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close this bookCERES No. 122 (FAO Ceres, 1988, 50 p.)
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Jurisdiction over fisheries Part 2: The transfer of resource wealth

by Gerard Moore and Gunnar Saetersdal

The extension of fisheries jurisdiction to 200 miles during the latter part of the 1970s raised considerable expectations. In the September-October 1987 issue of Ceres, we examined the extent to which expectations of improved resource management have been fulfilled. Redistribution of resource wealth in favour of coastal nations, and more particularly the prospect of a more equitable sharing of the oceans' wealth between developed and developing nations, represented the other main expectation from the new fisheries regime. According to one FAO estimate, about 25 per cent by value of the total world catch was taken by fleets of distant water states off foreign shores. Of this, fish worth some US$3.7 billion (by 1978 values) was caught in areas that were to become economic or fishing zones of developed countries and catches worth $1.9 billion from the future zones of developing countries. The value of the catches of the few developing countries with distant water fleets from foreign waters was of the order of $100 million.

From these figures it was obvious that the main redistribution of resource wealth was to be among developed countries rather than from developed to developing countries. However the gains to developing coastal states were in terms of accessible resources directly off their coasts. Expectations among developing countries regarding the direct gains to be obtained from fisheries after the extension of fisheries jurisdiction were thus often considerable, though in many cases somewhat unrealistic. This article will concentrate on the extent to which those expectations have been realized.

The FAO Fisheries Statistical Yearbooks give the nominal world landings by economic class of nation. The records show that, during the period 1975-77 to 1984-85, the total world catch increased from about 68 million metric tons to about 84 million tons. The share of the developing countries over the same period has increased from about 43 to close to 50 per cent. Part of this increased share is attributable to increased catches in inland waters, almost all from developing countries. But even with full allowance made for this, it is clear that there has been a proportional increase in marine fish production in developing countries. It seems reasonable to attribute this increase at least in part to the extension of fisheries jurisdiction.

A more sombre picture. A study of fishing by industrialized nations in the exclusive economic zones of developing countries currently being carried out by FAO, however, gives a somewhat more sombre picture, at least at first glance. The study's preliminary results show that the estimated total catch by non-coastal countries in areas bordered by developing coastal states during the period 1977 to 1983 has remained remarkably stable at a global figure of around 5 million tons per year. The figures suggest that, quantitatively, no great "take-over" of the resources off the coasts of developing countries hitherto fished by foreign fleets has yet occurred. Indeed the foreign fishing effort has remained more or less at the same level as under the open access regime. This stability is in marked contrast to the dramatic decline in the catches by foreign fleets in the northern fishing regions over the same period. These dropped from about 2.2 million tons to 0.2 million tons in the Northwest Atlantic, and from about 1.9 million tons to 1.3 million tons in the Northeast Pacific.

The apparent stability of the global catch reported by the FAO study, however, masks significant variations in regional trends. In the Eastern Central Atlantic, for example, the foreign catch has declined from an average level of 2.1 million tons during the period 1975 to 1970 to 1.6 million tons in 1983. The total catch from the region, on the other hand, has remained constant at about 3.2 million tons throughout the entire period, thus demonstrating an increase, albeit modest, in the share of the catch taken by local fishing operations.

In the Southwest Atlantic, foreign fishing operations have increased quite substantially and account for most of the growth of the total catch from 1.1 to 1.6 million tons during the period. In the Southeast Atlantic the average catch from foreign fleets during the period 1975 to 1979 was 1.5 million tons, falling to 1.3 million tons in 1983. This slight decrease, however, was probably the effect of resource variability. Marked increases of coastal countries' shares in this region can hardly be expected as long as Namibia is occupied by the Republic of South Africa and open access is maintained off its coast.

In the Western Central Pacific a modest increase in the catches by foreign countries has been offset by an even higher trend of increase of total tuna catches in the region, tuna being the main target species in the region. In the Eastern Central Pacific, another important tuna region, foreign fishing seems to have been maintained at a stable level.

The negative impression presented by the global catch figures is subject to two further qualifications, both of them of importance for the time frame of development and development potential.

