Insights › Fisheries - Foreword
Few industries have such a mixed image in the public mind as fishing. We admire the bravery and skill of boat crews battling the elements to catch fish that are seen as a healthy contribution to our diet. At the same time, we deplore over exploitation of stocks and the associated ecosystem damage.
The basic problem of too many boats chasing too few fish seems simple, but any lasting solution needs to take into account multiple, often contradictory, influences, spanning economic, social and environmental concerns.
For the industry itself, the goal is to make the business more efficient and profitable. This cannot be achieved if it destroys the very natural resources on which it depends, whether the stocks of commercially valuable fish or the complex natural environment that allows them to thrive. This also means halting illegal practices such as the pirate fishing that robs legitimate fishers of their livelihood and makes it harder to manage stocks sustainably.
It is obvious that fishers should adapt their catches to stocks, but it is difficult to convince them to respect restrictions for long, if there are many free riders and somebody else takes advantage of any improvement in stocks. And asking them to give up a profession that is also a way of life and the foundation of the community will seem particularly unfair if there are no alternative jobs available.
Those outside the profession, on the other hand, will argue that it is both unfair to the taxpayer and counterproductive to support an industry if that industry has itself created the difficulties that are now threatening to engulf it.
Fishing, therefore, finds itself at the meeting point of two major challenges. First, how to manage a shared resource at local, national, regional and international levels. Second, how to make reform succeed in the face of conflicting interests.
This latest Insights book draws on the OECD’s extensive expertise in fisheries issues, as well as on the Organisation’s work in a number of other areas, from structural adjustment to the environment. It presents fisheries as a modern, globalised industry. It shows the background to many of the issues we have to deal with today, as well as the ways in which fishing responds to changes in the economy, technology and lifestyles.
I trust this book will show how fisheries can continue to play an important role in society for a long time to come if the right set of policies is put in place.
Secretary General to the OECD