to Responsible Fisheries: Economic and Policy Implications (OECD)
important OECD fisheries study has just been released. Entitled "Transition
to Responsible Fisheries: Economic and Policy Implications" the book is a
unique analysis of the costs and benefits of moving to responsible fisheries.
is well known that many of the world's fisheries resources are grossly
over-exploited. That situation has come about due to poor management regimes
coupled with government financial transfers that have augmented fishing
capacities of the fleets to unsustainable levels. In response, but only recently,
the international community has sought to address this situation and to lay out
avenues for redressing the situation. One international action was the adoption
by the FAO of the Code of Conduct of Responsible Fisheries in 1995. However,
little international effort was invested in understanding the economic and
policy implications of making the fisheries responsible.
this background that the OECD's Committees for Fisheries decided in 1997 to
study the implications on the fishing sector, fishers and processors alike, and
public policy institutions of adopting responsible fisheries frameworks. The
outcome is the book noted above and a series of free documents that are
available from the OECD's Fisheries Division and its website (www.oecd.org/agr/fish).
process of transition to responsible fisheries is analysed from four
addition to a chapter devoted to each of these areas the OECD's Committee for
Fisheries adopted a Statement (found in the beginning of the publication), which
highlights the important outcomes of the study.
addressing the social aspects of transition the study observes that the
distinctive socio-economic characteristics of the fisheries labour-force, and
the households and communities in which they live, have important implications
for the adjustment process. Sustainability will necessitate the creation of
policy frameworks that not only ensure sustainability of the resource but also
provide a coherent set of signals to fishery workers. When moving towards
responsible fisheries, governments should try to better understand how their
resource management, social protection and labour market policies interact. The
role of short, medium and long term active educational programmes can also be
important in facilitating the transition. The long-term goal for sustainable
fishing should be to transform the sector into one that is largely capable of
adjusting its structure automatically and autonomously.
evidence presented in the study suggests that the post-harvesting sector of many
OECD countries is larger than the supporting harvesting sectors, both in terms
of value-added and employment. Based on
their own experience, some countries are of the view that the post-harvesting
sector can play an important role in the application of trade measures that
support sustainable fishing practices and fisheries. The increasing
awareness of consumers of the safety and quality aspects of food in general, and
fish in particular, have prompted governments to set minimum quality standards
for fish products and to encourage private industry to develop and adhere to
quality control systems. A number of operators have schemes that seek to inform
consumers on the products they purchase. In this regard, and complementing an
early implementation of the Code of Conduct, the development of marketing
practices and improvement of consumer information can enhance the move to more
government financial transfers are concerned this study shows that, in 1997,
OECD countries expended USD 6.3 billion in government financial
transfers to the fishing industry. A transfer is defined as the monetary value
of interventions associated with fishery policies. Most transfers are general
services that are devoted to fisheries infrastructure and expenditure on
activities for ensuring the sustainable use of fish stocks and the aquatic
ecosystem (e.g. fisheries management, research and enforcement). At least
USD 4.9 billion (77 per cent of all transfers) was spent on such
activities in 1997 -- equal to 13 per cent of the value of the
landings. A further USD 1.4 billion was spent on support in the form
of direct payments and cost-reducing transfers (e.g. modernisation grants,
income support and tax exemptions) to the sector in 1997 -- equal to 4 per
cent of the value of landings. The nature of government financial transfers in
OECD Member countries has changed since the 1970s and 1980s, when they were
aimed at developing fisheries.
the evaluation of the costs and gains the study notes that there are no easy
ways to smooth the path towards responsible fisheries. It is likely that costs
will be incurred in the short-run if the decision is made to restore fish stocks.
Decisions on the rate of desired restoration is also likely to involve
trade-offs between economic, social and biological components of the fishery
system. The need for adjustment in capacity levels may in some cases be
unavoidable if long-run economic performance is to be improved and preserved.
Dealing with the inherent uncertainties in the fishery system suggests the
adoption of prudent and precautionary approaches in setting and executing
management objectives. The possibilities for improved economic performance
appear to be enhanced if management frameworks provide the sector with
sufficient stability over the longer-term.
conclusion the study observes that the benefits of
responsible fisheries are long-term and should be subject to particular
attention. Transition policies should address short-term social and economic
adjustment costs without detracting from long-run conservation objectives. In
doing so all aspects of fisheries - from
harvesting to marketing to consumers - should be considered in a
comprehensive way for a successful transition process to responsible fisheries.
In this regard, it would seem that more effort is needed on consulting a broader
set of fishing industry stakeholders.