Fisheries management

From Academic Kids

Fisheries management is today often referred to as a governmental system of management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management means to implement the rules, which is put in place by a system of monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS). Modern fisheries management is most often based on biological arguments where the idea is to protect the biological resource in order to make a sustainable exploitation possible.



The control of fisheries and fish production has been exercised in many places around the world for hundreds of years.

For example, the Maori people, residents of New Zealand for about the last 900 years, had strict rules in their traditional fishing activities about not taking more than could be eaten and about throwing back the first fish caught (as an offering to Tangaroa, god of the sea).

Another longstanding example is the North Norwegian fishery off the Lofoten islands, where a law has existed for more than 200 years to control fishing activity, in this case primarily motivated by problems occurring during periods of high density of fishers and fishing gear. To avoid gear collisions, gillnetters and longliners are separated and not allowed to fish in the same grounds south of Lofoten.

Governmental resource protection-based fisheries management is a relatively new idea, first developed for the North European fisheries after the first Overfishing Conference held in London in 1936. In 1957 the British fisheries researchers Ray Beverton and Sidney Holt published a seminal work on North Sea commercial species fisheries dynamics. The work was later (in the 1960s) used as a theoretical platform for the new management schemes set up in North European countries.

After some years away from the field of fisheries management, Ray Beverton reassessed his earlier work and in a paper given at the first World Fisheries Congress in Athens in 1992, he criticised some of the concepts that he had earlier laid out in "The Dynamics of Exploited Fish Populations" and expressed concern at the the way his and Sydney Holt's work has been misinterpreted and misused by so many fishery biologists and managers during the previous 30 years. Nevertheless, the institutional foundation for modern fishery management had been laid.


The political goal of resource use is often a weak part of the system of fisheries management, as conflicting objectives are often found.

Political objectives often found when exploiting a fish resource:

  • Maximise sustainable biomass yield (see optimum sustainable yield)
  • Maximise sustainable economic yield (see maximum sustainable yield)
  • Secure and increase employment in certain regions
  • Secure protein production and food supply
  • Increase income from export

Management rules

International agreements are required in order to regulate fisheries taking place in areas outside national control. The desire for agreement on this and other maritime issues led to the three conferences on the Law of the Sea, and ultimately to the treaty known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Concepts such as exclusive economic zones (extending up to 200 nautical miles from coastlines) allocate certain sovereign rights and responsibilities for resource management to individual countries. In the case of highly migratory species and stocks straddling boundaries, this sovereign responsibility must be exercised in collaboration with neighbouring Coastal states and fishing entities, usually through the medium of an intergovernmental regional organisation set up for the purpose of coordinating the management of that stock.

UNCLOS does not prescribe precisely how fisheries that occur solely in international waters should be managed, and there are several new fisheries (such as high seas bottom trawl fisheries)that are not yet subject to international agreement across their entire range. Both of these issues "came to a head" within the United Nations in 2004 and the UN General Assembly issued a resolution on Fisheries in November 2004 which set the scene for the further development of international fisheries management law.

Fisheries objectives need to be expressed in concrete management rules. In most countries the management rules today should be based on the internationally agreed, albeit non-binding, standard Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, agreed at an FAO session in 1995. The precautionary approach prescribed here is also implemented in concrete management rules as minimum spawning biomass, maximum fishing mortality rates, etc.

Management mechanisms

When it comes to controlling the activities of individual fishers or fishing operations (vessels or companies), available management means can be sorted into four categories:

Taxation on inputTaxation on output
Limited entry controlCatch quota and technical regulation

The top row represents indirect methods while the bottom row represents direct methods of regulation. The left column shows input controls and the right column output controls.

Many countries have set up Ministries and Government Departments, named "Ministry of Fisheries" or similar, controlling aspects of fisheries within their exclusive economic zones.


  • Beverton, R. J. H., and S. J. Holt. 1957. On the dynamics of exploited fish populations. Chapman and Hall, London, Fascimile reprint 1993.
  • Voigtlander, C. W. (Ed.) 1994. The State of the World's Fisheries Resources. Proceedings of the World Fisheries Congress (Athens, 1992), Plenary Sessions. (Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 66 Janpath, N.Delhi 110 001, INDIA). 204 p.

See also


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