Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  06 Oct 2008

FISHING: Future of Fishing Rights


Recent Western Cape Business News

IN a recent interview with the chairperson of the Artisanal Fishers Association, Andy Johnston opened up a debate about the future of fishing rights in South Africa.

One of the ideas that were promulgated by Johnston was to introduce a CREAD and/or TURF management system for certain South African fish resources. CREAD is an acronym for ‘Controlled Regulated Equitable Access Distribution’ and TURF is an acronym for Territorial Use Right in Fisheries.

Both systems suggest that certain fish resources will be open for fishing to local coastal communities on a virtually free basis within the limitation of an annual TAC (Total Allowable Catch).

A position paper on CREAD supplied to Olrac contains the following policy principles: “This is intended to be as unrestricted as possible except where conservation of the resources is under threat. It is where a free market system can flourish,” says Amos Barkai of Olrac.

“One asks oneself, why has an issue that has been debated for so long and been subjected to so much political and legal scrutiny refused to die? The answer is simple, but the very nature of its underlying logic will never satisfy everybody. Fish resources are both common property and privileged access resources. They are common property resources by their legal definition as either belonging to everybody or to nobody. They are privileged resources because out of a possible multitude of applicants only a few have been awarded fishing rights. As a result, the many who have been denied access, many of them coastal dwellers, will never accept an exclusive allocation system (unless they happen to be included, and then a 180 degree shift of perspective is commonplace),” Barkai says.

“It should be appreciated that extreme economic pathologies will arise when an incentive for a ‘race-to-fish’ is created as promoted by the CREAD (even if not explicitly so). This occurs when there are no specific input or output limitations on individual participants (as seems implied by the above policy statement), and the total allowable catch is enforced by closing the fishing season when the annual TAC has been landed.”

“If fishing has a monetary motive, normally the case, fishers find themselves in a competitive situation governed by the lowest common moral denominator – i.e. the person who tries to catch the most wins, others lose. This is not only due to human nature – it is in fact scripted by the management system that is created. The ‘race’ might start when fishers exert as much time at sea as possible in an endeavour to increase their share of the TAC. This causes the length of the season to shrink rapidly as all fishers are forced to respond, and each year the TAC is filled earlier on in the season.”

“This situation will typically rapidly progress to include the acquisition of increasingly expensive and efficient fishing vessels and fishing gear to maintain a competitive advantage in a process known by resource economists as rent dissipation, i.e. profits from fishing dwindle and eventually disappear as all participants gear up to retain an advantage in the race to fish,” says Barkai.

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