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Conference on Economic advice in fisheries management in Malta

04/02/2016

In the context of its collaboration with the European Association of Fisheries Economists, the European Commission is organising this year a conference in Malta focusing on Economic Advice in Fisheries Management and the trilogue between scientists, administration and stakeholders.

It is clear for Blue Fish that globalisation leads to increasing complexity and that the governance of fisheries in the European Union cannot be compared with that of emerging countries. Nevertheless, Blue Fish strongly believes that fishing communities everywhere must be maintained at the centre of sustainable development – even as the social pillar is often overshadowed by environmental or short-term economic interests.

Without prejudging of the content of the debates in Malta, which Blue Fish will follow with interest, we believe that the economic models aiming to support fisheries management policy-making often tend to focus only on rent seeking behaviours, building on the maximum financial valuation of the stocks’ natural capital, and to advocate in fine for the implementation of transferable individual quotas.

In a primary production economy, such as that of maritime fisheries, and even more in the case of multispecific activities, that approach does not match reality.

Indeed, the intellectual construct of pure and perfect competition – as established by David Ricardo, and based on a large number of buyers and sellers, the homogeneity of products, the absence of entry and exit barriers, market transparency and perfect factor mobility – remains incompatible with the seafood market.

It is even actually an illusory path which cannot guarantee social justice nor economic efficiency. Indeed, in multispecific fisheries, which continue to constitute the main reality of our fishermen and our companies, its implementation aiming to maximum profitability would lead to a decrease in production factors (boats) superior to that in monospecific fisheries and a concentration in production rights (quotas and fishing effort), leading to situations of oligopolies, and even monopolies, in full contradiction with the pluralist principles of competition, as well as to a mis(under)exploitation of exploitable stocks.

In addition, in the establishment of bio-economic models, the introduction of the ‘price’ variable at a constant, fixed and annual level does not capture the complexity of market reality. Indeed, price formation – a fundamental element of economic life – is predictable only in very rare occasions, and the notion of ‘relevant market’ remains theoretical.

The new measures of the Common Fisheries Policy, focused on MSY and on the landing obligation, have just entered into force and have not yet produced enough results to be able to establish a valid judgment of their consequences.

The main aim of the sector today is to reach the different MSY levels in a time that is compatible with jobs at sea and on land, the maximum volume of catches and the need of the sector and the market, in order to produce a sufficient income for companies, fishing professionals and the territories that support them.

Let us not forget the two objectives of the new sustainable development programme adopted by the United Nations Assembly in September 2015:

  • End hunger, achieve food security (objective 2) and
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources (objective 14).

Let us give to the social pillar the place that it deserves in our search for poverty reduction, food security, social justice and economic equity.