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Fisheries in the future Sustainability or extinction

Marine Policy, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 91-97, 1996


Elsevier Science Ltd. Printed in Great Britain 0308-597X/96 $15.00 + 0.00

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Fisheries in the Future: Sustainability or Extinction?
London, UK, 24 April 1995
This one-day conference was organized by the Greenwich Forum and attended by some 100 people from all sides of the fishing industry and related interests. In his opening address the Earl of Selbourne congratulated the Greenwich Forum on the timeliness of the meeting. He went on to summarise the first report of the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development, of which he is a member, which had identified 'The Depletion of Fish Stocks' as one of its first 'specific issue' topics for examination. He emphasized that its main recommendation was that "the Government act rather than react to events by giving a lead at home, within the European Union and internationally in promoting long-term policies for conservation of fisheries and protection of the marine environment." A key executive role to be supported was t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t o f an I n t e r governmental panel on the Oceans after the style of a similar panel established earlier on Climatic Change. The Earl also announced that he, as Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, had asked Lord Perry to chair a subcommittee on Fisheries Policy. The first speaker was Dr Roger Bailey, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). His theme was the provision of scientific advice on fisheries and he began by stressing that ICES, an independent intergovernmental organization, had been set up in 1902 to provide the policy makers and politicians from the countries around the North Sea with advice about fisheries that could be taken account of in the formulation of policy. T h e r e were 12 nations as founding-members; now there are 19 including the U S A and Canada. The aim of ICES is to promote the coordination and dissemination of research on the sea and its living resources. Its activities are controlled by the 38 national delegates and it is serviced by about 30 members of Headquarters. It provides scientific data to and advises the Fisheries Commissions of the North East Atlantic and Baltic Sea respectively, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, the European Union and the governments of its member states. It depends on each of these Governments allowing their scientists to attend its 19 or so working groups which, on the fisheries as opposed to the environmental issues, feed their results to the ICES Advisory Committee on F i s h e r i e s M a n a g e m e n t (ACFM). This Committee issues an annual report which summarizes the situation in each of the 124 species studied and provides both short-term forecasts and biological reference points. The former are based on detailed aspects of each fishery, the latt e r on the M i n i m u m B i o l o g i c a l Acceptable Level for each stock, and this, the level after which regeneration of the stock may not take place, makes quite clear what the management options are. With many stocks the advice is that if the present stock level is to be maintained or improved, the fishing effort must be reduced by some 30%. Of the 124 stocks considered 19 are judged to be lower than safe biological limits, 29 within them, 19 close to them, in 51 cases a conclusion cannot be reached and in 13 the position is uncertain but there is cause for some concern. Dr Bailey recognized that the ACFM approach is sometimes criticized because the natural variability of recruitment from year to year creates quite different situations in the short term as far as fishermen are c o n c e r n e d . This a s p e c t is b ei n g addressed through the longer-term simulations that are done in each case and, he emphasized again, all such trends point to the need for a 30% reduction in fishing effort. The advice given by ICES has traditionally been related either to the amount of fish that can be taken or the gear that should be used. It is widely recognized, though, that accurate assessments are increasingly difficult to make because the level of discarded fish is misreported or illegal markets are found for excess catch, so A C F M now gives effort control advice to fisheries managers. ICES has also realised that passing on biological advice alone is not enough. By its Dialogue meetings with fishermen and fishery managers it has tried to bring about a measure of general awareness of each other's problems but it is now widely r e a l i z e d that the socioeconomic aspects have to be part of the discussions too and it is considering whether or not it has a role in this area. Could it, for example, provide a forum where economists, social scientists and m a r i n e scientists m e e t routinely? There were two very pointed questions for Dr Bailey. The first emphasized the great uncertainties of fish stock management and noted that some of the 51 stocks for which A C F M could not reach a conclusion were those on which most research had been done. Tinkering with these figures or undertaking more research to produce more figures was not the answer: a more radical approach to fisheries management was needed that included fishermen themselves in the decision making process. A second


