EcoFishMan is a EC-funded RTD project that seeks to develop a responsive fisheries management system (RFMS) based on results-based management (RBM) principles. The intended context of application of the RFMS is complex, mixed-fisheries and multi-stakeholder fishery sectors like those found in the EU/Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) area.
European fisheries are in a miserable state. In the Green Paper on the reform of the fisheries policy, the EU Commission characterizes the situation in the sector in terms of overfishing, fleet overcapacity, heavy subsidies, low economic resilience and decline in the volume of fish caught. Other problems, such as discards and social problems connected to regional development are also well known.
The EcoFishMan concept is based on the notion that major problems in fisheries, particularly within complex fisheries like those in Europe, are linked to the shortcomings of the particular form of management developed within the sector. These shortcomings are typically characterized by administrative micro-management procedures. An important avenue towards more healthy fisheries can be found in a transition towards a RBM system. RBM systems are generic and flexible, but they must be specifically tailored to fit the technical, economic and political structures of the relevant sector. The general objective of EcoFishMan is to develop and pre-evaluate a responsive fisheries management system (RFMS) based on RBM principles. In this new RFMS, active stakeholder involvement is essential. The development and evaluation of the RFMS takes place in an iterative process to ensure that the RFMS is adapted to different types of fisheries and changes in the environment. Each iteration of the developmental work is based on a three-step-process:
- Design the basic components of the RFMS (conceptualisation)
- Develop general guidelines for making a management plan (MP)
- Develop a management plan (MP) for the specific ecosystem
Through four case studies (three fully fledged case studies used for developing the RFMS and one approval test case study used to verify that the RFMS can be adapted to other types of fisheries), the RFMS will be adapted to the respective fisheries, and the effect of the RFMS will be evaluated. A final recommendation for an overall RFMS to be applied in all EU waters will be the main outcome of the project. This will contribute to a fundamentally new approach to fisheries management in Europe.
The EcoFishMan project aims at developing a management approach that will contribute to solving the problems inherent in the current EU fisheries management system. It does that by addressing some of the structural problems of the CFP as pointed out in the Green Paper. These are: the weakness of policy objectives, the short-sighted decision making system and the absence of responsibility for industry and stakeholder groups. This does not mean that the two remaining problems with the CFP (fleet overcapacity, low degree of compliance) will remain unaffected by the model proposed. In the RFMS, fishers will be given more responsibility for managing and reporting their own activities, and the responsibility for detailed allocation and control of individual quotas and compliance will be moved to a lower level. This will ensure a higher degree of local ownership to the fish and to the data, and the transparency, both of decisions and of transgressions, will increase. Nevertheless, the focus of this project will remain primarily on the system of decision making and the division of responsibilities among policy makers, managers, industry and other stakeholders.
EcoFishMan will explore how results-based management (RBM) can be developed for the fisheries sector in such a way that it will contribute to solve the problems of the CFP. RBM involves the division of responsibilities between a central authority (a principal) and a regional body (an agent). The principal defines outcome targets, relevant indicators and specifications of a MP. In order to achieve the outcome targets, the agent develops and implements a detailed MP in accordance with the specifications. Instead of a system of top-down micro-management, in which the principal sets and enforces all rules, this system leaves the responsibility for the practical implementation in the hands of the agent. A part of the responsibility of the agent under the system is to provide information to the principal, so that it becomes possible to monitor performance and take corrective action. This information originates from the stakeholders, so that in reality the burden of proof is shifted from the authorities to the fishing industry, which enhances the commitment of the industry towards responsible, long-term management. This enhances cooperation and mutual understanding between scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders, for the benefit of all parties. Such a system addresses directly the key structural problems of the CFP as outlined above.
The overall EcoFishMan aim is to develop a results-based management (RBM) system for EU fisheries. This is accomplished by defining outcome targets (top-down management) and then leaving it to those affected to identify and implement the means to meet these requirements (bottom-up management) and to document the effectiveness of those means through a reverse burden of proof (Figure).
A set of strategic objectives (SOs) have been defined in order to put the mission of EcoFishMan into practice and to monitor the scientific and technological excellence of this project:
Strategic objectives (SOs) of EcoFishMan:
- SO1: Identify and evaluate existing results-based fisheries management (RBFM) systems
- SO2: Identify and evaluate a set of indicators for the outcome targets
- SO3: Specify and design the RFMS in conjunction with stakeholders
- SO4: Verify viability of the RFMS through simulated case studies
- SO5: Evaluate the RFMS and the associated costs and benefits
- SO6: Consult stakeholders regarding the RFMS and to produce a roadmap for implementation of recommendations of the RFMS
In EcoFishMan, the RFMS will be designed to take into account the welfare of coastal communities, the marine environment and the interaction of fishing with other activities. The RFMS will aim at delegating the burden of proof related to the achievement of policy objectives to the industry, and the industry will have to assume greater responsibility for its own activities. The vision of the EcoFishMan project is to contribute to a fundamentally new approach to fisheries management in Europe that will find acceptance among stakeholders within governance, industry and consumers, and thus have a significant impact on the future common fishery policy. The mission of the project is to analyse and draw on experiences with results-based resource management systems and propose a feasible implementation of such principles in European fisheries management, in particular to reduce the discard problem. The aim of this proposal is to develop and contribute to implementation of a new integrated fisheries management system based on increased stakeholder involvement; an ecosystem-based sustainable management system under a precautionary framework that will define maximum acceptable negative impact, target elimination of discards and maintain economic and social viability.
The RFMS is a results-based responsive management system; which means that results are continually monitored and revised in relation to interdisciplinary assessment towards the biological, social, legal and political needs. Key-words here are personal and municipal responsibility, hazard analysis, well defined critical control point reactions, quota-bank, restoration liability; all installed at a base of EU provisions that are disentangled from the present system of micro-management.