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Illegal Logging

A case study on illegal fishing and the role of rights-based fisheries management in improving compliance

This case study focuses on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing refers to fishing activities that do not comply with national, regional, or international fisheries conservation or management legislation or measures. IUU fishing activities may all have serious detrimental impacts on marine ecosystems, ecosystem services, and the societies that derive benefit from such services. IUU fishing exerts additional pressure on fish stocks, which may already be under pressure from unsustainable rates of legal fishing activities, and can thereby contribute to the depletion of fish stocks. In addition to these direct impacts on target fish species, fishing activities (and therefore IUU fishing activities) can have direct impacts on non-target commercial species and nonmarketable fish, on protected and vulnerable species, and on habitats.

This case study focuses on the causes, motives and incentives for committing illegal fishing. It considers the role of rights-based fisheries management systems in incentivising or dis-incentivising illegal behaviour. Rights-based management programmes convey and manage exclusive entitlements to an entity – person, company, vessel, community – to fish in a particular place at a particular time. The European Commission defines rights-based management as “a formalised system of allocating individual fishing rights to fishermen, fishing vessels, enterprises, cooperatives and fishing communities”. Rights-based systems of fisheries management exist in most EU Member States in some shape or form, and the Commission sought to introduce an EU system of transferable fishing concessions (defined as a revocable user entitlement to a specific part of fishing opportunities allocated to a Member State, which the holder may transfer) in its proposal for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Rights-based management is found to be a potential tool to deliver better fisheries management. The adoption of rights-based management can lead to better compliance with fisheries requirements due to the interest rights holders have, their ability to lease extra quotas, etc. However, the benefits of rights-based management depend entirely on the rights being adequately determined. If fishers consider their entitlements to be insufficient or unfairly distributed, then non-compliant behaviour may occur.

Rights-based management is, therefore, a mechanism to be considered within the design of fisheries management. In taking such a system forward it is importance properly to design the catch share systems to ensure the incentives work for compliance as well – i.e. to address or limit social equity concerns.