ago”… “The main areas where total catches still follow an increasing trend and where, in principle, some potential for increase still exists are the eastern and western Indian Ocean, the western-central Pacific and the north-west Pacific. These areas tend to have a lower incidence of fully exploited, over exploited, depleted or recovering fish stocks, with relatively more under-exploited or moderately exploited stocks”.


(based on information available on 441 species)





Could be exploited more intensively



Could produce more with an increased fishing effort



Exploitation close to the maximum. Control measures needed



Need to reduce capacity



Catches above the maximum sustainable yield. Stocks must be allowed to recover



Not under excessive pressure or unprofitable


Source: FAO data.

b.       The institutional dimension

26.       The traditional view used to be that “the sea belongs to everyone”, that it is a resource which is universally owned and to which everyone has access; and, therefore, that the sea is not a privately owned resource. Yet this interpretation has changed significantly over the last few years.

27.       International law in the 17th and 18th centuries accepted that view and supported the theory of “freedom of the seas”. This theory was based on two irrefutable assumptions which prevailed at that time: a. exhaustible assets, such as land, must be structured by ownership rights; b. inexhaustible assets which can satisfy everyone’s needs, such as the sea, the air and sunlight, cannot be owned and must remain free and open to everyone.

28.       This universal ownership of the sea (excluding inland waters, over which states have exclusive jurisdiction) means common ownership by the citizens of the particular country.

29.       However, we are currently witnessing a process of change leading to a rapid takeover of economically important marine areas by the coastal states.

30.       This will be confirmed by a quick glance at certain historical events. At the end of the second world war, the Truman Proclamation (1945) opened the way for the takeover of marine areas. The reaction by Peru (quickly supported by Ecuador and Chile) to the presence of American tuna-fishers in its waters led to the Santiago Declaration in 1952 and the establishment of a 200-mile maritime zone.

31.       The first and second UN Conferences on the Law of the Sea (Geneva, 1958 and 1960) opened the way for the establishment of 12-24 mile limits for territorial seas and the definition of contiguous zones. The London (1964), Montevideo (1970), Lima (1970), Santo Domingo (1972) and Addis Ababa (1973) conferences were successive stages during which the concept of “territorial sea” was gradually abandoned and replaced by that of de facto jurisdiction over a 200-mile “exclusive economic zone”. Consequently, as some authors have pointed out, legally and politically we were faced with the “collapse of the principle of freedom of the seas” (Badenes, 1997).

32.       It was to deal with this situation that the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea was convened. The conference opened in New York in 1973 and ended in December 1982 in Montego Bay. As may be seen, this was a lengthy and wide-ranging process of debate, whose origins may be traced back to the initiatives of the Maltese diplomat Dr Alvin Pardo in 1967.

33.       The 3rd conference gave legal recognition to a number of de facto developments: the establishment of exclusive economic zones, the designation of marine areas to guarantee the conservation of resources, and the possibility of promoting optimum use of resources.

34.       From the institutional standpoint, an analysis of the history of fishing points to two main trends. The first of these would be the dynamics of congestion in the exploitation of resources owing to the size of fishing zones, ease of access and the widening of catch areas. The second would be the dynamics created by processes of specialisation, not only in terms of production but also in geographical and territorial terms.

35.       Fishing fleets have developed in line with targets set for particular species to satisfy consumer demand and specific consumer habits. Trade opportunities and the associated territorial dynamics have also influenced the objectives set.

36.       In this connection, it should be noted that the majority of coastal countries have stepped up their fishing activity significantly since the second world war. To illustrate this process, we can identify three different periods corresponding to different stages in extensification, the increased operational range of fishing vessels, and specialisation of production:

*       The period 1954-1974 was one of rapid expansion. Catches grew at an annual rate of 4.7%. Landings doubled over this period, increasing from 26 million tonnes in 1954 to 65.5 million tonnes in 1974. Above all, fishing countries such as Korea, Japan and Spain achieved high rates of growth.

*       The period 1974-1984 saw changes in the international maritime order. There were both winners and losers in the fight for the implementation of 200-mile exclusive economic zones. There were far-reaching implications for fishing fleets and countries, which had to adjust their strategies both in management terms and in terms of the flags flown by their ships.

*       The period 1984-2000 saw new responses to structural change. Private fleets regain ground. The fishing industry and trade in fish became increasingly internationalised. Fishing operations underwent a process of deterritorialisation in terms of landings, crews and capital invested. World landings stabilised. Regions dependent on fishing were significantly affected. The processes of industrialisation and distribution of fish products gained fresh impetus.

37.       There are also some interesting results in terms of changing dynamics. There has been a very significant concentration of fish production (ten countries account for 65% of world production; the first 20 countries account for 80% of world landings, and the first 30 for 87%). Landings by developing countries have increased significantly, accounting for over 60% of total world landings in 1995, as compared with scarcely more than 20% twenty years previously. On the other hand, the industrialised countries have seen their share fall from 70% to 30%. World landings tend to be concentrated in Asia and America, which, with 55% and 27% respectively, far exceed the European figure, which amounts to only 16%, as compared with 40% twenty years ago.

38.       The gradual takeover of the marine environment is a complex process with specific implications. The following initial consequences may be identified: a. the number of possible users of fishing zones is decreasing, compared with the situations of free access which previously prevailed; the allocation of collective access rights benefits governments and, in some specific cases, private operators, via co-operation agreements.

39.       We are therefore talking about two different aspects. The first concerns operating rights, which refer to the conditions governing access to, and exploitation of, resources. The second concerns collective rights, which refer to the ability to manage resources, exclude from use of resources or transfer the exploitation of resources.

40.       This distinction indicates, on the one hand, the existence of resources which are common property and, on the other, the existence of a limited group of users of those resources who have the legal and economic power to exclude from use of an asset or impose limits on its use. The rules may be drawn up by institutions or simply be derived from domestic regulations.