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questioner pointed out that 85% of the earnings from the industry came from stocks concerning which there was not e n o u g h i n f o r m a t i o n for A C F M to reach a conclusion about their status. Dr Bailey said that that message had to go back to fishery managers; in regard to the need or otherwise for more research he felt that the trends being identified across the board were correct and needed heeding now. Sefior Rafael Conde, Director of the Spanish Ministry of Fisheries, then spoke about drift-netting for tuna in the Bay of Biscay and Celtic Sea. He thought this was a management problem on which a stand had to be taken. T h e s i t u a t i o n was t h a t a M a y September albacore tuna fishery on the high seas in and near the Bay of Biscay had existed for some 50 years and had proved to be sustainable when fished by trolling or hand-lines and live bait methods. The Spanish fleet comprised 560 trollers and 162 live-bait vessels and supported 7000 jobs at sea and on shore for 78% and 68% of the year's earnings respectively. Both catching methods were highly selective and did not adversely affect the ecological system. In 1987 two French vessels appeared on the fishing grounds with drift-nets; by 1993 there were 64 French, 16 Irish and 10 U K vessels with drift-nets or pelagic trawls, and the numbers were rising each year. Consequently 'days fished' had increased by a factor of 50% since 1987 and the catch had increased from 750 to 7300 tonnes per year. Thirtythree per cent of the catch was now taken by drift-nets, of which there were some 7500 km in use in 1990 and 30700 km in 1993. The catch statistics were based on landings and probably represented the most sanguine view of the overall position. It was not surprising, he suggested, that there had been conflicts between fishermen from the different countries and that Spain had asked the E U to ban the use of drift-nets and pelagic trawls. Sefior Conde then looked at the use of drift-nets from a series of concepts of sustainability, viz: ? Do they produce over-exploitation? ? ? ? Do they interact badly with traditional gear? Do they represent a hazard to navigation? Do they have a bad environmental impact in broader terms? incidents that had occurred were "highly regrettable" but felt they stemmed from unsatisfactory levels of control and enforcement in the two previous seasons. The question of compensation was being discussed at government level and other legal options were being progressed. Meetings have already been held to ensure that conflicts in 1995 are minimal. He emphasized, in answer to another query, that the fishery could cope with ships from other countries participating in the fishery providing they used the traditional gear: trolls or handlines. Short-term profit had brought in the new boats but there needed to be some measure of best returns other than financial profit. Viewed in terms of cost benefit alone ships with no men at all on board might be the most profitable but such a view gave no weight to the value of the social cohesion of the coastal communities the fishery had supported since the 16th century in some parts of Spain. Another member of the audience supported this view. The 'labourintensive' dimension was now making a big impact in the policy making area throughout the E U after a decade or so of following the capital-intensive mode. Sefior Conde pointed out the fact that the Common Agricultural Policy had always had a social cohesion dimension as far as the farming community was concerned but this view had not been carried over to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The total funds supporting the CFP were less than those provided to support b e e t r o o t growers across the E U . Scrapping vessels was too crude an answer. When asked if biological sustainability was a general objective of Spanish fishing policy world-wide, Sefior Conde replied that, like any other fishing industry, its interests were a balance between sustainability and profit. The dispute with Canada had not been about conservation as a creed, but over how the agreed catch of 27 000 tonnes should be shared out. The final speaker of the morning was Dr Alain Laurec, the Head of Directorate C of the E U ' s D G X I V who took the 'Common Fisheries Policy' as his topic. In an outspoken address he began by stressing the di-

In each case he presented evidence that showed the technique in a poor light. He also claimed that the E U had recognized that there had been poor enforcement of the drift-net regulations by the relevant member states even though a model of what could be done existed in the Pacific. He felt the options were either to pursue shortterm profit with incidental damage to other species or continued sustainability. He had no need, he felt, to play on the emotions of the audience by showing a video of the incidental damage to albacore and other species caused by drift-nets. He was unhappy that in a short while another season of such tragedies would begin. The questions on Sefior Conde's presentation began with a report that the French authorities had licensed 150 drift-net vessels for the 1995 season (134 in 1994) and went on to ask what he felt he could do about it. He said he would take it up bilaterally and also in other fora. He thought it would be difficult to hold back Spanish fishermen from using drift-nets too and feared the early extinction of the a l b a c o r e stock. A n o t h e r sp eak er claimed that Spain was trying to keep this high seas fishery for itself, that there had never been restrictive measures imposed on the Spanish fleet because there had never been, conveniently, any scientific evidence to base it on, and a total ban on drift-nets was not the right course. Sefior Conde said there was no attempt by Spain to keep other nations out of the fishery; there was enough evidence now to show the danger the fishery was in, and the total ban that had been adopted in the Pacific seemed a good parallel. A third questioner asked for his comments on the 'sea-going terrorism' that had been suffered by British fishermen and suggested that the hake and megrim stories showed that Spain did not really attach a high priority to conservation. Sefior Conde said he had publicly stated in 1994 that the


