The mobility of fish and fishermen, the difficulties in assessing the state of diverse fish stocks and the various impacts of overfishing and environmental change pose substantial challenges to fisheries management. Similarly, aquaculture uses public goods including freshwater resources, marine spaces, and common-property wetlands and intertidal areas and can impact on critical habitats, biodiversity, and genetic heritage. It is well agreed among authorities of all management levels that addressing these issues requires sustainable fisheries governance.
Sustainable fisheries governance means protection of the inshore and coastal fisheries on which poor subsistence fishermen and small-scale commercial fishermen depend, while clearly defining the important role of industrial fisheries. It also recognizes the critical links between aquaculture development, healthy wild fisheries, and the responsible management of water basins, wetlands and sensitive coastal zones. Sustainable governance involves transparent and participatory decision-making that is accountable to both today’s stakeholders and future generations.
Because of its unique characteristics of fisheries industry, since few decades ago, there have been a number of important international legal instruments and soft-laws provided with the aim of directing nations towards fisheries sustainability. In turn, countries are positively changing their management system to ensure the long term viability and profitability of fisheries, yet in different level of effectiveness. This gives rise to the questions: How sustainable is the current fisheries governance regime of a country and how should it be improved to meet desired goals of sustainability?
The research involves a review of the current status of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture, and recognizes the needs for a study on the sustainability of fisheries governance. It also involves a brief literature review to identify the basic components of sustainability assessment and the introduction of the research methodology used.
Because the main objective of the research is to assess the sustainability of legal and institutional arrangements which constitute the governance regime, the research first tries to cover a brief description and timeline of international conventions and soft-laws on fisheries that dictate the establishment of national legislations and institutions. The assessment is then carried out through developing a framework for sustainability indicators development and identifying the appropriate set of indicators.
This research does not aim to define in detail the right model for assessment nor does it attempt to describe all the requirements that must be satisfied for a sustainable governance regime. The aim is to progress one action for realizing this vision given the finite awareness and superficial study in the field. By providing the preliminary assessment of the nine top-producer countries, the research is desired to bring about a better picture of the current status of fisheries management over the world.