41.       Accordingly, it is neither appropriate nor correct to confuse or identify common property with free access or absence of ownership, as Garrett Hardin might lead us to believe in his famous “Tragedy of the commons”. Hence, a situation of common ownership gives rise to sub-optimal results, either because the quantities demanded from resources are not large enough to encourage “owner-users” to pursue individual strategies which produce optimum results, or because the users of resources have (explicitly or implicitly) encouraged the introduction of a series of rules governing the management and use of resources, thus enabling resources to be controlled more effectively. In other words, the group managing the common property formulates actions which do not allow optimum results to be achieved.

c.       The economic dimension

42.       Economic analysis is linked in various ways to the determining factors of the fishing industry. Fishing fleets have specialised in certain target species and carry out their operations in specific areas to which they have access. Technical changes in fishing vessels, product preparation and storage etc will lead to the development of a highly specialised fleet tailored to particular fisheries. The same degree of change may be seen in the new organisational forms taken on by firms as they extend their sphere of operations and capital interests.

43.       Once catch strategies, ie the target species, have been defined, the available technologies are incorporated with regard to detection, navigation and propulsion systems, storage facilities and other equipment. The labour force is assumed to be specialised and experienced in the use of the new means of production and represents an essential specific factor. The combination of both factors makes for greater efficiency.

44.       Fishing equipment constitutes the most direct link between catches and the fisherman. It is therefore the key factor. A number of different elements can be identified:

a.        the design of the vessel and the technology employed influence the catch;

b.        fisheries may be divided into different categories according to the target species: demersal, pelagic or highly migratory;

c.        fishing systems may be passive or active depending on the fishing methods used, ie depending on whether a particular species requires the use of a hook or a net, or conversely, on whether the fishing methods are based on a strategy of seeking out fish resources and concentrating catches, and this calls for very important distinctions to be drawn when devising fishing strategies and management policies; and

d.        where selectivity is concerned, we can identify interspecific and intraspecific categories, the former referring to competition between species and the latter to competition between individuals of the same species.

45.       The incorporation of technology into production methods has led to changes in fishing and resource detection techniques, with the replacement of passive systems by systems that involve seeking out and concentrating stocks in limited areas.

46.       There have also been rapid and far-reaching changes in the organisational structure of firms over the last few years. Family firms have been replaced by concerns owning large fishing fleets. Whereas fleets were once linked to a particular locality, we are now witnessing an internationalisation of the fishing industry as a result of the processes of globalisation and extensification.

47.       To sum up, modern fishing fleets exhibit the following features:

a.        increased technological input. This has meant more sophisticated detection equipment; and larger, higher-capacity vessels, with the emphasis on capacity. This in turn has meant giving priority to faster, longer-range vessels. The greater scope for fishing in deeper waters has increased the variety of species that can be caught in hitherto unexplored fishing grounds and depths;

b.        larger fishing vessels. Improved processing facilities and increased transport capacity have expanded the possibilities for initial storage of fish products. The use of larger vessels has facilitated the introduction of new technologies and encouraged the use of labour-saving processes.

48.       The main implications of these changes are:

i.        an increase in visible productivity in a context in which fishing vessels are seeking to achieve higher rates of productivity;

ii.        the search for a maximising production function, by achieving higher productivity rates and reducing the periods for which vessels are inactive.

49.       Other effects of the economic dimension include those relating to far-reaching changes in the pattern of trade flows, fuelled by such factors as specialisation in production, decisions relating to the location of firms and the intensity of development processes in networks dependent on fisheries.

50.       The annual growth rates for trade in fish have increased more than the rates for disaggregated production; changes in the international maritime order over the last few years have encouraged the developing countries to step up their export capacity in response to the high degree of market opening; there have been changes in the table of importing and exporting countries, with positions being reversed in the case of some traditional fishing nations (the European Union is a very clear example); we are seeing a protracted and intense process of tariff reduction and elimination of customs and non-tariff barriers to fish products, which is providing a stimulus to trade; the prices of fish products have begun to fluctuate at a time when far-reaching changes are taking place in the commercial distribution of food products; some countries and firms have seen an increase in their dependency and vulnerability with regard to their previously dominant positions; at the same time, we are seeing far-reaching changes in the behaviour of consumers, who are increasing their demand for fresh and frozen fish products and for ready-made fish dishes.

51.       Consequently, the fishing sector is part of the process of globalisation reflected in the liberalisation of trade and investment and the dynamics of production specialisation.

52.       Our analysis of fishing as an economic activity would not be complete without a description of certain other strategies which have been identified over the last few years. Relevant developments include: processes of capital transfer from one country to another, processes of centralisation of consumption centres, especially at the distribution stages; consolidation of the new co-operation arrangements, under public or private fishing agreements; or the setting up of joint ventures to boost private investment in the fishing industry.

53.       These elements show that the features described reflect continued economic change in line with the new institutional and biological dimensions.

3.       Regulation of fisheries and bio-economic analysis

54.       Exploitation of a natural resource such as fish stocks is limited, grows at a given rate and is subject to natural mortality among fish populations, as we have already pointed out.

55.       The total individual productivity of a fishing firm, and its growth, obviously depend on the natural resource, which is a single resource. It is dependent on what one fisherman, and no other, catches, not to mention other biological and behavioural factors which may have an influence on fish stocks.

56.       From an economic perspective (and assuming certain limits) it has been established that fish stocks behave in the same way as capital (ie money invested on a long-term basis). As they grow they yield interest (ie economic value, which increases from one period to the next).

57.       Given that catches are our “common property” and are regulated by institutional bodies, it is in our interests to ensure their conservation. Hence, if we use the interest (without touching the capital) we shall be able to continue consuming indefinitely thanks to the capital we have, and we shall be following the basic principles which underpin the theory of responsible consumption. But if we use some of the interest and some of the capital, we shall be in a situation of possible future exhaustion of resources.

58.       Problems arise where the processes referred to above lead to replacement or extinction.

59.       As the fishing sector has developed, the situation has become more complicated, and the reality is more complex. On the one hand, there are limits to the growth of fish stocks: they live and grow in a marine environment which not only offers opportunities for their development, but also sets limits on it.

60.       For example, in the absence of regulations, a fish stock grows until it reaches saturation point, where vegetative growth (the difference in weight between newly recruited individuals and those which die) is zero. Its biomass (weight of the entire stock) is therefore stabilised.

61.       The situation becomes more complicated when we ask the following questions: why is there a specific ownership of fish stocks? Why can everyone use them without paying for them? The replies vary and scientific analyses are constantly revising the indicators to be applied.