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versity of European fisheries. Northern Europe with its wide continental shelf had relatively large vessels on the whole that were at sea for days working particular stocks for relatively low prices (0.7 ECU/kg). Southern European fishermen were at sea for hours typically, catching many different kinds of fish and selling them at high prices (3.7 ECU/kg on average). Moreover, eating fish in some areas of Northern Europe was seen as almost a punishment; in the South it was the ultimate delicacy. Northern fishermen depended in some degree, in fact, on the Southern market. The differing degrees of capital investment were illustrated too by the fact that there were 137 kW of power supplied to each person in the Dutch fishing fleet compared with 21 kW in Greece. The intrinsic complexity of the CFP stemmed, Dr Laurec suggested, from the complexity of the fisheries being considered. A second major factor to be considered was that decisions were made by the E U Council of Ministers and not by the Commission itself. Member States are also expected to police the enforcement of the decisions the Council members had reached and the Commission's frank reports emphasize that this has not generally been done well. Over-capacity is the disease in fisheries all over the world and the answer to it, adopted time and again over the years, of first limiting catches, then adopting technical measures and finally limiting entry simply does not work. Limiting catches is a symptom of the disease rather than a cure itself. The scientific advice as to what steps should be taken to ease the pressure on fish stocks comes from ICES and the EU's own staff. Fisheries scientists, as a community, have looked forward for generations to the arrival of enlightened despots all over the world who would impose their theoretical ideas on the 'Real World'. They have also been guilty of preserving the present regimes in order to justify their jobs. The collective failure of the politico-scientific establishment has produced and prolonged the problems of overfishing in general and in the North Atlantic in particular.

'Nuances' and compromises are now needed where the black and white alternatives echoed in the conference title have already been tabled in negotiations. We must aim for the better use of existing resources without creating large-scale problems in the future: the idea of 'sustainable overfishing' had to be accepted. The major problem of the different worlds lived in by scientists, politicians and fishermen respectively remained. How could ministers, who would move to another, less difficult, area of responsibility within two or three years grapple with the intricacies of 'probability' that gave scientists so much comfort and pleasure? How, too, could anyone but a scientist think of developments over a five-year period as being 'short term' in character? Scientists, moreover, do not like to simplify processes and procedures if only because the complexity justifies their social status. Fish stock management is a complicated dossier and at times scientists blame politicians for a lack of will, while politicians blame scientists for a lack of clarity and information and use this as a pretext to put off taking a decision for a year or so and fishermen seethe with anger all the time. Dr Laurec concluded by looking at different aspects of the CFP itself. He accepted that it had weaknesses and that there was an element of bureaucracy, but its advantages were that problems could be addressed publicly and frankly, there had not yet been a major stock collapse and that, compared with fisheries in other parts of the world, the European scene was not unduly depressing. A major advance since 1983 was that everyone now accepted that 'open entry' to any fishery was no longer possible; before the CFP the idea of limiting the freedom of fishing had been a taboo in fisheries circles. The main aim now must be to reduce the overcapacity and he felt that it was becoming clear that the necessary decisions had to be made at the regional level, eg the Irish Sea per se, the Channel, etc, and by politicians, administrators, fishermen and scientists from several disciplines meeting together as equals. It was also clear that future policies would not be

imposed by Brussels, would not stem from more and more sophisticated research and would favour countries with good management and enforcement regimes. In answer to some very specific questions Dr Laurec said that he felt that since the CFP had been introduced fewer resources had been put into scientific research by memberStates and over-capacity had increased. He did not think this meant that the policy had failed and that more control should be returned to member States. There was much more flexibility within the CFP for memberStates if they cared to look. Another questioner wanted to know if it was likely that the E U itself could make up the downturn in the resources deployed on fisheries research and whether or not Dr Laurec felt that scientists should begin to be more frank in their advice to Ministers. Dr Laurec's view was that basic stock assessment was under threat. Joint E U member State funding proposals had been put to the Fisheries Council but had been opposed by the UK and the Netherlands and consequently had not progressed. He welcomed frankness from the scientists and thought that they should keep defining a range of options and particularly those relating to mid-term objectives. A middle course had to be found between options that were too political for the scientists and too technical for ministers. Professor David Freestone opened the afternoon session with a presentation on 'International Legal Developments'. It was no exaggeration to say, he claimed, that the 'World Fisheries Law' scene was in a crisis. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which had become law on 16 November 1994, had provided the basic structure but left an 'unfinished agenda', or focus for the 1990s, of relative anarchy on the high seas beyond 200 mile limits and for stocks which straddled those limits. He discussed examples from the south-east Pacific, north-west Atlantic, Barents Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the South Pacific to show the worldwide nature of the problem. The UNCED had focused international atten-


