Fisheries - Common Wealth?


The oceans are the last great global commons. The UN Law of the Sea governs some aspects such as the 200-mile zones around coasts and the right to exploit the continental shelf, but in theory, anyone can travel the rest of the world’s seas and exploit their resources relatively unhindered. Governing a shared, global resource like fish poses special problems. Conservation efforts by one group can be worthless if the only result is to allow another a bigger share of the catch. Yet if fisheries are to be sustainable, the political and other barriers to effective co-operation have to be overcome.

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Fishing today is in some respects in a similar situation to agriculture in previous centuries. Access to some resources is controlled, notably in EEZ, and there are attempts to extend control to the whole “territory”. Yet despite thirty years of fishery management programmes, most coastal nations have not yet mastered ways to control fishing effort and maintain healthy fish stocks. Why is this? Why have so many governments consistently failed? This chapter will discuss the policy issues the industry will have to resolve if it is to survive.

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