62.       In his “Tragedy of the commons”, Garrett Hardin, starting from the assumption that the sea belongs to everyone, asserts that “no-one will look beyond himself and his own interests”. If this were true, and the situation was not put right, we would have to say that the secondary effects on others are of little importance. Taking this argument a stage further, we would also have to accept that long-term sustainability of efforts is virtually impossible unless measures to regulate and determine the conditions of access to fish stocks are introduced.

63.       The implementation of basic regulations governing fisheries is becoming increasingly necessary. These guidelines should:

a.       base their premises on producer behaviour. If the aim is to prioritise individual income, this means that the only concern is to maximise profits, without regard to the functions performed by other producers. This would mean focusing exclusively on the equations which would enable us to determine the coefficients of catchability and the price/cost ratios, without taking into account the other features of stocks, including the allocation of ownership rights.

b.       determine the limits of resource exploitation under conditions of free access, with no limits on the number of users and unlimited extraction. It would then need to be stressed that all kinds of exploitation have certain reference points which must not be exceeded, since it is necessary to guarantee diversity and sustainability.

c.       formulate an exploitation system in which provision would be made for total allocation of fishing and access rights to a socially identifiable group with limited extraction for the members of that group, without any need to recognise competition. This would mean optimising the fisheries in question.

64.       Let us return briefly to the behaviour of fish stocks. We know that the biomass of fish stocks grows rapidly, enabling the stock to reach a certain size. If it is allowed to grow, the rate of growth decreases as from a certain (maximum) point and stabilises at a level at which the stock is no longer growing and, therefore, exhibits zero vegetative growth.

65.       Hence, if catches are greater than the surpluses generated, the stock will decrease and there will accordingly be a change in the net surplus that can be generated. We might therefore find ourselves faced with extinction of the stock if it were to be exploited well beyond the limits of its availability and vegetative growth.

66.       The aim, therefore, is to achieve sustainable catches, ie biological equilibrium, and the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) will therefore be defined by the maximum catch based on the maximum net surplus generated by the stock which can be maintained independently without affecting the viability of the stock.

67.       But these models based on the biological dimension and the concept of MSY are starting to be questioned for various reasons. Their levels are those of “disequilibrium or unstable equilibrium”, since they have failed to demonstrate the permanence and sustainability of fisheries. In other words, our analysis must take account of factors other than those stated exclusively from the strictly biological standpoint. For example, exploitation technologies, which depend on capital and labour input, affect the fishing effort and modify the coefficients of catchability, thus altering the levels of biological equilibrium.

68.       The successive new attempts to regulate fisheries by way of the fishing effort (measured in vessel tonnage days or actual days of fishing) have also contributed to the definition of new exploitation conditions.

69.       In the same way, the differences between income and exploitation costs linked to the biological models will give rise to further objections. Hitherto, the generally accepted view has been that effort variables are measured in relation to fish mortality in a certain number of stocks, whose significance can be altered through the imposition of exploitation limits and levels.

70.       Paradoxically, if this argument were taken to its logical conclusion, we could show that a single vessel (with increased fishing capacity through capital and technology input) could exhaust stocks.

71.       The new conditions for economic equilibrium are closely linked to the institutional conditions of those who have access to resources. In a situation of free access, equilibrium will occur when the income per unit of catch is equal to the average cost, ie when the total income is equal to the total cost. What does this statement mean? That fishermen will work until income is equal to cost or until the rent from fishery is zero or is dissipated, so that only costs are covered.

72.       The following points can therefore be made:

a.        each fisherman adopts as his basic and main criterion the fact that he will not take into account the consequences of his decisions for the well-being of society as a whole;

b.        likewise, he does not take into consideration the performance of other fishermen and the situation and growth of stocks;

c.        in a situation of free access, a fisherman has no incentive to consider these questions as the fish not caught by him will be caught by someone else.

73.       Each fisherman will therefore be motivated by the maximisation of his individual rent, which will guarantee him a higher net income than that which could be earned in other occupations.

74.       Consequently, where the individual fisherman is concerned, the condition for equilibrium is to fish until average income is equal to marginal cost, ie the cost of fishing an additional kilo of fish.

75.       The contradiction arises where each fisherman’s share of the total income is equal to that of the others. It is clear that the conditions for equilibrium of the individual fisherman’s marginal productivity will never be achieved, since there is no limit to the number of possible fishermen.

76.       This being so, the conditions of competition leads us to conclude that every fisherman fishes what he can and competes with the others for ownership of the income. In this way, each fisherman can increase his activity through his own efforts or by investing in new vessels.

77.       Taking this argument a stage further, we could envisage a situation where average income was less than average cost, which would lead to a dissipation of rent. This would undoubtedly result in non-optimal resource allocation, whether in economic, social or biological terms.

78.       In a single-owner situation, ie where one group or institution owns all the rights, the “if I don’t do it, others will” situation would no longer be applicable since the function to be maximised would be that of rent, and marginal income would then be equal to marginal cost and the point of equilibrium would be higher, although we are placing ourselves in a situation of oligopoly.

4.       The different regulatory mechanisms

79.       Where a resource is exploited in a situation of free access, the following assumptions may be made:

a.       the resources is not shared, but is exploited competitively;

b.       which means that if one person does not fish, others will do so, as a result of which the rents generated will be appropriated;

c.       the performance of fishermen is affected in terms of cost per unit of effort by the various functions and behaviours of other fishermen, since we are in a situation of competition.

80.       The solutions lie in two areas: the allocation de jure of operational ownership rights to companies or management units; and the setting of limits on resource extraction, whether directly or indirectly, in the search for an optimal solution.

81.       Indirect limits could be set by defining operational access rights (licences or incentive setting), while direct limits could be set by establishing quotas.

a.       The allocation of stock ownership rights

82.       If stock ownership is allocated to an agent or a public or private company for the exercise of operating rights, we are once again in the single-owner situation. Although it is not exactly a monopoly, it functions as such. The aim is to maximise the rent from the natural resource according to the criteria of social surplus, in contrast to the monopolist’s rent. Or, as Ostrom puts it, the agent will have incentives to exploit and invest optimally in fisheries with a long-term vision, since he does not suffer the externality of others and, in addition, can transfer some of the operating rights.

83.       In this approach, three conditions have to be met to achieve the optimum:

i.       prices must be determined externally by markets,

ii.       the price and cost of inputs must reflect their social opportunity costs, including the shadow price of fishing resources;

iii.       the discount rate applied by the single owner must be equal to the discount rate for society.

