Monday, February 16, 2009

The Right to Fish

Posted below is a passage from Reef Ecology and Conservation by Robert H. Richmond of University of Hawaii, Manoa; Willy Kostka of Micronesia Conservation Trust; and Noah Idechong Palau National Congress
STEWARDSHIP VERSUS THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

Coral reef conservation practices in many of the Pacific Islands reflect a stewardship ethic that stems from ownership of the resource, as well as responsibility for addressing problems and their solutions. This is in contrast to the Western “Tragedy of the Commons” scenario, where there is universal ownership and no direct lines of responsibility by stakeholders. The advantages of traditional leadership, which still exists in a variety of forms in the Pacific, is the speed at which conservation-based decisions can be put into practice. For example, it took nearly five years for conservation policies to be developed and enforced following studies demonstrating overexploitation of a sea cucumber fishery in the Gal├ípagos Islands. In Yap, it took only one day to move from data presentation to village chiefs to a policy decision to close the fishery. A distinguishing feature of most traditional leadership systems is community compliance without the need for legislation, enforcement activities, and legal proceedings.

Recent efforts to cite “the right to fish” as part of traditional cultures to argue against the establishment of MPAs and other conservation measures are falsely based. Fishing, including the use of specific types of gear, access to particular areas, and the consumption of certain species, is a privilege granted by chiefs or master fishermen and was never a right. These privileges are granted by traditional leaders based on considerations including resource availability and sustainability and may be rescinded if conditions warrant.

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