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tion on this problem in particular and the problem of world fisheries in general. A significant step forward appeared to be the draft produced by the Chairman of the UN 'Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Species' conference which would be discussed at the planned final session in August 1995. The importance of this draft could not be overestimated. If the international community cannot produce a robust system for dealing with the problem, then a number of coastal States can be expected to take things into their own hands in one way or another, such as extending their fishery limits or seeking to impose their national laws on those vessels fishing straddling stocks. Mr Geoffrey Jennings, the Chief Inspector of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), then spoke on the subject of 'Enforcement--Tasks and Means'. By way of background he made the point that with fishermen themselves doing some of the basic reporting the quality of the data on which policies were based had been bound to suffer. Moreover, differing national views on the importance of fisheries, on court procedures and on the standards of evidence to be provided all led to differing views between countries on the importance to be attached to enforcement. Finally, it was essential to have some resources devoted to carrying out inspections at sea because of the pro tern practices by fishermen that were possible when a vessel left port and before it landed its catch. Only when fishermen agree with the law will fishermen support enforcement procedures, and experience suggests that other things, especially short-term pressure from bank managers, make this situation a rare occurrence. For their part, the enforcement agencies need the scientists, administrators and politicians to come up with simple rules; adequate resources to carry out their work; appropriate training in all aspects of their remit; and local contacts to put developments in a 'real world' context. Enforcement in a UK context was a relatively big affair in fishing industry terms. There were 250 000 nautical square miles to consider, 70% in and around Scotland, 10 000 UK registered vessels of which 60% or so were at sea at any one time, and there were some 250 foreign vessels to monitor also. UK and E U legislation at a cost of ?25m used 140 inspectors, five aircraft which 'spotted' 50 000 vessels a year and 17 patrol vessels which carried out 5500 inspections at sea each year, to enforce against a first-sale value of fish of ?550m in 1994. In 1993, 271 vessels were found to be in breach of the regulations, 1600 infringements were proved in court and the heaviest fine meted out to date was ?300 000 with costs. As far as the CFP itself was concerned there had to be cooperation between the various national enforcement agencies if its rules were to be applied properly. The yearly report by the Commission on the inspection systems in E U member States was welcomed as a move towards demonstrating to the fishermen of each country that they were not alone in being subject to enforcement practices. Summing up, Mr Jennings said that enforcing fisheries rules and regulations was not easy and as long as there was overfishing there would be tension between fishermen and between fishermen and the enforcement agencies. A Canadian participant commented that the recent agreement reached between the E U and Canada had certainly enhanced the efficacy of enforcement in the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) area. Onboard observers were now to play an enhanced role and assured a rapid response from the governments concerned if infringements of regulations were found and satellite tracking of a significant proportion of the vessels in the area was to take place. All in all, there would be increased transparency of what was happening in the fishery, a more rapid response to alleged infractions was likely and overall deterrence had been enhanced. Several people commented that simpler rules in the E U area were the starting-point of any significant improvement in the fishermen's confidence in the need for the present level of enforcement practices. Greater simplicity was also suggested as the approach to be taken in facing up to the basic problem of reducing capacity. Whilst fishing was profitable, buying out fishermen would be very expensive; letting the stocks collapse would mean that vessels, and the right to fish that went with them, might be bought up more cheaply. Such a scenario was not taken up by the members of a panel drawn from the audience for a final period of question and discussion. Professor Jacqueline McGlade urged that the focus of advice be shifted from the traditional biological area since that had generated bureaucracy and uncertainty. She echoed Dr Laurec's call for bringing all the participants together in regional discussions and welcomed the call from the UK's 'Panel on Sustainability' to keep fisheries problems high on the political agenda. Captain Jim Portus felt that the 'overcapacity' argument was fallacious to some extent, as far as the UK was concerned, until the 're-flagged' Spanish and other E U members' ships placed on the British register had been counted against their owners' national country quotas. Dr Robin Churchill returned to the comparison of the E U ' s attitude to agriculture on the one hand and fisheries on the other. The CFP budget represented in the order of 0.01% of the CA P budget; again a comparison with the beetroot subsidy factor can be made. In his view, the terms for the decommissioning of the fleet and the early retirement of fishermen could be more generous financially and still not be all that large in CAP terms. Mr Jim Hind reminded everyone that there had not been any compensation on Humberside for the loss of the Icelandic fishing grounds in 1976. He thought the UK had not had a good deal from the E U in fisheries terms, given that some 66% of E U ' s E E Z had formerly been UK waters and now our fisheries zone was some 35% of that area. Commander Michael Ranken advocated lobbying to get the CFP placed on the agenda for consideration at the Intergovernmental Conference on the future of the E U in 1996. In reply Dr Laurec urged that the U K make the most of the advantages of its proximity


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to the EU's fishing grounds and seize the opportunities offered by the E U market. Other speakers advocated individual vessel quotas with effective limitations on capitalization and entry and stemming from agreements made at a regional level by all the parties concerned. Mr Hind confirmed that his small fleet of distant water vessels had done well in recent years on the basis of agreement with the Norwegian Government. It showed, he thought, that all the UK needed was a fair share of any stock that was being fished. In opening the conference the Chairman, Professor Patricia Birnie, had pointed out a parallel between the long-standing problems of fisheries management and the search by seismologists for the means by which earthquakes might be predicted. The latter was, if anything, the easier because it was a purely physical phenomenon but after decades of modern scientific endeavour and millions of research dollars the recent Kobe earthquake had arrived without warning. Perhaps fishery managers were not doing as badly as everyone thought after all. In summing up the day, she reminded the audience that many of the points raised had appeared at similar conferences she had attended since 1965 and indeed 'sovereignty of the sea' disputes and wars related to fisheries problems were documented back to the l l t h century and had appeared in each century ever since. It was not surprising therefore that no easy solutions had surfaced during the day but perhaps some of the new ideas would lead to tangible improvement within the framework of the CFP. What was certainly on offer as a result of the present interest in sustainability was the chance to think again internationally about the line that needed to be taken. For several people in the room, this point and the presence of an ICES representative there reminded them of the view taken by Henry Maurice, the President of ICES in 1932, and echoed incidentally by Dr Laurec during the day, that we must seek, above all, the means to permit "the rational exploitation of the sea, that is, turning its resources to best advantage in the present without prejudice to the future." This would seem, after all, to reflect what sustainable development, as promoted by U N C E D in 1992, in the interests of future generations and the application of a precautionary approach is all about. ment from land-based activities. The preparatory process thus far has consisted of: ? a preliminary meeting of experts to assess the effectiveness of selected r e g i o n a l a g r e e m e n t s (Nairobi, 1993); ? a one-week meeting of governmentdesignated experts, focusing on the 1985 Montreal Guidelines for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Sources of Pollution (Montreal, 1994); and ? a meeting of government-designated experts to review and revise the Global Programme of Action to Protect the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) (Reykjavik, 1995) in addition to numerous unofficial meetings.

This is a report on the final preparatory meeting held in Reykjavik, 6-10 March 1995.

The Reykjavik meeting
The main aim of the G P A is to identify actions that can be taken at the international level to assist States in controlling, preventing and reducing degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities. In general, the significance and nature of activities that degrade the marine environment are reasonably well understood, yet there has been a notable absence of effective implementation of measures to address the problem. Two major barriers frustrate action - lack of political will and capacity. The GPA addresses the latter. It is not a legally binding document. The following is a summary of the contents of the G P A along with a brief recount of the debate that was generated by the draft text. 2

Gordon Senior Chairman, The Greenwich Forum 3 Briar Patch Charterhouse Surrey GU7 2JB, UK

Protecting the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities" a Global Programme of Action
Reykjavik, 6-10 March 1995
At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council was invited to convene, as soon as practicable, an intergovernmental meeting on protection of the marine environment from land-based activities. ~ The UNEP Governing Council responded in its decision 17/20 of 21 May 1993 and authorised the Executive Director to organise a structured and sequenced preparatory process leading to a two-week intergovernmental meeting in late 1995 for the purpose of adopting a programme of action for the protection of the marine environ-

Overlapping regimes
The introduction of the revised draft GPA clarifies the basis for action and aims of the document and acknowledges that the programme is being developed in the context of existing regional and i n t e r n a t i o n a l Agreements that relate to degradation of the marine environment. Pertinent articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are


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