Sustainable Fisheries: Multi-Level Approaches to a Global Problem

The Inadequacy of Contemporary International Governance of Fisheries Ecosystems

Michael G. Schechter and Daniel J. Blue

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874219.ch10

In this chapter, we argue that fisheries governance institutions—legal and organizational—remain inadequate to meet the challenges of sustainability of the world’s fisheries resources (i.e., using the resource at rates within their capacity for renewal). Institutional innovation is occurring, and some progress toward sustainability, even in terms of marine and inland fisheries, is being made. Still, this falls short of the demands on fisheries, much less the long-term protein needs that could be provided if fisheries were more sustainable. In a similar vein, while the fisheries management experiments with capacity management strategies aimed at limiting fish harvesting capacity have been creative, the results seem the same regardless of whether one is talking about limited entry programs, setting quotas for total allowable catches, buyback programs, increased state jurisdiction over coastal waters, increased monitoring of fisheries and enforcement of regulations to curtail the negative impacts of postwar industrialization, gear and vessel restrictions, vessel catch limits, total allowable catches, territorial user rights, or individual transferable quotas. Most fall short of their goals, especially in jurisdictions under the control of administratively weak, economically less developed countries (Lane and Stephenson 2000; FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department 2002; Worm et al. 2009; Valdimarsson and Metzner 2011, this volume). If sustainable fisheries are to be achieved, things have to change. Some of the most important legal constructs remain soft laws. If they have not already ripened into hard, customary international law, they need to be codified. Treaties written before widespread awareness of the magnitude of the overfishing crisis, habitat degradation, and the problems associated with aquaculture need to be revised. The challenges for fisheries associated with wind (Lake Erie Commission 2009) and thermal (Myers 1986; Galbraith 2009) sources of energy also require attention, as these energy systems will proliferate rapidly in the next decades. In any event, once new treaties are approved, they need to be enforced. This, in turn, will require additional national administrative capacity and buy-in from fishing communities.