EnergyScapes: Managing ENERGY TRANSITION Global Environmental Recovery

Challenges for fisheries management, planning and policy in contributing to sustainable economic development of ocean natural resources

The recent banning of a super trawler from fishing in Australian waters has highlighted again the plight of fisheries worldwide and concern over the impact such practices may have on Australian offshore fisheries into the future. The current mindset resulting in the ban seems too be based on “determining whether or not overfishing is occurring”.

Any resulting policy providing options for harvesters that provides an opportunity to demonstrate operating within the constraints set for them based on such a mindset is problematic. I think because our default mindset is to react to overfishing. A shift in ideology and thinking is needed if we want better policy frameworks to manage fish stocks into the future in a time of significant global change.

“Preventative” policy regarding the management of fish stocks needs to set criteria around objectives based on managing the maintenance of ecosystem services to humans (maintaining the life supporting attributes of living resources that sustain us on this planet). It should be at the core of fisheries policy rather than adjusting single species stocks against shifts in maximum sustainable yield. If you want to show whether or not overfishing has occurred “after the fact” then I think we will always be destined to failure in fisheries management.

It is a very emotional issue and I challenge everyone to question the science behind fisheries management. To challenge derived models and management regimes is fundamental to hypothesis driven thinking. For example, the hoki quota in New Zealand was decreased not that long ago because it was being overfished, or should I say the quota was adjusted down based on shifts in maximum sustainable yield. I think that is the politically correct term. The model works but it is purely reactive and in no way accounts for the long-term impacts of extractive practices  on sustainability of ecosystem services.

The manner in which the situation concerning the ban on the super trawler fishing in Australian waters has unfolded is less than adequate. However, the use of fisheries models and the manner in which commercial fishing practice occurs has also long been flawed worldwide. As the infamous Dr. David Suzuki said, the economics of corporations shifting money from one resource to another as it is depleted does not have any resemblance to the real world and maintaining the life supporting attributes of living resources that sustain us on this planet. This is perhaps the one reason we are in a time of significant global environmental change. Plenty of resources exist but we manage it for profit rather than inclusion of the sustaining of ecosystem services to humans as part of sustainable economic development.

In particular, it is confusing that in New Zealand the ideology behind Iwi Whakapapa is at opposition with the vested financial interest Iwi have in Quota. The term Maori is also used too loosely as it is a Pakeha term coined to lump all Iwi together. Iwi are a tribal people with very different views and relationships with Pakeha that exist to this day. Iwi and hapu are the very people that should be advocating for a policy change but Iwi corporations under the Fisheries Settlement Act are not set up to achieve this because they have to follow the Pakeha model.

Policy criteria might set objectives based on the maintenance of delivery of ecosystems services to humans. Options could be considered from a financial perspective for the company and the economy, options might include proportional reduction in areas trawled, net sizes (area), duration of a trawl, and then all related to fishing at say 30% below projected maximum sustainable yield to account for known and unknown long term feedback loops.

Objectives that over arch management might include a greater emphasis on a transition to ranching and to aquaculture and of course opening up access to other natural resources (for example the NZ EEZECS Bill) such as minerals, oil and gas. Such policy objectives could be combined with a ban on targeting spawning aggregations like those for squid or Hoki in NZ and then criteria is set around compensation for a decrease in catch per unit effort.

Securing buyin from fisheries companies is uncertain and even more crucial, such policy is not achievable without legislative reform and compensation being focussed on facilitating a better investment in aquaculture and other resources. In the current commercial environment, such policy might not be able to adequately reflect the current legislation and regulations governing the industry. Each country has its own issues around sustainability as well so one size does not fit all. Thus the problem with signing up to international conventions.

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Categorised in: Culture and Society, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Legilsation and Regulations

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