The final symposium of the SOCIOEC research project was an occasion to share results of three years of intensive exploration of which management measures would best serve implementation of the reformed EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

For three years, the 25 research teams from 12 countries had investigated how regional specificities could be managed in line with overarching objectives of the reforming CFP and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and other EU directives in mind.

They had set their eyes on developing management measures that would enable acceptance and accomplish compliance by fishers and other stakeholders with existing and new legislation.

In the prestigious venue of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences and the Arts in Brussels, Belgium, the researchers reviewed their results in relation to their original objectives, namely:

  • to define EU-wide sustainability objectives that can be operationalised thanks to stakeholder consultations,
  • to identify the most effective management measures to address structural failings of the CFP,
  • to determine the social and economic effects of the management measures identified and assess their potential impact on commercial fish stocks (and their recovery),
  • to review how EU policy frameworks influence the possibilities for decentralisation and more participatory governance.

A presentation on regionalisation, types of co-management and the role of incentives in fisheries management by Birgit de Vos from the Netherlands set the scene. She focused on the three major types of policy incentives: coercive, financial and social. She observed that one or the other had been preferred in recent decades with renewed emphasis on coercive measures. They had worked at least partially. Noting the gap between preferences and actual behaviour, the fear of loss is stronger than the hope of gain. Showing examples from outside fisheries she concluded that while most policies had used financial and coercive incentives, deploying social incentives was a largely underutilised opportunity.

Martin Aranda illustrated that improving governance was successfully achieved in multispecies fleet in the Basque country. He attributed this to a combination of capacity building and involvement of the cofradias as the traditional forms of social organisation in the fishing sector. Allocations of fishing rights were made collectively taking into account traditions of fishing, vessel characteristics and dependence on fishing. Reducing conflict and reducing fishing capacity were explicit objectives. The collective process ensured so far that decisions were generally accepted, the fleet shrank and compliance with group decisions improved together with acceptance of strict enforcement of penalties against offenders. Not all fisheries were equally successful in using social peer pressure for setting and enforcing local rules compatible with the EU framework. The purse seine fishery e.g. has more compliance problems.

Analyses presented by Mike Fitzpatrick of NUI Galway, Ireland, of several other regional fisheries (Celtic Sea herring fishery, Danish pelagic fishery and Greek Aegean demersal trawl fishery) showed that there were no silver bullets to recovering depressed resources. Some high-profile measures, such as discard bans, were not automatically the most effective. Big differences in behaviour were found between demersal and pelagic fishers. Surveys showed that fishers catching bottom (demersal) species seemed to be more strongly attached to their local communities and susceptible to group decisions with associated peer pressure to respect them. The large vessel owners in the pelagic fishery preferred individual measures and operations, while smaller operators were more amenable to group cooperation.

Stephen Hynes of NUI Galway then showed that marine protected areas have positive effects and that fishing effort is likely to be displaced to the immediate neighbourhood, if some nursing grounds are closed. Overall effects are expected to be positive with few fishers losing out for lack of alternative grounds and stock recovery making up for restrictions.

Loretta Malvarosa of NISEA, Italy, analysed how impact assessments could be improved while still using the EU guidelines. She reviewed the options from the perspective of effectiveness (also acceptability and compliance), efficiency and coherence. Coherence should minimise trade-offs between objectives and be supportive of overall sustainability criteria.

The step-by-step guide developed is proposed as a good practice tool to meet EU requirements. She argued that such assessments should be carried out as simulations before taking measures and that stakeholder involvement was essential for shared understanding and later compliance. She recommended special care with simple presentations of the sometimes complex simulations at each step so that all parties grasp what the analyses are about and what the results are. Using traffic lights and presentations of options in decision tables has been useful in this context.

Several researchers discussed management options in data rich and data poor conditions and under which conditions control of fishing effort might be a more promising way to bring the fleet in line with the reproductive capacity of the resources than reduction of fishing capacity.

One half day served to look at what could be learnt from management successes or failures in fisheries outside the EU or from research carried out by partners from outside the project itself.

Gunnar Haraldsson of Institute of Economic Studies in Iceland compared fisheries policy and management in Iceland, New Zealand and Australia, two relatively small island states and one very big and diverse country. Smallness in Iceland and New Zealand made management easier. Indeed, he estimated that performance in Australia was more varied. Discard bans are less prominent than in the EU, but specific measures are in place to reach social goals.

He suggests that property regimes as practiced in Iceland and New Zealand with individual transferable quota (ITQs) can be good, but only in conjunction with effective monitoring, control and surveillance and observability of operations.

Mundus maris presented preliminary results of on-going field research on stakeholder perspectives about the fisheries policy reform process in Senegal. The field research is led by Aliou Sall. The interviews with so far more than 200 different stakeholders in the artisanal segments of the fisheries suggest that they recognise the need for boat registrations and licencing. At the same time, perceived lack of consultation and fear of losing the basis of their livelihood and identity is triggering defiance to top-down measures. This is not dissimilar to findings elsewhere. But the importance of fisheries for the national economy, employment and food security in combination with the entry of new investors (both national and international) in the face of already degraded resources make rebuilding trust and dialogue an urgent requirement. The powerpoint is available here.

The third session focused on implementing the landing obligation. Several speakers commented from different perspectives. As already suggested in discussions in earlier sessions, this was not considered essential for the success of the reformed policy. The final round of discussions also brought up again  some critical questions on simplification with more stakeholder implication and the role of non-EU labour in many fisheries and what that might mean for the future of fisheries in the EU.

The conclusions from the meeting and key recommendations from the symposium will shortly be posted on the project website.

Photos at the meeting by C.E. Nauen.