Skip to main content

A social science network for fisheries management.


The social science of fisheries management is a relatively recent, but expanding and rapidly maturing, field of research activity. However, unlike either fisheries science or fisheries economics, the activities of the social sciences remain fragmented among several cognate disciplines and dispersed among a large number of academic institutes, with no integrating organisational framework. As a consequence, the dissemination of research findings and the impact on policy debates have been weak. Accordingly, the overall aim of ESSFiN is to develop an active network of social scientists engaged in policy relevant research in fisheries management, with the following objectives:

(i) to review the current state of social science research relating to fisheries management;

(ii) to identify key issues for social science research particularly in areas relating to the strategic behaviour of fishermen, institutional arrangements for fisheries management and the impact of alternative regulatory systems on fishing communities and fisheries dependent areas;

(iii) to develop opportunities for greater collaborative involvement in policy relevant research in fisheries management and development; and

(iv) to facilitate the provision of appropriate socio-economic advice to policy makers.
At the time of writing, the 'concerted action' is two thirds of the way through its initial lifespan. The following comments thus apply only to those sections of the programme which have so far been completed.

(i) Workshops: Three out of the original schedule of five workshops have been held.

a) Property Rights, Regulatory Measures and the Strategic Response of Fishermen (Seville, 5-7 September, 1996). Property rights are of central concern not only to an understanding of the social ecology of fishing but also as a prerequisite for effective management. However, the current debate on use rights has become distorted by the misuse of terminology, an overemphasis on ITQs and a de-contextualisation of use rights from the broader social conditions under which fishing takes place. Use rights should not be considered only in the narrow context of finding an efficient operational solution to a management problem. The embeddedness of use rights means that externally imposed regulation may act as an indirect form of social change, which may help to explain the resistance of fishermen to the introduction of new policy measures. A schema is proposed wherein ITQs and centralised regulation are preferred for certain forms of offshore fishing; open access and/or group quotas, with a combination of centralised and devolved regulation, are regarded as relevant to other forms of fishing within EEZs; and community use rights and local systems of regulation are adopted for inshore fisheries within the 12nm limit.

b) Northern Waters: Management Issues and Practice (Aarhus, 29-31 May, 1997). Three main tendencies characterised the social scientist's concerns in the 'northern waters', defined as the North Atlantic and the sub-systems of the Baltic and North Seas. Running throughout the region is a concern for the lack of flexibility of response generated within modern management systems by a combination of unstable management scope and institutional inertia which renders the systems unable to cope with the increasing pace of internal and external change. Of particular significance in the North Sea is the pressing need to integrate fisheries management with the wider concerns for the quality of the marine environment and the integrity of the marine ecosystem. Implementation of 'integrated fisheries management' raises particular questions relating to institutional reform. Finally, differences in the focus of concern prompt the consideration of a centre: periphery structure to the discourse on management issues, with the periphery's preoccupation with the basic relationship between production, employment and incomes within the fisheries sector contrasting with the centre's tendency to shadow recent consumer trends relating to environmental and market issues.

c) Alternative Management Systems (Brest, 18-20 September, 1997). Focusing on institutional restructuring of fisheries management rather than the content of fisheries policy, three themes emerged relating to (i) the spatial scale of management, (ii) the organisational structures conducive to good management, and (iii) how fisheries management might cope with the increasing pressure for the assimilation of ecosystem management and the precautionary approach. Two alternative models for decentralisation and devolution of responsibility for policy formulation were outlined: the designation of regional seas and Regional Fisheries Councils to replace the monolithic CFP, and an interlocking system of coastal state management, whereby responsibility reverts principally to the individual Member States. Caution was expressed with regard to overstating the claims of co-management, which remains a rather ill defined concept, and overemphasising the causal links between user participation, legitimation, compliance and the success of the management system. Meanwhile, the challenge of ecosystem management can be met in one of two ways: through the re-orientation of policy objectives within a state-led 'integrated management' system or through eco-labelling schemes promulgated by an alliance of environmental lobby groups and major players in the food industry, which bypass the formal policy process.

(ii) A Socio-Economic Data Base for Fisheries Dependent Areas. The task group responsible for this initiative has elaborated a framework for a database for the analysis of fisheries dependent regions, including a consideration of issues of data availability, indices (economic, socio-demographic and fisheries based) and operational aspects. The framework focuses on coastal Europe and draws upon the international NUTS system of area classification as its frame of reference; preference is given to a municipality level of analysis (NUTS 4). Attention is given to the question of utility and it is concluded that such a database would provide a valuable contribution to policy intervention and assessment for European fisheries. In particular, it would provide the means for identifying fisheries dependent areas and highlighting those which are most economically and socially vulnerable, through an evaluation of the location, level and nature of fisheries dependence. The database could, therefore, contribute to the design of more appropriate socio-economic measures and more effective targeting of regional development initiatives. Development of a comparative database does, however, represent a formidable challenge. Improvements in the availability of data through the greater harmonisation of national statistical programmes with regard to the frequency of published data sources, the reliability of data and its temporal and spatial consistency, and the development of data sets at low spatial scales, are needed.