84.       These conditions are open to various criticisms based on different ideological and political positions, bureaucratic inefficiency, or the likelihood of social problems and conflicts.

b.       The setting of limits on operating rights

85.        These involve limiting extraction in order to achieve optimum solutions. In order to achieve this aim, two basic questions must be considered:

a.       the compatibility of the regulatory mechanisms with producer behaviour;

b.       the efficiency of information provision.

In both cases, the aim is to avoid loss of income and minimise transaction costs.

86.       The limits on these rights may be direct or indirect.

87.       The most common indirect limits are those relating to the imposition of taxes on catches, taxes on the fishing effort, limits to the use of fishing nets, and limits by way of licences for access to fishing grounds.

88.       The aim in imposing taxes is to set a price for use of the resource or make its exploitation more expensive in order to limit extraction. This approach is bound to lead to inefficiency as it is sometimes an incentive to work or invest less (tax on catches or income), forcing us to reconsider the situation with regard to access.

89.       Regulations governing the use of nets and other fishing methods have a short-term limiting effect on fishing efforts, with the aim of influencing the productivity of stocks in the medium and long term. Their use is based on the need to achieve an improvement in CPUE (catch per unity of effort) ratios and on the need for fishermen to comply with such limits. They require rapid and continuous intervention to maintain the trend towards the generation of positive rents though reallocation of the labour force and the capital invested in vessels.

90.       Hence, the pattern would be as follows: restrictions on the use of fishing nets => increase in average cost => reduction in the fishing effort => some fishermen are unable to bear the cost and therefore abandon the fishing grounds => stock productivity recovers => CPUE increases.

91.       The net regulatory effort is determined by a comparison between the net gain from reducing the effort and the increase in the cost of adjusting fishing to the new CPUE and in the marginal cost.

92.       The other limits are based on the use of licences. They are commonly used by public institutions. They aim to limit the pressure on stocks by limiting access to them. Consequently, the maximum number of licences must be equal to the number of fishing vessels.

93.       Hannesson draws a distinction between long-term licences (where the fisherman holds no interest in the fishery and the aim is to control aggregate capacity) and short-term licences (which mean matching licences to stock fluctuations and which, therefore, are flexible on a day-to-day basis since the effort/stock ratio is relatively unstable).

94.       The intention, therefore, is that licences should be highly specific and set limits on tonnages, capacities, fishing nets and techniques. Their operation calls for close monitoring, especially with regard to the continual structural changes in productive units, which directly effect the real capacity of vessels.

95.       Where licences are concerned, there are major discrepancies between theory and practice, with the result that they are sometimes dismissed as paper licences in the bureaucratic sense, far removed from the real world of fisheries.

96.       Direct regulation methods are the most common and the main instruments are those concerned with the setting of quotas. These revolve around the concept of Total Admissible Catches (TAC), which is defined as the quantity which can and must be caught in order to ensure that the optimum size of fish populations and the optimum value corresponding to the single-owner solution does not endanger the fishery.

97.       The setting of quotas under the TAC system determines the short-term or permanent nature of resource exploitation. This system operates on the following basis:

i.       the quotas allocated to fishermen are shared out equally, and do not generate ex-ante rights to, and ownership of, the resource for any particular fisherman. The system is that fishermen may fish what they want provided they do not exceed the limit imposed. If the limit is reached, access to the fishery is closed;

ii.       the quota may be distributed among fishermen. The ex-ante nature of the system facilitates the transfer of “fishing options” to other fishermen. The idea is therefore to set limits on common property, in the sense of defining it as a quasi-right of operational ownership of a certain quantity of fish, which is granted to a specific fisherman who may either exercise it himself or transfer it.

98.       The TAC system involves not only limiting extraction but also achieving qualitative objectives. The reasoning is as follows: if we share out the quota among fishing vessels, we avoid the “race to fish” and limit the effects of the competitive conditions of exploitation; we reduce the obligation to fish for everything in the shortest possible time; we make it less necessary to step up investment in order to increase productivity; and we avoid trends towards under-capitalisation and inactive fishing vessels.

99.       The allocation of quotas therefore makes it possible to guarantee specific catches, improve the attitudes and behaviour of fishermen, rationalise their catches and eliminate all loss of rent. Similarly, the transferability of quotas meets efficiency criteria as its speeds up the concentration process by providing for the purchase of access and fishing rights, which may be acquired fully or partly, and on a temporary or permanent basis.

100.       Problems will arise where:

a.       there is incompatibility between the regulators’ and fishermen’s interests; and

b.        the decisions taken by some fishermen lead to partial transferability and processes of exclusion occur in certain areas dependent on fisheries.

5.       Towards a new global strategic framework

101.       As our starting point we took the biological, institutional and economic aspects of the structural changes in the fisheries sector. We have considered technological and organisational advances and the behavioural dimension and examined how the various regulatory proposals were implemented in the fisheries sector and with what main results. It remains for us to consider how the fisheries will fit into a new, more global strategic framework.

102.       The following vectors provide a very simple framework:

a.        the definition of property rights in favour of firms, and

b.        a compartmentalisation and/or re-nationalisation process.

103.       Granting access rights to individual firms means setting up barriers to control access to fish populations. This approach is being contemplated and advocated in some fishing communities where the public authorities do not want to be accused of inefficient management and prefer instead to delegate resource management responsibility to private agents or firms. If this solution were to be applied, the economic activity concerned would obviously become very attractive to private investors. It would confirm the partial application of the “subsidiarity principle” or the “delegation of access rights” to a specific group identified in terms of either its geographical characteristics or its field and degree of specialisation.

104.       The conditions of access would entail the exclusion of possible rivals in the same field of activity. So there would be a gradual restriction of access to fishing zones by a broad spectrum of institutional authorities.

105.       The compartmentalisation process in the fishing industry is gathering speed. One of its faces is the ill-considered transfer of fisheries management into the hands of firms, making them virtual owners of fish stocks, which contributes to concentration in production. In other words, the flaw in the market originates in control of the different stages of access to the resource, then widens out into the vertical and horizontal integration phases.

106.       More than maximising short-term profit, therefore, what counts is maximising “advantages”, ie those factors which determine access to resources and regulated competition, which together help to “minimise disadvantages”.

