Interim Report to the Council Meeting at Ministerial Level 2002 on the study "Economic and social sustainability indicators for fisheries"


  1. In its 2000-02 Programme of Work, the Fisheries Committee launched a study to examine Economic and Social Sustainability Indicators for Fisheries. The overall objective for the study is to contribute to improving the measurement of economic and social dimensions of sustainable development of fisheries and, where possible, relate these to the resource and environmental dimensions. The study was based on case studies provided by OECD countries, supplemented by information obtained from international organisations.
  2. A survey of the development and use of economic and social fisheries indicators in OECD countries and in international organisations revealed that a number of OECD countries consider the development of indicators to measure national progress towards sustainable development to be of high priority. However, few national initiatives have reached the stage where economic and social indicators are produced and used on a regular basis. In fact the development of such indicators for fisheries is still very much in its infancy.
  3. Most effort to date, both at the national and international level, has focussed on developing indicators related to the ecological sustainability of fishery systems. Little attention has been paid to the set of potential indicators that could be used to assess the economic and social aspects of fisheries. The growing demand for social and economic indicators from policy makers is a result of this perceived imbalance in the pursuit of sustainable development objectives.
  4. The Study has found that there is a significant degree of diversity across OECD countries regarding the key policy issues to which current efforts to develop social and economic sustainability indicators are being applied. In a number of countries the policy priority is the assessment of local and regional impacts of fisheries in response to an increasing concern about the impact of structural change on smaller communities that are dependent on fishing. Other countries are more focussed on the general economic performance of their fleets and fisheries.
  5. There is significant difference among countries with respect to the availability of relevant social and economic data to support the development of indicators. There is, therefore, a need to undertake capacity building at the national level to enhance the ability of countries to measure progress towards sustainable development of fisheries. In the meantime, the Study has facilitated the exchange of information about national approaches to the development and use of indicators.
  6. A uniform international approach to indicators at the macro or national level for the purpose of undertaking cross-country comparisons presents particular challenges. Most of the work currently being undertaken by OECD countries on indicators is highly fishery-specific. The scope for the translation of such regional and local level indicators to the international level is limited due to the diverse characteristics of fisheries, resources and industries across the OECD. However, further work will pursue the development of an appropriate set of aggregate indicators for the purposes of cross-country comparisons within the OECD.