Future Programme

In addition to the publication of the annotated Bibliography covering more than 200 key references early in 1998, completion of the workshop schedule with meetings in Syros, May 1998, on Southern Waters: Management Issues and Practice and in Lofoten, August 1998, on Fisheries Dependent Areas, and the work of the task group on Inshore Fisheries Management, it is hoped to organise a concluding workshop on the integration of fisheries management, involving participants from different disciplinary backgrounds, fisheries administrations and user group organisations, to review the key issues for research in fisheries management at the turn of the millennium.

Main Publications

A principal undertaking for the Network is the dissemination of its main findings. ESSFiN has been fortunate in securing the agreement of a major science publishing company to publish the edited proceedings of its major workshops. The first of these is already available:

(i) Property Rights and Regulatory Systems in Fisheries, edited by David Symes, Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1998, x+268p.

The second and third volumes are either in press or at an advanced stage of preparation.

(ii) Northern Waters: Management Issues and Practice, edited by David Symes, Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1998

(iii) Alternative Management Systems for Fisheries, edited by David Symes, Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1999.

Other publications from the Network will be printed 'in house', including the Data Base Reports and the Bibliography. ESSFiN has been keen to realise its resources in other directions: Network members have, for example, been prominent in two special issues of social science journals:

(iv) Sustainable Fisheries? Sociologia Ruralis, 36(2), 146-265.

(v) Fisheries Management in the North Atlantic: National and Regional Perspectives, Ocean and Coastal Management, 35 (2-3), 51-224.

