Australia: ‘Sharing the Fish’ conference says fishery resources need safeguarding Published: 01 March, 2006
AT a major international conference on fisheries management being held this week in Australia, FAO is underscoring the need for governments to establish clear and fair rules for managing access to fishery resources.
“It has been clear for some time that the world’s fisheries are finite and that our catches have to be similarly finite. It’s also clear that not everybody can participate in fisheries – access to capture fisheries must be limited,” said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries, in a speech at the opening of the Sharing the Fish 2006 Conference (Fremantle, Western Australia, 26 February – 2 March).
“What we need are sharing mechanisms that clearly determine who can fish and what they can fish for – systems of fishing rights that people can hold, either as individuals, in groups of shareholders, or as communities,” Nomura said.
Allocation of fishing rights often means making difficult decisions about who can catch fish and who will be excluded, Nomura acknowledged, adding: “But we are now at the point where we absolutely need to deal with the issue.”
Fishing rights usually spell out what species their holders can harvest, where and when they can do so, and in what quantity. The exact details of rights and how they are assigned depend strongly on the local context.
According to Nomura, the approach creates incentives for those holding rights to safeguard the well-being of fishery resources by not overfishing or otherwise degrading them. FAO’s most recent global assessment of wild fish stocks found that out of the almost 600 major commercial species groups monitored by the Organization, 52 percent are fully exploited while 25 percent are either overexploited (17%), depleted (7%) or recovering from depletion (1%). Twenty percent are moderately exploited, with just three percent ranked as underexploited.
Wider use of fishing rights would help address not only overfishing but also the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing as well as conflicts over access to fishing grounds, according to FAO.
Various rights-based approaches are already being used with success in numerous fisheries around the world.
Senator Eric Abetz, Australia’s Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, and John Glaister, CEO of New Zealand’s Ministry of Fisheries, also spoke at the Sharing the Fish Conference.
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