4 Enabling conditions: Institutions, planning, policy and regulatory reform and financing
4.1 Building effective national, regional and international institutions
The root cause of overexploitation of fish stocks is the lack of control over fish catches or fishing capacity, or both. Individual fishers competing with many others have an incentive to take as much fish as quickly as they can. If this incentive is not controlled, the result of such uncoordinated efforts of many competing fishers is the depletion of fish stocks to the point of harming future fish catches, raising the cost of catching fish, and possibly wiping out fish stocks once and for all (Hannesson 2004; Hardin 1968; Gordon 1954. Fortunately, it has been shown over the past several decades that very often communities or groups of fishers develop institutions that can regulate the incentives and create the conditions for sustainability (Dietz, T. et al. 2003). This is not guaranteed to occur, however, and it is unlikely in industrial or high- seas cases, where other measures are needed.
In this regard, note that privatising use of the fishery resource is not necessarily advisable. Even if a fish resource is privatised, there are conditions under which the private owner may find it optimal to overfish the stock, sometimes to extinction (Clark 1973; Clark et al. 2010). This happens when the stock in question grows very slowly compared to the rate of discount, so that the present value of future catches is low, compared to the once-and-for-all gain from depleting the stock. However, such restrictions are not necessarily best imposed by a governmental fisheries administration. Successful examples around the world of community-based or fisher-led restrictions are common, often in conjunction with spatial or territorial limits.
We need effective institutions at all levels of government, from the local to the provincial/state to the national, regional and international because of the migratory nature of many fish stocks. Many fish stocks spend their lives completely in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of countries – they do not migrate across EEZs of other countries or straddle into the high seas. For these fish stocks, effective national institutions are all that is needed. Then we have fish stocks that are shared by two or more countries, the so-called transboundary fish stocks that live completely within the EEZs of more than one
country. For these fish stocks, participants in the fishery must agree on the management of the stock in order to make it effective (Munro et al. 2004). Then there are fish stocks that are partly or wholly located in what is left of the high seas. It has for a long time been a concern that the regulation of these fisheries is ineffective and that regulation of stocks that are governed by one or more coastal states but which straddle periodically into the high seas is undermined by the open access to the high seas. This prompted a conference on high seas fisheries in the 1990s under the auspices of the UN. This resulted in what is usually called the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, which vests the authority to regulate high seas fisheries in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) (United Nations 1995), whose functioning was recently reviewed by Cullis-Suzuki and Pauly (2010b) and generally found wanting.
4.2 Regulatory reform
The basic requirement for a successful management of a fish stock is limiting the rate of exploitation to some sensible level. This necessitates 1) a mechanism to set such a target catch level and 2) a mechanism to monitor and to enforce it. The basic question to ask is whether the scientific, administrative
capability is in place to make this happen. The presence of strong social norms and cultural institution are great tools for enforcement where they work.
In practice, effective management institutions would have in place mechanisms for providing scientific advice, as well as a mechanism to set the rate of exploitation on the basis of that advice and in such a way that it maximises long-term benefits in the form of food supplies or fishing rent (difference between revenues and costs adjusted for subsidies). The latter requires an efficient and uncorrupted administration that strives for the best possible economic (or food supply) situation of the country in question (UNEP 2008).
As to the specific means by which the fisheries administration achieves its goals, these must be decided on a pragmatic basis. A limit on the total catch is perhaps the most obvious instrument to use, but there are