107.       The new competitive environment will be determined by the role, responsibility and development of the producer organisations and the new approaches adopted by firms. This “new competition” can be generated from within or from outside. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that with extensive resource over-exploitation and declining stock productivity there should be calls for bonus schemes to guarantee financial sustainability. This is the reason behind a current move towards exclusion, the elimination of rivals and the increase in direct or indirect subsidies.

108.       Similarly, competition has an external dimension. It is determined by production diversification and substitution catches. Both competition processes stimulate innovation and thus help to broaden business prospects and develop strategies to catch substitute species and enhance resource potential.

109.       New developments in fisheries are gathering momentum under the influence of various emerging trends.

i.       First, the increasingly dense population in coastal areas: about two-thirds of the world population live within 60 kilometres of the sea. In 30 years the figure will probably be 75%, ie 6.4 billion people.

ii.       Secondly, as 80% of the sea’s biological resources are concentrated on the continental shelf around the shoreline, there will be a tendency to extend special powers to the waters adjacent to the exclusive economic zones of coastal states. This means new territorialisation processes that will lead to new processes of dependence on external resources and new levels of vulnerability for certain fleets.

iii.       Thirdly, population growth in coastal areas will increase the pressure on biological resources and ecosystems.

iv.       Fourthly, as a result of globalisation, protein consumption will double by 2025 compared with 20th century levels, according to the OECD publication “The Future of Food”. And most of this increase will occur in the developing countries.

v.       In fifth place, we shall see a reduction of the workforce in some countries’ fleets (in the European Union, for example), partly because of new land-based job openings and partly because of a loss of interest in fishing as a vocation, which could undermine the seafaring culture.

vi.       And in sixth and final place, it will become increasingly difficult for countries to conclude fishing agreements in the face of obstruction from inhabitants of coastal regions and private agents.

110.       The rapidly increasing contribution by aquaculture to world fishery products supply has two major implications on fisheries development, viz.,

i.        its continued dependence on the fisheries sector for its supply of fish meal

ii.        its impact on the fisheries sector such as on wild salmon fisheries and more recently on the fisheries of the large pelagic migratory species such as bluefin tunas which are increasingly being sought for penning in large offshore cages.

111.       The dynamics of change and readjustment in the fishing sector are therefore complex and interdependent.

6.       Sustainable development indicators in the fishing sector

112.       In recent years there has been growing concern over the contribution of fishing to sustainable development and efforts to remedy over-fishing, excess catch capacity, the depletion of certain populations and ecosystem changes brought on by human activities. The development and globalisation of fishing as a commercial activity, with its repercussions on supply and local economic development in coastal countries have also been closely monitored.

113.       Well-documented planning and regulation processes in some fisheries provide us with excellent documentary information as a basis for the implementation of management policies governed by the precautionary principle. In other fisheries, however, little information is available and scant use has been made of fisheries management techniques. Hence the need to develop indicators to show the state of fish stocks and provide guidelines for sustainable development efforts.

114.       Sustainable development indicators must be compatible with international agreements and the information must be shared at every level, local, national and international.

115.       Preparing these indicators means selecting a specific geographic unit that must reflect all the ecological processes that define the limits of the particular ecosystem, fish stocks and fishing activities and also political jurisdiction.

116.       The indicators must reflect the situation of the system in relation to social aims and objectives. Sustainable development is one target in fisheries management. Indicators should therefore measure the long-term sustainability of the whole ecosystem related to the fishing activity and the net benefits in terms of the welfare of those involved in fishery activities and of society in general.

117.       Sustainable development can only be achieved by maintaining all the component parts, which are all interdependent. The essential component parts are: the ecosystems, the economy, society, technology and the institutions. The ecosystem affects fish stocks, which sustain the activity, and is therefore instrumental in controlling resource productivity. The economy is how we define costs and profits in the sector and financial flows into and out of it. Technology speeds up production processes and brings organisational changes through new relations. And the institutions are the standards and organisations that govern the system.

118.       As it is difficult to develop valid indicators that use the best and latest scientific data available, making it possible to remain viable and efficient in terms of cost and experience, two types of indicators are proposed: “reference values or points”, which set objectives (standards which, if maintained, guarantee a good yield), and “threshold values”, which set limits not to be overstepped.

119.       The important thing is to develop common indicators for all the components of the system which are generally approved and accepted. This is possible for ecosystem factors in relation to the state of fish stocks; or for cost and profit indicators (level of capitalisation) in relation to the economic dimension. It is possible in this way to monitor the impact of the policies applied, which acts as an incentive for the public authorities and producers involved and facilitates communication between the various international organisations and national authorities.

120.       Realisation that former models of economic growth and development in fisheries were unsatisfactory (because there were insufficient statistical data to correct malfunctions) led to the introduction of the “sustainable development” concept, ie “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

121.       The fact that the fishing industry has a catch capacity well in excess of the rate at which ecosystems can reproduce fish stocks is a sign that natural resources (fish) and capital are not being used efficiently.

122       Similarly, market globalisation has formalised the diversion of part of the industry’s production from the local and national markets on to the export market, which raises two questions: the question of efficiency, or the distribution of profits, and that of the impact of immediate ultra-specialisation on natural resources.

123.       The fishing industry is swift to adapt. It is market-led and internationally very dynamic. The pressure on stocks is increasing because of the increase in protein consumption as the world population expands. At the same time, rapid technological progress means greater efficiency and obliges governments to place limits and restrictions on intensive fishing.

124.       Sustainable development in the fisheries sector requires a number of things: improved awareness of the factors that affect traditional fisheries management; better integration of fisheries management in coastal development plans; tighter controls over access to shared resources; a stronger institutional and legal framework; improved participation by all stakeholders in fisheries management; monitoring, supervisory and application systems; measures to offset the uncertainty caused by fluctuations in natural resources and ecosystem dynamics; determination on the part of the community to use natural resources responsibly.

125.       The aims are: to maintain fishing activities within specific identifiable ecosystems; to guarantee the long-term viability of the resources exploited; to provide a living for the fisheries labour force within the community and in a broader economic context; and to preserve the integrity of marine ecosystems for the benefit of other users, ie maintain biodiversity, the food chain and other economic activities such as tourism and leisure activities.

