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Wider use of fishing rights promotes conservation

Wider use of fishing rights can promote conservation – UN agency

With pressure growing on worldwide fish stocks, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today recommended that governments assign more fishing rights as a means of promoting conservation.

Speaking at a conference in Australia, entitled Sharing the Fish 2006, Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries, said that allocating fishing rights often meant making difficult decisions about who can catch fish and who cannot.

“It has been clear for some time that the world's fisheries are finite and that our catches have to be similarly finite. It’s also clear that not everybody can participate in fisheries – access to capture fisheries must be limited,” he said.

“What we need are sharing mechanisms that clearly determine who can fish and what they can fish for – systems of fishing rights that people can hold, either as individuals, in groups of shareholders, or as communities,” Mr. Nomura added.

FAO’s most recent global assessment of wild fish stocks found that out of the almost 600 major commercial species groups monitored by the Organization, more than half are fully exploited while one quarter are either overexploited or depleted. Just 1 per cent of stocks are recovering from depletion, while 20 per cent are moderately exploited. Three per cent are underexploited.

Wider use of fishing rights would help address not only over fishing but also the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing as well as conflicts over access to fishing grounds, according to FAO.

Fishing rights usually spell out what species their holders can harvest, where and when they can do so, and in what quantity. The exact details of rights and how they are assigned depend strongly on the local context.

According to Mr. Nomura, the approach creates incentives for those holding rights to safeguard the well-being of fishery resources by not over fishing or otherwise degrading them.

“Holders have a vested interest in responsibly managing fishery resources – fishing rights, in effect, align economic forces with conservation interests,” he explained.

Before the five-day conference began, FAO conducted a workshop that looked at the allocation implications of all types of fisheries regulations used around the world, including fishing rights as well as other strategies.

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