OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers

Selected studies on various food, agriculture and fisheries issues from the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate.

NB. No. 1 to No. 58 were released under the previous series title OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Working Papers.


Major Challenges for Fishery Policy Reform

A Political Economy Perspective

A political economy perspective of fisheries governance is presented in this paper. In most countries, formal and informal linkages exist among four components of the governance system. The legislature passes laws that authorise the implementation of policies and programmes by a fisheries agency. The fisheries agency establishes a fisheries management authority. Stakeholders often have a formal role – from advising to decision-making – in the management plan development process and approved plans are implemented by the fisheries agency. In general, governance failure (that is, undesirable public policy outcomes) has been attributed to special interest effects, rational voter ignorance, bundling of issues, shortsightedness, decoupling of costs and benefits, and bureaucratic inefficiencies. No studies demonstrate whether private interests significantly influence fishery policies and regulations, but evidence from other sectors suggests that this is very likely. One of the features that distinguishes the fishing industry from other regulated activities is that often there are no strong property rights, and regulation seeks to prevent overexploitation of a common pool resource (CPR). Fishers, in effect, impose costs on each other rather than on consumers, in the absence of regulation. A laboratory experiment was designed to simulate lobbying to influence regulation of a CPR. Results show that competition for fishery earnings weakens the incentive to effectively lobby for regulations that maximise group well-being. More experienced participants believe that their contributions to changing a regulation are not worthwhile. Instead, they focus more on competing for earnings from their use of the CPR. Correcting or mitigating government failure in fisheries might be assisted by the introduction of strong property rights, the devolution of rights and responsibilities to user groups, the use of the cost recovery and sustainable financing mechanisms, and for shielding fishery managers from the shortsighted tendencies of elected officials. But these recommendations may have difficulty in being implemented in the face of strong opposition from private interests in the fishery.


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