126.       Clearly fisheries management for sustainable development is a multi-dimensional activity with many decision-making levels. It requires considerable information input, especially concerning the limits of fish stocks and fishing activities. Allowance also has to be made for changes due to economic factors or ecological variations. Another factor is the balance of power between the demand and supply sides of the production sector. This is why recent FAO reports mention the need for common indicators and reference points that can be used on different levels.

127.       Reference indicators highlight the need to communicate, exchange information and be accountable in fisheries resource management. They help evaluate fishery resource management policies at the global, regional, national and sub-national levels, and provide us with an easy means of describing the current situation and proposing means of achieving sustainable development.

128.       In short, indicators provide us with a picture of the state of the system and warn us of potential dangers.

129.       A simple method for developing indicators based on the sustainability framework defined by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development comprises four dimensions - economic, social, ecological and institutional - on four levels - global, regional, national and local.

130.       The criteria are the parameters affected by sustainable development which are determined by the above dimensions. For each dimension various criteria need to be defined in order to generate objectives, indicators and reference points.

131.       The definition must be placed in context in relation to a reference point, corresponding to the objective, which may be a target or a limit value for the system. In the fisheries context these reference points are either “target” reference points or “limit” or “threshold” reference points. Both are expressed in relation to the target species in a given area.

132.       Among the criteria typically used in fisheries management based on the economic, ecological, social and institutional dimensions are those shown in the following table:




fish catches


value of fish catches


contribution of fish to GDP


value of fishing exports


investment in fishing fleets and plant


taxes and subsidies


direct and indirect jobs




fishery net profits


employment and agent participation


demographic structure and breakdown by sex


education and qualifications


protein consumption




maritime traditions and culture


debt level


catch structure


relative abundance of target species


exploitation rate


direct effects of fishing on non-target species


direct effects of fishing on habitat




pressure of fishing on fished and non-fished areas


regulatory system


property rights


transparency and agent participation


management capacity

133.       Developing indicators helps to set targets and measure progress in relation to the reference values fixed, and also to identify the different levels of the system in relation to the targets for each criterion. As the objectives are not the same at the different levels considered, universally accepted indicators must be used to measure progress in respect of sustainable development.

134.       In most European reports, therefore, it is considered that “the objective for the particular fishery is to maintain the biomass at a level capable of supporting the optimal sustainable yield that has been specified in relation to two related reference points: Blim , a limit reference point indicating the lowest level of biomass compatible with sustainability of the resource; and Btarget , a target reference point indicating the level of biomass considered appropriate for the fishery and aimed at by management”.

135.       Variations in the biomass indicator in relation to the reference points identify periods of danger (when the biomass decreases rapidly towards Blim), non-sustainability (when B is below Blim) and sustainability (when B is above Blim and at the level of Btarget).

136.       To facilitate their use within a broader management system and make them accessible to a wider audience, experts have simplified the scaling mechanism with a list of basic indicators that make it possible to compare and record indicators in relation to reference points. The following table shows examples of these variable indicators:



(B/Bv) 1

(F/FMSY) 2





0.5 - 1.0

0.6 - 0.8

0.8 - 1.0

0.8 - 1.0

Fairly good

0.3 - 0.5

- 0.6
0.8 - 1.0

0.5 - 0.8
1.0 - 1.2

0.6 - 0.8


0.2 - 0.3

1.0 - 1.3

1.2 - 1.4

0.4 - 0.6


0.1 - 0.2

1.3 - 2.0

1.4 - 2.0

0.2 - 0.4

Very poor

0.0 - 0.1

> 2.0

> 2.0

0.0 - 0.2

Source: FAO “Development and use of indicators for sustainable development of Marine Capture Fisheries”

137.       The spawning biomass reflects the well-being of the resource; fishing capacity is related to fishing effort; revenue is related to the well-being of the human population and fishing laws are related to government standards.

138.       MEY is the theoretical greatest difference between total revenues and total costs of exploiting a fish stock under existing environmental conditions and where inputs are valued at their social opportunity costs. MEY is equal to the maximum resource rent and is obtained where the marginal product of effort is equal to the marginal cost of effort. MEY is realised at a level of fishing effort which is below that which produces MSY.

139.       Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is the highest theoretical equilibrium yield that can be continuously taken from a stock under existing environmental conditions without significantly affecting the reproduction process. Referred to in UNCLOS, it is an essential fisheries management benchmark but it is also one of the possible management reference points. It is also considered an international minimum standard for stock rebuilding strategies.

7.       Individual fishing quotas and assignment rights

140.       It is argued in various quarters that individual fishing quotas (IFQs) can help guarantee efficient, viable resource exploitation: on the one hand they make the steady increase of the fishing effort an unattractive financial proposition for rival firms and, on the other, they eliminate the situation of common ownership and free access, assigning exploitation rights to specific production units.

141.       Individual fishing quotas highlight the right to individual ownership, each fisherman taking his catch from his own stock, ruling out competition with other fishermen, each attempting with his allotted quota to minimise cost and maximise profit by improving the quality of the catch.

142.       Individual fishing quotas may be transferable, divisible or permanent. The debate over the pros and cons of each has yet to be resolved.

143.       Transferable quotas help to increase the added value of the catch, encouraging producers to be efficient and channelling their activity towards a more profitable market. The disadvantage of transferability is that it can lead to concentration in production and in terms of territory, encouraging the emergence of new sectoral and regional oligopolies (at zone or port level) that can affect fish product supply and its value and adversely affect certain zones dependent on fishing.

144.       Divisibility is when a distinction is made between access rights and fishing rights. Different regulatory mechanisms may be introduced, creating “parallel markets” or “parallel regulation subsystems” that may give rise to legal fishing entitlements and at the same time strengthen assignment rights.

145.       Permanence addresses the question of how the right to fish is acquired, for how long and at what price. The fisheries sector is so heterogeneous that there is no simple answer in practice. However, the fact of setting up a mechanism of a permanent nature makes it possible to adjust fleet capacity to practical fishing possibilities and therefore to establish a balance between the social dimension and economic and technological considerations.