The first qualification is that for those developing countries that have already attained a significant degree of national capacity in the fisheries sector and have adequate economic infrastructure to sustain development, there has indeed been a quite dramatic take-over of resources by the coastal state. One example is Mexico, where the domestic tuna fleet has grown from some 19 vessels in 1970 to 70 vessels in 1982, and the sardine fleet from 60 units in 1970 to 132 in 1982. The development of the fleets and infrastructure in Mexico has resulted in a 69 per cent growth in estimated employment related to fisheries between 1976 and 1979, while fish production rose from 386 500 tons in 1970 to almost 1 565 000 tons in 1981. Rapid development of national effort has also been a feature of some West African fisheries, such as those in Morocco and Senegal, and of fisheries in more developed countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. The qualification, which should hardly be surprising, reflects the converse fact that developing a fisheries industry from scratch, without existing capacity, trained manpower, and infrastructure, is a very costly and time-consuming enterprise. For example, the total capital investment required to finance full development of a national Namibian fishing industry based on a 1.5 million ton catch has been estimated at $450 million.

The second qualification concerns the other benefits being derived in the short term by developing coastal states from the resources newly under their jurisdiction and the degree of control being exercised over the use and potential use of those resources.

Where a coastal state is not yet in a position to take over itself the harvesting of the resources, it may condition the access granted to foreign fleets on the payment of access fees, the formation of joint venture operations or other benefits, such as landing of catch for local processing, employment of local crows and training of national personnel. The benefits to be derived from granting access under licensing arrangements will obviously be less than the potential contribution to the economy that could be obtained from full national use of the resource. A truly national fisheries industry can, for example, contribute to solving nutritional needs, create employment opportunities in the production and supporting services, contribute to national income through wages and surpluses, and earn foreign exchange. The goal of most developing countries will therefore tend ultimately toward the development of full national utilization. Licensing and joint-venture arrangements are usually viewed as intermediate steps toward this goal and can provide much needed information on the fisheries and a means of transferring technology and management skills and experience, as well as purely financial benefits.

Substantial advances. The last few years have seen substantial advances in the financial benefits and degree of control derived from access licensing arrangements. In the Southwestern Pacific, for example, license fees as a percentage of landed catch value have risen steadily from zero to 2-3 per cent, under the first licensing agreements at the outset of extended jurisdiction, through 5 per cent, under the agreements of the early 1980s, to over 10 per cent under the new multilateral fisheries treaty with the USA. Although this latter figure does not yet represent the return to the Pacific Island countries from all foreign fisheries in their waters, it is likely to represent the Pacific Islands' price threshold for future access agreements on purse-seine fisheries. The progress in the South Pacific has come not so much from fortitude in individual bilateral negotiations as from regional solidarity expressed and implemented through the new regional organization, the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, and its programme of harmonization of fishery regimes. The regionally coordinated approach to the negotiation of access agreements, culminating in the US multilateral treaty, has not only greatly improved the negotiating power of the individual Pacific Island countries and hence the benefits obtained from access agreements, but has also generally enhanced their compliance control powers. Adopting innovative cooperative approaches to compliance control, such as the regional register of foreign fishing vessels and regional arrangements for flag state responsibility, the Pacific Island countries have managed to improve control over fishing operations in their zones while minimizing costs of enforcement, thereby increasing net benefits to themselves as coastal states.

In the South Pacific, as in other regions, the ultimate goal of the coastal states is the development of national fishing industries. While some progress has been made in the establishment of national pole and line fishing fleets, only limited experience has so far been gained with new medium-sized purse-seiners now being introduced in some of the fleets. The urge for national development coupled with the pressures of increased fees on distant-water fishing fleets seems likely to spur a second round of joint-venture activity in the region. Nevertheless in this region, as in other regions dominated by tuna fisheries, it is likely that foreign fishing in one form or another will be a feature of the fisheries for some time to come. Recent trends, however, indicate that real control over the resources and their future utilization is for the first time swinging over to the coastal states.

In the Eastern Central Atlantic (West Africa) region, mention has already been made of the distinct trend toward nationalization of the fishing fleets. Where foreign fleets continue to operate, access fees have increased substantially over the last 5 years. The movement can perhaps be most easily seen in recent EEC access agreements in the area. Most of these show a substantial increase under the heading of financial compensation and contributions to scientific programmes - normally by far the largest element of the access payment. Payments to Guinea under this heading, for example, have risen from 2.3 million ECU over the three year period January 1983 to end 1985, to a total of 8.95 million ECU for the corresponding three-year period ending 7 August 1989, an increase of approximately 289 per cent. Payments to Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe have registered increases in the range of 75 per cent, 884 per cent, and 247 per cent respectively. Although a fair proportion of these increases represents the increased fishing by EEC vessels now that Spanish and Portuguese vessels fall under the EEC rubric, the actual increases in compensation levels are substantial. New agreements with Mauritania and the Gambia show correspondingly high levels of EEC financial compensation (20.94 million ECU and 3.38 million ECU respectively) though there are no earlier agreements with which these can be compared. The level of fees payable by actual fishing vessel operators under these agreements, however, as opposed to financial payments by the EEC, has remained, with one exception, fairly constant.

