Coastal Fisheries Management - Lessons From
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
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
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
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.
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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