146.       The individual fishing quota system is being analysed by the European Commission as a possible fisheries management mechanism for inclusion in the reform in 2002. It is presented as having the following strategic advantages, inter alia:

a.        it is a decentralised management system. Once the TAC has been fixed individual fishing rights are assigned to each boat or fishery, which then determines its own fishing management plan;

b.        it can help stabilise the market. Based on ownership rights over the assignment of quotas, individual fishing quotas enable fisheries to act as arbitrators and cushion fluctuations in the supply of fish, making it easier to devise and implement a medium-term strategy;

c.        the individual fishing quota system helps to improve the quality of the fish caught. In the pursuit of maximum profit, fishermen will endeavour to catch the best quality species with the highest commercial value;

d.        individual fishing quotas do away with the need to “race for fish” or fish in dangerous conditions, as assigning quotas to each unit helps to avoid rivalry over a particular type of fish and prevent “short-sightedness” among fishermen and “copycat” tactics among ship owners, and thus contributes to improved safety at sea.

147.       The system is not perfect, however. Individual fishing quotas have their disadvantages. They necessitate checks and supervision as well as genuine readiness on the part of producers to act as a body. They also fail to solve the problem of discards, and are difficult to apply in multi-species fisheries, with a wide variety of fishing methods, in specific areas where stocks are shared between several countries.

8.        The new territorialisation of the fisheries sector

148.       The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defined an exclusive economic zone as an area stretching 200 nautical miles out to sea where coastal states have sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, and also have jurisdiction over that area.

149.       This exclusive economic zone covers virtually the whole of the continental shelf, where most fish stocks are found.

150.       Under the terms of the Conventions, each coastal state is required to determine its catch capacity in its exclusive economic zone, so that the conditions under which other states should have access to excess stocks can be worked out.

151.       The 1982 UN convention also provides for a 12-mile band of territorial sea.

152.       Numerous fisheries management issues have come to the fore over the last ten years. The property rights associated with fisheries that extend beyond or lie outside waters over which states have jurisdiction, for example, have been clarified thanks to a series of international agreements. In 1993 FAO adopted the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (which has not yet come into force). This agreement attempts to strengthen the exclusive character of the property rights of those who work on the high seas and to identify the responsibilities of the authorities in the fisheries management field with a view to supervising such activities.

153.       In 1995 the UN adopted the Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, to define property rights and heighten flag state responsibility in the exploitation of the fish stocks concerned.

154.       We thus have:

i.        limited access to the 12-mile band of territorial sea, and

ii.        the principle of exclusive rights for the coastal state’s fleets. Plus the possibility of applying a preferential principle to access to the zone immediately outside the territorial sea.

155.       Attention is now focusing on new situations:

i.       who is responsible for controlling and regulating fisheries management in the waters beyond the 200-mile zone, how and based on what principles? and

ii.        what can happen in the zone between the 12-mile and 200-mile limits, possibly divided into sub-zones: 0-6 miles, 6 - 12 miles, 12 - 24 miles, in view of the various national resolutions and the demands of trade organisations for improved entitlement and exclusivity in fishing zones?

156.       The constant changes in the international fishing order in recent years have followed various patterns: certain countries and fleets have focused on changes to access rights and limited access; others have attempted to increase their sovereignty or to claim a “special interest” in fish stocks outside the 200-mile zone (an idea referred to by some lawyers as “jurisdictional creep” and by others by the Spanish term “mar presencial”, meaning sea in which one maintains a presence), while a third group, evaluating the changes generated and the effects on trade flows and distribution, have developed new implantation and location strategies for industries related to the fisheries sector. And finally, there are those who have analysed the socio-economic impact on areas which depend on fishing and call for the application of the principles of subsidiarity and “regionalisation” of the seas to achieve higher levels of ownership and territorialisation of fishing activities.

157.       If we take the gradual trend towards a new compartmentalisation of fishing grounds with the help of improved legal ability to determine the effects of fishery resource management, it becomes clear that we are witnessing various processes which are as interesting as they are relevant: increasing specialisation in the production process, as fleets redirect their attention towards certain species, establishing catch hierarchies with a view to optimising their production capacity and improving production quotas and access to target species. This gradual specialisation will gradually open up new potential markets for each species. Also, there is greater exclusivity for fishing units in terms of fishing grounds and species, with the assignment of property rights, and conditions governing the transfer of those rights which tend towards concentration and the highest possible level of control over the production of the species fished.

158.       These phenomena are an attempt to protect countries and firms from outside interference and to “reduce” the heterogeneity that used to characterise the fisheries sector, with firms acting on a more individual basis, like exclusive owners.

159.       The new “compartmentalisation” or “territorialisation” of the sea is changing not only production processes but also fish product distribution methods.

160.       The effects on the fisheries sector are seen at various levels:

       - it facilitates structural adjustment;

      - it encourages adaptation and flexibility of production;

      - it reduces transaction costs;

      - it fosters the institutionalisation of structural aids;

       - it supplies the new distribution and logistics networks.

161.       Markets are more directly affected. Those concerned by reductions in their fishing entitlements, in connection with the community fisheries, for example (Canada, Argentina, Morocco, inter alia) could fit into the following pattern:

Reduction of access rights original rules

       Need to import

Greater difficulty in        trade agreements

finding fishing grounds

       Search for steady, reliable

       new supply sources

Need for public and        Production according to species

private agreements        selection of species

       Differentiation products

       in respect of the same species

Commercial compensations        Need to find partners       Differentiation in terms of price

derived from public agreements       in host countries



162.       The need to examine the pros and cons of applying individual fishing quotas which are transferable within the general fisheries management scheme based on property rights has aroused the experts’ curiosity. The OECD, for example, called on a group of specialists to analyse the economic consequences and determine what should be done to guarantee the conservation, management and sustainable exploitation of marine biodiversity. And the FishRights99 Conference in Fremantle, on the use of property rights in fisheries management, captured the attention of governments, administrators, the trade and various fishing communities.

163.       The way is open and many countries are studying clearer means of implementing exclusive property rights in industrial and semi-industrial fisheries. The South American countries are an example, with their pelagic fisheries (Chile and Peru) and their demersal fisheries (Uruguay and Argentina). These measures tend to result in exclusive rights being limited to “nationals”, to the detriment, or even the exclusion, of foreigners. They also trigger reactions from other countries, whose bargaining power in fishing negotiations is weakened.

164.       In addition to this new “compartmentalisation” process, some South American countries - Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba, for example - are granting producer organisations exclusive rights to specific marine resources in well-defined zones in order to help the local economy.

9.        Conclusion

165.       The need to guarantee a steady, reliable supply means being able to rely on access to fishing rights. Otherwise one has to secure a flow of supplies from the same fishing grounds, be it in the form of substitute products supplied by rival fishing agents or through new partnerships linked to comprehensive fishing strategies.

