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 Coastal Fisheries Management Abroad



Coastal Fisheries Management - Lessons From Abroad


 by David Thomson and Alastair McIntosh


Published in Fishing Monthly, January 1999, p.6.



For other articles with David Thomson on coastal fisheries management see:


The Herald's Scottish fishing industry feature


Fishing News' article on monetarism killing communities




David Thomson is a former Scottish fishermen who has worked in fishery development in over 50 countries, for the U.N. Agencies, the Development Banks, and bilateral aid pmgrammes.


Alastair McIntosh is a Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology (formerly part of Edinburgh University) who has written and lectured widely on land reform, sustainable development, and on social and ecological issues in Scotland and the developing world.


It is not only in Scotland, England, and Ireland, that coastal fishermen feel their livelihoods are under threat from unfair competition and the purchase of licenses and quotas by big fishery groups from elsewhere. Portugal, which has over ten thousand fishing boats of less than ten metres length, is expressing similar concerns, and is calling for national control of national waters (World Fishing Oct 1998). If the Portuguese coastal fisheries are made open to all EU fishing fleets, the country’s artisanal fishermen will face a severe problem. It wilt create a problem for the national economy as well, as the fishery now relies heavily on the coastal fleet due to the reduction in the Portuguese offshore fleet and its production.


Not only in Europe but in practically every part of the world today, the management of coastal fish resources is being given serious attention. Special arrangements are being made to protect and enhance both the coastal environment and the economies of coastal communities. International bodies, research institutes and think tanks are giving serious thought to the management of coastal fisheries in view of the way they are suffering and being squeezed by a system that allows the market and big business to dictate developments.


Following the International Conference in Kyoto, Japan in 1995 on the Sustainable Contribution of Fish to Food Security, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is commissioning case studies on five national fisheries. The areas studied will be selected from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas where indigenous fishing communities are under threat. The studies wilt examine local management systems and significant social and cultural features related to the industry and its way of life.


It is interesting to note that two countries which have paid serious attention to the problem are ones with large, highly industrialised fleets. Japan, despite its huge high seas fisheries, has long sought to protect its coastal waters and to develop particitative management systems with local fishing communities and cooperatives. Such co-management started by the allocation of Community Fishery Rights (CFRs) to local and regional co-operatives and their members. The CFR system promoted community-based management along most of the Japanese coastline.


In 1961, the scheme was further strengthened by introduction of ASMR or the Agreement System on Resource Management. This measure encouraged fishermen’s organisations and co-operatives to play an active role in conservation by agreements on outputs, inputs, and technical measures, in their respective fisheries.


The United States has a long history of provision of special protection and management systems for coastal fisheries such as the Chesapeake Bay, and the traditional Indian fisheries on the Pacific coast. More recently, it has attempted to protect coastal communities from loss of access to fish resources by means of CDQs or Community Development Quotas. These are granted to a fishing community on the basis of traditional access and present need. They may not be sold to non-residents.


The concepts of participatory management and granting of ownership rights to local communities, were taken up by United Nations Agencies and by NGOs working in the fishery sector in developing countries. Here it was recognised more readily than in Britain that employment and food production were more vital than profits.


Two serious facts were recognised. Firstly,if open access to fishing grounds was to remain in place, then there would be no incentive for fishermen to conserve stocks (the tragedy of the commons). However, if fisherfolk had ownership rights over the resource adjacent to their villages, then they could begin to apply long term management principles.


And secondly, if the market was allowed to dictate development, then millions of small scale fishers would be displaced by fleets of large powerful vessels built by those with access to finance. Countries like Indonesia, China, and India could not afford to have their millions of coastal fishermen lose their livelihoods and then descend as squatters on the capital cities. This would only bring an increase in crime and social or political instability.


Such recognition led to the formulation of the TURFS concept ‘Territorial User Rights in Fisheries”. Coastal fishing villages were to be granted management and harvesting rights over the fishing grounds immediately adjacent to their communities. Having control, they then had the incentive to conserve fish for future years, and to move gradually from a hunting to a husbandry approach. Where appropriate, traditional management systems were revived and given recognition under national fishery management regimes.


Indonesia, Thailand, and other countries began to apply the concepts which proved useful in other ways. There was no need for expensive patrol vessels in the coastal waters, and less danger of corrupt officials spoiling the system when the management was brought down to the village level. In Pacific Island countries the centuries old methods of reef fishery management proved to be surprisingly effective in satisfying the local communities whilst also maintaining a sustainable fishery.


A more recent idea and innovation is for coastal waters (to 12 miles from base lines) to be held in trust for the local fishing communities by local or regional councils. This ensures that the resource may not be sold to fishing corporations from outside the region.


It could be that, aided directly or indirectly by influence from the new Parliament, a similar approach might be developed for Scotland. Local Authorities might implement the scheme in close co-operation with the relevant fishing towns or villages. Quotas allocated to the fleets within the 12 mile coastal zone and the firths and Minches, might be allocated to the Councils and leased to bona fide fishermen in the area, according to strict criteria. The quotas would thus be ring-fenced to prevent their sale to non-local companies. The benefits of multipliers and linkages would thereby remain in the local economy.


The Local Authorities would also be able, like the Fishery Committees in England (to a lesser degree), to determine local regulations in co-operation with local fishermen, and ensure that these are observed throughout the regional coastal zone. This would permit a solution to problems like the conflict between static and mobile gear, and would make it possible to limit or ban the use of certain methods like twin trawls, nephrops trawl brushes, and I or beam trawls.


The chart by Alain Le Sann (A Livelihood From Fishing, ITDG London) shows how management of fisheries can be shifted from a purely economic and adminstrative base to one that gives local communities some control [not shown here]. In reflecting on its message, our up and coming MSPs might give consideration to the possibility that if they can reform Scottish fisheries policy either within an amended CFP or without it. Major results of that achievement would be resource enhancement and preservation of coastal economies. An intangible and possibly more important benefit would be the recovery of cultural identity and civic pride. Social cohesion could be rebuilt and the social costs of unemployment and despair reduced. Now that would be a catch worth harvesting!




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