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September 1997 No. 12
The European Association of Fisheries Economists



Readers will note that the process of expansion and improvement under the previous editors has been temporarily halted. We can only hope that it is a case of "reculer pour mieux sauter". It seemed wiser on this occasion to get a slim issue out on time rather than delay so as to produce a fuller one. In particular we need to focus attention early on next year's conference if we are to maintain the high standard of contributions. Authors and organizers need adequate notice for this to happen.

The President makes it clear that our current paramount challenge is communication. I would hope that our membership will respond with a flood of information and opinion. That will ease the Editor's task of sustaining interest. More importantly it will allow the Association to maintain the progress shown in the first decade.

As a stimulus to our debate it may be helpful to have the views of a former agricultural economist and fisheries administrator. Two points immediately strike someone with this perspective. The first relates to the gaps in the system. The second relates to the social environment and its impact on the messages within the system.

The first is the lack of an extension or advisory service comparable with that available to farmers. The latter can get not just advice on technology but also on business. The continuum from scientific research through to running a profitable farm exists. This is not so with fishing; commercial interests and the inventiveness of fishermen look after the development and dissemination of technology very effectively; but they do not cope so well with financial implications for the fishermen. There is no general tradition of costs and earnings surveys providing management guidance. This need has to be and is filled by bankers, accountants, fish salesmen and others but only to some extent. The space between marine science (and fisheries economics) and the fisherman as a businessman is filled to a large extent by politicians and administrators. This does not seem sensible.

The second is the lack of an acceptable and defensible system of ownership of the basic resource. Farmers have fences and rights which are recognized not just in law but in other people's respect for their property. Enforcement is the exception in farming rather than the rule (as it is in fisheries) and where needed is often inexpensive and easy. Enforcement in fishing is difficult and expensive with the added drawback that it is seldom seen as effective. Furthermore public and occasionally court sympathy with the transgressor compounds the problem. There is an intuitive belief in open access to the resources of the sea and this belief is confirmed by the fact and tradition of virtually universal rights of peaceful navigation. In addition the proven dangers of sea fishing support the view that fishermen are due something in return for their courage, other than convictions for offences perceived as technical or obscure by most people.

Perhaps the particular perspective of these comments will provoke the readership to constructive thoughts. Such responses should at least balance the argument.

L.V. McEwan

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