166.       The combination of fishing rights + product differentiation + price differentiation + integration into new distribution chains will influence the positions adopted by fishery groups and provide support for institutional action.

167.       The market, spurred on by liberalisation and the removal of customs barriers, is in the process of eliminating interventionism and taking over the lead role. It is a dual process: new producer organisations and management firms are emerging and new fish species are finding their way into the marketing, processing and distribution channels. It is the law of the market, where, in the words of the fishermen themselves, “the ship owners are losing control, the buyers rule and the distributors control”.

168.       Groups of firms have taken the necessary steps to position themselves in this new scheme of things brought on by the territorialisation process. It will not be unusual to see firms acquire fishing rights in foreign fishing grounds, to gain access to the stocks there. Nor will it be unusual for firms to transfer or swap access and exploitation rights, permanently or temporarily, as part of their general strategy. Both of these methods are already being tested in specialised fisheries, by groups and associations and by firms, individually or in partnership with others in the coastal states concerned.

169.       Fisheries management in the 21st century will consequently pay more attention to property rights, which means clearly defining the corresponding privileges and limits, responsibilities, controls and incentives to guarantee a fishing strategy compatible with the principles of precaution and prevention. In the present context of globalisation the trend is towards the “de-territorialisation” of fishing activities, especially in industrial and semi-industrial fisheries, and the first signs of this are apparent in the landings, crews and capital investments.

170.       However, just as states have not given up introducing rules of their own to protect their national economies from corporate strategies, they also seek to protect “their territories” in the interests of their fishing fleets.

171.       In brief, fisheries management today is in search of “a permanent balance between territorial forces and market forces”, in view of certain attempts to circumvent universally accepted controls and institutional frameworks.




Council of Europe Member States Parties to the Convention and Agreements

(as at 5 February 2002)

(for further information see UN website:

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea:

Austria (14 July 1995)

Belgium (13 November 1998)

Bulgaria (15 May 1996)

Croatia (5 April 1995)

Cyprus (12 December 1988)

Czech Republic (21 June 1996)

Finland (21 June 1996)

France (11 April 1996)

Germany (14 October 1994)

Greece (21 July 1995)

Hungary (5 February 2002)

Iceland (21 June 1985)

Ireland (21 June 1996)

Italy (13 January 1995)

Luxembourg (5 October 2000)

Malta (20 May 1993)

Netherlands (28 June 1996)

Norway (24 June 1996)

Poland (13 November 1998)

Portugal (3 November 1997)

Romania (17 December 1996)

Russian Federation (12 March 1997)

Slovakia (8 May 1996)

Slovenia (16 June 1995)

Spain (15 January 1997)

Sweden (25 June 1996)

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (19 August 1994)

Ukraine (26 July 1999)

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (25 July 1997)

European Community (1 April 1998)

Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention:

Austria (14 July 1995)

Belgium (13 November 1998)

Bulgaria (15 May 1996)

Croatia (5 April 1995)

Cyprus  (27 July 1995)

Czech Republic (21 June 1996)

Finland (21 June 1996)

France (11 April 1996)

Georgia (21 March 1996)

Germany (14 October 1994)

Greece (21 July 1995)

Hungary (5 February 2002)

Iceland (28 July 1995)

Ireland (21 June 1996)

Italy (13 January 1995)

Luxembourg (5 October 2000)

Malta (26 June 1996)

Netherlands (28 June 1996)

Norway (24 June 1996)

Poland (13 November 1998)

Portugal (3 November 1997)

Romania (17 December 1996)

Russian Federation (12 March 1997)

Slovakia (8 May 1996)

Slovenia (16 June 1995)

Spain (15 January 1997)

Sweden (25 June 1996)

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (19 August 1994)

Ukraine (26 July 1999)

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (25 July 1997)

Yugoslavia (28 July 1995)

European Community (1 April 1998)

Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the Convention relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks:

Iceland (14 February 1997)

Malta (11 November 2001)

Norway (30 December 1996)

Russian Federation (4 August 1997)

United Kingdom on behalf of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla (10 December 2001)





Council of Europe Member States Parties to the Agreement

(as at 5 February 2002)

(for further information see FAO website:




19 July 2000


7 Sep 1994


28 Dec 1994


25 Oct 1994

European Community

6 Aug 1996

Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment and Agriculture.

Reference to committee: Doc. 8228 and Reference No. 2333 of 4 November 1998.

Draft resolution adopted unanimously by the committee on 27 February 2002

Members of the committee: Mr Martinez Casañ (Chairman), MM. Behrendt, Hornung, Stankevic (Vice-Chairmen), Mr Agius, Mrs Agudo (Alternate: Mr Padilla), MM. Akçali, Akselsen, Mrs Angelovicova, MM. Annemans, Apostoli, Bartos, Bockel, Briane, Browne, Carvalho, Sir Sydney Chapman, MM. Churkin, Ciemniak (Alternate: Giertych), Cosarciuc, Duivesteijn, von der Esch, Etherington, Frunda, Giovanelli, Gonzalez de Txabarri, Graas, Grachev, Grignon, Grissemann, Gubert, Hadjiyeva, Haraldsson, Ilascu, Janowski, Juric, Kalkan, Mrs Kanelli, MM. Kharitonov, Lord Kilclooney, MM. Kostenko, Kostytsky, Kurucsai, Kurykin, Lachat (Alternate: Ms Fehr), Libicki, van der Linden, Lotz, Manukyan, Mariot, Mauro, Meale, Mrs Mikaelsson (Alternate: Mr Bergqvist), MM. Monteiro, Müller (Alternate: Michels), Oliverio, Podobnik, Pollozhani, Popov, Salaridze, Mrs Schicker, MM. Schmied, Skopal, Skoularikis (Alternate: Floros), Ms Stoejberg, Mr Stoica (Alternate: Coifan), Ms Stoyanova, MM. Theodorou, Timmermans, Tiuri, Truu, Vakilov, Velikov, Volpinari, Yürür, Zierer.

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretariat to the committee: Mrs Cagnolati, Mr Sixto and Ms Odrats.

1 The Rapporteur would like to thank Professor Fernando Gonzalez Laxe for his co-operation and valuable contribution to the preparation of this report.