A warm welcome back onto the Foc’sle for another session with your Lookout Man!
It was rather stormy last time we met, but tonight the forecast is for calmer seas and some showers, which hopefully our Watchkeeper up in the wheelhouse will steer us safely around!
In our perhaps more buoyant mood, let’s look at what the future may hold for the fishing industry.
Firstly, we are assured that the demand for seafood products of all kinds will continue to grow. The big concern, however, relates to the ability of the global marine biomass to withstand these ever-increasing consumer demands.
Looking on the bright side, we can be comforted that some of the fishery management measures put in place to date have shown good results. These measures revolve in the main around Government control of the species, size, and volume of fish caught, with the issuance or withholding of licenses being the key management tool.
Fish stocks can thus grow, with the resulting economic benefits to the fisherman, the administering Nation, and ultimately, the family sitting at the table in a seafood restaurant.
But here is the snag, the licensing does not have a global reach and is only applicable in waters administered by either a littoral State or a Fishery Resource Management organisation. Further, enforcement depends entirely on the political will of the relevant management Authority, in addition to its economic ability to mount effective enforcement patrols.
Technology has helped to partially overcome this enforcement gulf, with AIS (Automatic Identification System) or VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) being commonly required by seagoing fishing vessels. In theory, these gadgets provide an almost instantaneous and continuous read-out of vessel data to the Flag State Fishery Manager. Although they cannot be switched off unless seals are broken etc, they are easily defeated by the simple expedient of placing a tin bucket over the antenna. Then if checked by authority, the gadget shows it has all along been working properly.
The hope is, and from my exposure to fishermen I believe it is a valid hope, that the ‘word gets around’ and the improved economics encourage wider compliance with Fishery Management Regulations. At the end of the day, boat owners and the fishermen themselves only go to the sea to make money. If compliance means that they can eventually make more money, they will be interested to follow.
Improved results due to the application of enhanced management will also encourage States, who are currently ‘wavering,’ to establish effective controls over their boats and their marine resources.
So above we can see the carrot. Now for the stick!