Why are fishers not enforcing their user rights?

Sustainable fisheries management in Chile


KEY MESSAGES:
  • Assigning user rights to fishers is expected to lead to more sustainable fishing practices by fishers
  • Fishers may choose not to enforce their user rights if they think that government policing of marine areas and punishment of poachers are ineffective
  • In Chile, the government can support fishers’ engagement in enforcement by increasing its own engagement in apprehension and penalisation of poachers

The Los Molles fisher organisation on the central coast of Chile (Image by Katrina Davis)

The Los Molles fisher organisation on the central coast of Chile (Image by Katrina Davis)

Over-fishing is a global problem. It damages the marine environment and compromises the long-term sustainability of fisheries. A 2014 report by the Food & Agriculture Organisation stated that roughly a third of global marine fish stocks were overfished. One way we can control fishing effort is by giving fishers a stake in marine resources by establishing co-management systems, for example, by assigning user rights for marine resources.

TURF control

Assigning user rights to fishers enables them to capture the benefits of sustainable management. This is expected to lead to more sustainable fishing practices by fishers, as well as greater interest in the responsible use and management of marine resources.

User rights programs include what are known as territorial user rights for fisheries (or TURFs). Evidence from early TURF programs suggests that TURFs can lead to real benefits for the marine environment: marine species’ abundance can be much higher in these areas than in open-access areas where fishing is not controlled (see Decision Point #85).

However, these benefits are not always present. TURFs have not provided gains in species’ abundance in areas where catch restrictions are not enforced to ensure compliance. In these non-enforced areas, species’ abundance is much closer to open-access conditions. These findings suggest that, independent of the benefits of user-rights programs, they will not reach their full management potential if they are not enforced.

Marine enforcement

Marine enforcement involves three activities: monitoring, apprehension and penalisation of poachers. We expect fishers to help enforce restrictions when they have exclusive user rights and can capture the benefits of management. In a number of such cases, however, fisher participation in the enforcement of user rights is absent.

In Chile, the harvesting of shellfish (like the Chilean abalone known as ‘loco’) is controlled through TURF programs. There are around 450 TURFs currently active. Chilean artisanal fishers are given user rights for defined coastal areas to harvest shellfish. In exchange for their user rights, fishers are responsible for monitoring their TURF to detect poachers. The Chilean government is responsible for apprehending and penalising poachers.

However, around 1 in 3 TURFs are not monitored in Chile. This finding is surprising, as previous work has shown that enforcement has net economic benefits for fisher revenue (Davis et al, 2015a).

Figure 1: Case study area in the central marine region of Chile.

Figure 1: Case study area in the central marine region of Chile.

Surveying fishers in Chile

We used central Chile as a case-study to investigate why some fishers may choose not to monitor their TURF user rights (Figure 1). We conducted a survey of 52 artisanal fishers in the central marine region, from Navidad in the south, to Los Molles in the north. We evaluated a range of potential reasons why fishers may choose not to monitor their TURF areas, including environmental factors, social costs, and concerns for personal safety.

Katrina Davis (centre) with Faustine Auzanneau (on the right) interview Rafael Sagredos, a fisher from Pichicuy fisher organisation. (Image by M Guerrero Gatica)

Katrina Davis (centre) with Faustine Auzanneau (on the right) interview Rafael Sagredos, a fisher from Pichicuy fisher organisation. (Image by M Guerrero Gatica)

We found that, on average, the fishers that we surveyed may choose not to enforce because they think that government policing of marine areas and punishment of poachers are ineffective (Table 1) (Davis et al, 2015b).

Table 1. Results from conditional logit model for the most important reason not to monitor TURF management areas (best choices). Preferences are relative to the option: ineffective government penalties for poachers. Model shows aggregate sample preferences (n=52).

Table 1. Results from conditional logit model for the most important reason not to monitor TURF management areas (best choices). Preferences are relative to the option: ineffective government penalties for poachers. Model shows aggregate sample preferences (n=52).

Implications for marine management

These results have implications for the success of marine management which is based on the assignment of user rights like TURFs. Despite the potential for user rights systems to deliver real benefits for conservation and fishers’ productivity, if user rights are not enforced then these gains may not be realised. Marine management which relies on community engagement and participation will require support from government to legitimise and facilitate community engagement in enforcement processes.

In Chile, the government can support fishers’ engagement in enforcement by increasing its own engagement in apprehension and penalisation of poachers. Where fishers participate in enforcement higher marine species’ abundance and higher productivity for fishers are likely to be the result: a true win-win situation.


More info: Katrina Davis k.davis@uq.edu.au

References

Davis K, M Kragt, S Gelcich, S Schilizzi & D Pannell (2015a). Accounting for enforcement costs in the spatial allocation of marine zones. Conservation Biology 29: 226-237. And see Decision Point #85

Davis K, M Kragt, S Gelcich, M Burton, S Schilizzi & D Pannell (2015b). Why are Fishers not Enforcing Their Marine User Rights? Environmental and Resource Economics, 1-21. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10640-015-9992-z

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