and ocean governance:
The importance of the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, and adaptive management in explaining fisheries management failures.
A PhD thesis 2009 Jon Nevill
This thesis explores the idea that poor fisheries management - and the economic and ecological damage which follows - is largely the result of management failures to implement important strategies to account for uncertainty. The two most important of these strategies are the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach. After investigating the implementation of these strategies in Australian fisheries case studies, the author concludes that implementation is at best incompetent, and at worst dishonest. However, the case study of the southern ocean krill fishery, managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, provides an important exception. Other case studies include the Western Rock Lobster fishery, the Northern Prawn fishery, the Orange Roughy fishery, and South Australia's abalone fishery.
The study finds strong rhetoric amongst Australian fisheries agencies supporting application of the precautionary and ecosystem approaches. However, in the case studies examined, there is little evidence for enthusiasm (on the part of managers) for actually applying the approaches in a thoughtful or comprehensive way. Examples are discussed showing that agencies have published false and misleading information apparently to create an impression that these approaches are being effectively implemented. The author speculates as to the reasons behind this behaviour, suggesting that the explanation lies in cultures within fisheries agencies which condone incompetence and foster dishonest reporting.
The central conclusion of the book is that steps must be taken to bring about radical change in the cultures which operate within fisheries agencies. This could be achieved, the author argues, by replacing fisheries management agencies with agencies charged with managing marine biodiversity assets.
“Why does overfishing persist in the face of
regulation?” This question, the subject of intense interest and
discussion, has no easy or palatable answer. While trawling over old
ground, this thesis hopefully offers new insights, and adds weight to
important arguments advanced by other writers. I argue here that
overfishing, a fundamental cause of the crisis facing our oceans, is the
result of the failure of our fishing management agencies (ultimately our
politicians and communities) to embrace a small suite of powerful tools
(more correctly strategic approaches) which have been developed to account
Broad success in managing fisheries to achieve
sustainability goals will (I argue) only come if these tools are
enthusiastically applied. Moreover, I suggest that this will not
happen until organisational cultures within fishery management agencies
undergo a major shift. In my
view, the only way this shift will occur is for asset-based biodiversity
conservation, rather than resource exploitation, to be placed at the
centre of ocean governance.
This thesis examines these issues in the context of
case studies covering regional, national and provincial (State) fishery
management agencies. With the exception of the case study of a regional
fishery (the southern ocean krill fishery) all case studies are drawn from
Australian experiences. Commercial and recreational fisheries are
The thesis was subsequently published as a book under the title "Overfishing under regulation"; see http://www.onlyoneplanet.com/marineFlyerVDM.pdf. The main problem with the book is that it reduced the original A4 format to A5, making the font very small.
Please contact me by email (or write to me at PO Box 106 Hampton Victoria 3188 Australia) if you would like a copy of my Endnote reference file.