More important from the point of view of coastal state development are conditions relating to the landing of catches to support developing shore based processing industries and the formation of joint venture operations as in Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco. In each of these countries these conditions are seen as essential stages in the development of a truly national fishing capacity.

Some countries, such as Senegal, have made advances in the standard of control over foreign fishing operations, while others still have little real control over operations in their zones and, in some cases, little information on the nature and extent of those operations. This region's controls, unlike those in the Western Pacific, are based purely on national systems. Two subregional organizations, however, have recently been set up with one of their main objectives being the adoption of a regional approach toward control over foreign fishing operations. The southern subregional grouping of countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, promoted by the EEC, has hardly got off the ground. The northern grouping - Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and, more recently, Guinea - has functioned on a semi-formal basis for some years and is now in the process of becoming a treaty-based body.

The Southwest Indian Ocean has been the scene of considerably increased foreign fishing activity over the last few years, aimed mainly at tuna resources. While there is evidence, though limited, of the development of national fishing capacity, mainly in Maldives and Mauritius, substantially increased benefits are now being derived from the foreign operations. The new EEC access agreement with Seychelles, for example, provides for financial compensation and contributions to scientific programmes of 6.75 million ECU over a three-year period - up some 487 per cent from the previous agreement, though again the increases stem, at least in part, from the inclusion of rights for the Spanish fleet under the new EEC agreement. For Seychelles, which is at the hub of the foreign tuna fleet operations, recent studies have indicated that the benefits derived from straight access fees are in fact dwarfed by the other benefits to the economy, including spin-off benefits derived from the basing of the operations and transshipment of fish in that island country. Signs are also apparent of increased interest in the potential of a regional approach to the control of foreign fishing operations. Such an approach would greatly increase the potential effectiveness of coastal states' control over their resources and over activities in their zones. In the meantime, only a few of the coastal states, notably Seychelles, are exercising effective control.

When dealing with access under joint venture arrangements, the distinction between foreign fishing and national fishing becomes more blurred, and substantially increased spin-off benefits may be generated for the national economy in terms of value added to fish products, employment in both primary and secondary fisheries sectors, foreign exchange, taxation, and other forms of revenue. An example is Argentina, where a significant investment programme in the period 1976-79 involving minority foreign participation in joint ventures led to a dramatic, though temporary, increase in landings of 37 per cent per annum in the case of deepwater fishing operations, and an increase in total fisheries exports from under $20 million in 1975 to over $200 million in 1979, though the totals have subsequently declined.

A final qualification should be made this time regarding the target species for foreign fishing operations and the type of fishing methods concerned. For some target species, such as shrimp, for which market demand and values are high and where fishing methods are relatively easy and not capital intensive, the rate of nationalization of the fishing effort is comparatively high. The shrimp fisheries in the northern part of Southern America, in the Gulf region, in the Bay of Bengal, and in West Africa are examples. For other species and methods of fishing that are more capital and technology intensive, such as tuna purse seining, or which have limited markets or other marketing problems, progress in development of a purely national capacity by the developing coastal state will undoubtedly take far more time.

The first decade. In summary, then, at the end of the first decade of extended fisheries jurisdiction, one cannot say that there has been a substantial take over of resources by developing coastal states, in the same way as developed coastal states have appropriated the resource wealth off their coasts. In this sense the "expectations" of developing countries have not been fully realized. This broad quantitative picture, however, masks a number of regional variations, and variations based on the degree of existing infrastructure in individual countries and on target species and methods of fishing. It would also be true to say generally that developing coastal states are receiving greater benefits from the exploitation of the fish resources in their new zones, in terms of access fees and other benefits and that, particularly in some regions, the degree of control by coastal states over the present and potential use of those resources has increased quite dramatically and is increasing.

This latter point is of particular importance for two reasons. First, because most of the world's underexploited fish resources lie in the waters off the coasts of developing countries. Second, because the development of a national fisheries capacity in the poorer coastal states is essentially a long-term proposition. The first step in that direction will be to control the present and potential use of that resource and to preserve for the coastal state the option of national development.