Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 1–43

Fisheries management in the twenty-first century: will new paradigms apply?

  • J. F. Caddy

DOI: 10.1023/A:1008829909601

Cite this article as:
Caddy, J.F. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (1999) 9: 1. doi:10.1023/A:1008829909601


The last decade has seen growing concern at the uncertain effectiveness of most fisheries assessment and management approaches as reflected by trends in global landing statistics published by FAO. These imply full exploitation of the majority of fishery resources and a serious overcapitalization of fleets at the global level. Projected increases in demand, future prices for fisheries products, and impacts of growing world populations on the ecosystem all require an urgent search for improved management frameworks.

Improved management of fisheries requires, first, an understanding of the axioms and working assumptions underlying the current approaches and how these evolved in response to regional or local conditions and target species. This should promote integration of methodologies which better reflect local situations and can be expressed in the form of one or more working paradigms. These paradigms should incorporate ecosystem considerations, including environmental fluctuations and socio-economic factors. They should not assume that current production levels are independent of natural fluctuations and human impacts and should recognize the dangers of maintaining open access to marine resources throughout their seasonal cycle, life history and distribution range.

‘Wide-use’ management paradigms incorporating explicit user rights, participatory management and inputs from a variety of disciplines and stakeholders are becoming popular, but must operate within a hierarchy of pre-negotiated responses to pre-specified limit reference points so that social and economic options are not lost because conservation issues have not been given precedence.

Academic and research institutions could aid the management process by more participation, by promoting interdisciplinary teamwork with stakeholders and by breaking down excessive specialization and regionalization within fisheries studies. On the management side, the key elements for improving the situation seem to be consultative management frameworks that explicitly incorporate ‘watchdog’ functions and implement ‘precautionary’ approaches to management. Risk-averse strategies are appropriate but, given the high level of uncertainty that managers face with natural systems, ‘fail-safe’ management with redundancy, both in the data sources they rely on for fishery performance and in the management measures applied, seem appropriate.

For near-shore resources, governments could consider partly devolving management responsibility to appropriate levels in society, involving coastal communities, individual use rights and other vehicles for allocating access. Changing emphasis of modern technology from fisheries exploitation to improved management will be one aspect of successful future management systems, perhaps incorporating geotemporally defined access rights to near-shore and shelf resources.

Recent international agreements, including the formal ratification of the Law of the Sea, show that governments are prepared for more ecologically appropriate approaches. The key stake of the fisheries industry in sustainable fisheries development needs supporting, particularly for developing countries, now the major source of aquatic marine products. High priorities for management of marine resources are rebuilding depleted resources and restoring habitats, with concern for maintaining genetic and ecological diversity. There will be a need to consider impacts of global trade on conservation of resources for future generations, if proper management is to be maintained in the face of growing demand.

International agreements of relevance to future management paradigms which are compatible with the Law of the Sea Convention (and each other), include Agenda 21 of UNCED, the Biodiversity Convention, the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, the Compliance Agreement and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Such agreements, ratified or now open for signature, provide a comprehensive basis for future ‘customary law’ that can assist authorities in constructing appropriate management frameworks. Current concern remains with application of these agreements in international waters, where limited access as required for proper management still has not been established.

alternative paradigmsfishery assessment and managementfuture perspectivesinternational agreements

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Caddy
    • 1
  1. 1.Fishery Resources DivisionFood and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsRomeItaly