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SEAwise report on requirements for fisheries governance to be effective

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posted on 2023-09-27, 07:31 authored by Troels Hegland, Furqan Asif, Jan van Tatenhove, Jesper Raakjær, K Rathcke, Marloes KraanMarloes Kraan, Frangoudes, Katia, Anna RindorfAnna Rindorf

The SEAwise project works to deliver a fully operational tool that will allow fishers, managers, and policy makers to easily apply Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) in their fisheries. This SEAwise report discusses the concept of governance, how to understand ‘effective’ governance, and a research plan for further studies of the effectiveness of and potential for improving governance at the regional and sub-regional level in the SEAwise regions (Baltic Sea, North Sea, Western Waters, and the Mediterranean Sea). The theoretical insights from the first two main parts inform and are merged into the research plan, forming the last part of the report. The work is based on the recognition that fisheries management in Europe is still struggling to deliver on its objectives relating to ecology, economy, and social considerations although improvements have been made over the last decades. On top of this, marine biodiversity and ecosystem integrity can be identified as pressing challenges, while climate-change presents renewed uncertainties and risks.

Improved governance, appropriately designed for Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM), is key to improving the system performance towards the societal objectives. Lack of appropriate measures towards cooperation between the EU, national, and regional levels has led to uncoordinated decision-making processes and prevented coherent management through the implementation and adoption of EU legislation, leading to lower than desired performance both of fisheries and environmental policies. Referring specifically to the involvement of stakeholders, the European Commission stresses the importance of transparency, cooperation, outreach, information, and inclusiveness in developing and implementing measures to ensure that all stakeholders, not least fishers, have a say in the management process, and that their needs and concerns are considered (European Commission, 2023a). Improvement of what can broadly be defined as ‘governance’ is, thus, among the pathways that the European Commission has identified for improvements in the area.

In SEAwise, we understand governance as a social process, mediated by a variety of social actors: governments, regional authorities, private industry, and civil society. As such, governance is “the whole of public as well as private interactions taken to solve societal problems and create societal opportunities. It includes the formulation and application of principles guiding those interactions and care for institutions that enable them” (Kooiman & Bavinck, 2005, p. 17). Following this, effective governance requires that this constellation of actors is able to speak to each other, coordinate activities, be included in decision-making processes, and work together to define, frame and understand problems, and ultimately, come to solutions. It is, consequently, the effectiveness of the governance ‘set-up’ for such interactions that is studied under Task 2.4. The outputs of this social process in the shape of policy interventions and management measures, affecting e.g., fisheries practices, are typically evaluated through indicators for performance vis-à-vis ecology, economy, and social aspects. However, for governance, a fourth set of attributes and indicators has to come into play.

In responding to this, the evaluation of the effectiveness of fisheries governance in the EU is informed by two sources: i) the approach taken by the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) (reported in Stephenson et al. 2017a, 2017b, 2018), which constitutes a framework for comprehensively evaluating fisheries and includes potential performance indicators selected from a comprehensive review of the literature (comparing a wide variety of existing frameworks); and ii) the Aquaculture Governance Indicators (AGIs) framework (Toonen at al. 2021), which not only provides a comprehensive governance framework but operationalizes it via scoring of specific indicators and criteria across the core components of governance.

The CFRN framework operates with three overall institutional (or governance) objectives: a) legal objectives, b) good governance structure, and c) effective decision-making processes, which are then further decomposed into attributes of these objectives. As an example, attributes under ‘effective decision-making processes’, include (among others) concerns around participation, transparency, structuredness, and integration. The CFRN framework goes on to suggest candidate indicators for these attributes. The CFRN framework are supplemented with insights from the AGIs framework, which serves to provider further insight in how to go from specific indicators and to criteria that these can be measured according to.

In the final section, a plan for further work under Task 2.4 is outlined. The plan involves focussing on both the overall regional governance arrangements in the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Western Waters and the Mediterranean Sea, and in-depth studies of sub-regional cases of fisheries governance in the same regions. The analysis of the cases will result in recommendations on how the effectiveness of governance could be improved.

Using the governance elements outline in the first section of the deliverable as a lens to approach the research undertaken under Task 2.4, a two-pronged research plan allowing comprehensive understanding of the general nature and quality (i.e., how effective) of governance arrangements is outlined in the final section. The first prong is through the implementation of an expert elicitation survey, which is comprised of specific governance-related questions that is sent to the diverse range of governance actors across sectors (academia/research, civil society, government) for each of the SEAwise regional seas (at regional level). The second prong consists of a selection of in-depth sub-regional case studies informed by SEAwise partners based on their experiences and existing knowledge while also leveraging their research network to inform the details of the case study through for instance interviews.

The outlined research plan is designed to deal with multi-level dynamics of fisheries governance (level of the regional seas and sub-regional level) and can accommodate the study of ‘socially acceptable’ management measures, and how social acceptance of management measures might be increased by considering increased use of self-governance (or other improvements to the governance arrangement studied).

More information about the SEAwise project can be found at


Shaping ecosystem based fisheries management

European Commission

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