Dissemination activities

Otterstad, O., Phillipson, J. and Symes, D. (1997) A Socio-Economic Data Base Framework for Fisheries Dependent Areas: ESSFiN Baseline Report, Hull. FAIR - CT95 -0070.
Otterstad, O., Phillipson, J. and Symes, D. (1997) A Socio-Economic Data Base Framework for Fisheries Dependent Areas. ESSFiN Final Report, Hull. FAIR - CT95 -0070.
Symes, D. (1997) Fisheries Management in the North Atlantic: National and Regional Perspectives. Special issue of Ocean & Coastal management, 35, (2-3).
- Symes, D. North Atlantic fisheries: trends, status and management issues. pp. 51-68.
- Day, D. Addressing the weakness of high seas fisheries management in the Northwest Atlantic. pp. 69-84.
- Sen, S. The evolution of high seas fisheries management in the North East Atlantic. pp. 85-100.
- Charles, A.T. Fisheries management in Atlantic Canada. pp. 101-119.
- Danielsson, A. Fisheries management in Iceland. pp. 121-135.
- Symes, D. The European Community's Common Fisheries Policy. pp. 137-155.
- Hersoug, B. and Ranes, S.R. What is good for the fishermen, is good for the nation? - Co-management in the Norwegian fishing industry in the 1990s. pp. 157-172.
- Suarez de Vivero, J-L and Fieyro M.C. Regions at sea: the administrative region as a base for an alternative fisheries management system for Spain. pp. 173-184.
- Phillipson, J. and Crean, K. Alternative management systems for the UK fishing industry. pp. 185-200.
- Raakaer Nielsen, J. Vedsmand, T. and Friis, P. Danish fisheries co-management decision making and alternative management systems. pp. 201-216.
- Symes, D. Conclusion: towards a regionalised management system for the North Atlantic. pp. 217-224.
Symes, D. and Phillipson, J. (1997) Property Rights, Regulatory Measures and the Strategic Response of Fishermen. Final Report of ESSFiN Workshop, Seville, Sept 1996, Hull, pp.55. FAIR - CT95 -0070.
Contains extended summaries of papers presented by: J. Carlos Cuerda; L.C. Hamilton, C.M. Duncan and N.E. Flanders; K. Crean; J.L. Prat; S. Collet; E. Hoefnagel; A. Begossi; M. van Vliet; W. Davidse; P. Holm, S.A. Ranes and B. Hersoug; V. Wiium; J. Bailey; S. des Clers; O. Otterstad; J.L. Alegret; B. Marugan Pintos; J-L. Suarez de Vivero and M. Frieyro; G. Mondardini; N. Steins; D. Symes and J. Phillipson; and R. van Ginkel.
Symes, D. (1997) Northern Waters: Management Issues and Practice. Final Report of ESSFiN Workshop, Aarhus, May 1997, Hull. FAIR - CT95 -0070.
Contains extended summaries of papers presented by: T.K. Hassager; S. Hanna; M. van Vliet; S. Eikeland; E. Eythorssen; T. Matthiasson; B. Rasmussen; J. Salmi and P. Salmi; M. Alatalo and H. Appelblad; A-L. Toivonen; T. Vedsmand, P. Friis and J. Raakjaer Nielsen; J-L. Suarez de Vivero and M. Frieyro; S. Sen; J. Bailey; E. Kirkegaard; E. Dunn; P. Holm, S.A. Ranes and B. Hersoug; G. Honneland; K. Hansen; K. Awebro; M. Nuttall and K. Burnett; V. Wiium; R. van Ginkel and; N. Steins
Symes, D. (1997) Alternative Management Systems. Final Report of ESSFiN Workshop, Brest, Sept 1997, Hull. FAIR - CT95 -0070.
Contains extended summaries of papers presented by: S. Collet; F. Gonzalez-Laxe; P. Salz; D. Symes; K. Crean; M. Sipponen; D. Bailly; M. Morin; M. Tasker; N. Steins; P. Holm, B. Hersoug and S.A. Ranes; S. Jentoft; J. Phillipson; D. Langstraat; J-L Alegret; A. Dreano; R. Varjopuro and P. Salmi; K. Frangoudes; and M. Thom.
Symes, D. (ed) (1998) Property Rights and Regulatory Systems. Blackwell Science, Oxford.
- Symes, D. Property rights, regulatory measures and the strategic response of fishermen. pp.3-16.
- Hamilton, L.C., Duncan, C.M. and Flanders, N.E. Management, adaptation and large-scale environmental change. pp. 17-33.
- Crean, K. The manipulation of property rights: creating the conditions for sustainable development in the European Community? pp. 37-47.
- Prat, J-L. The status of fisheries property rights in French law. pp. 48-56.
- Davidse, W. Property rights and regulatory systems: the strategic response of Dutch fishermen. pp. 57-66.
- van Vliet, M. Fishing as a collective enterprise : ITQs and the organisation of fishermen. pp. 67-79.
- Hoefnagel, E. Legal but controversial: quota hopping, the CFP and the Treaty of Rome. pp. 80-91.
- Wiium, V. Individual quotas and discarding: do they always go hand in hand? pp. 92-100.
- Otterstad, O. The exclusion of professional fishermen from Norwegian salmon fishing: the distribution effects of fisheries management. pp. 101-112.
- Holm, P., Ranes, S.A. and Hersoug, B. Political attributes of rights based management systems: the case of individual vessel quotas in the Norwegian coastal cod fishery. pp. 113-126.
- Bailey, J.L. Inside/outside EEZs: the high seas, EEZs and property regimes reconsidered. pp. 129-142.
- des Clers, S. Structural adjustments of the distant fleet of European factory trawlers fishing for Loligo squid in Falkland Islands waters. pp. 143-152.
- Suarez de Vivero, J.L. and Frieyro de Lara, M. Fishing and the processes of national construction in North Africa. pp. 153-161.
- Collet, S. The communitarisation of coastal resources or the common ownership of fish resources in Europe: the future for coastal fishing societies in 2002. pp. 165-174.
- Alegret, J.L. Property rights, regulating measures and strategic responses among the fishermen of Catalonia. pp. 175-187.
- Mondardini Morelli, G. Traditional use rights in the small-scale fisheries and marine protected areas between Sardinia and Corsica. pp. 188-200.
- Symes, D. and Phillipson, J. Fishing within limits: inshore fisheries management and the concept of local preference. pp. 201-215.
- Steins, N.A. 'we have to keep the foreigners out of our bay: top-down regulations and the strategic response of Irish fishermen. pp. 216-229.
- van Ginkel, G. Zostera marina in dispute: management regimes in the Dutch eelgrass industry. pp. 230-243.
- Osuna Llaneza, J.L., Cuerda, J.C. Garcia-Junceda, Suarez, C.B. and Gravalos Garcia, E. Participative planning and the modernisation of fisheries in Andalucia. pp. 244-254.
- Symes, D. Towards a property rights framework for the management of Europe's fisheries. pp. 257-264.

In fulfilment of these objectives, ESSFiN has set itself a number of clearly defined tasks. These include:

(i) A Register of Research Interests of social scientists engaged in work on fisheries management is the essential first step in developing the Network, identifying potential participants in the activities of ESSFiN and providing a basis for future research collaboration. At present the Register includes a little over 300 persons drawn principally from EU member countries and from Norway, though there is a sizeable 'chapter' of non--European members, particularly from North America. Of the total, almost one quarter have participated in the ESSFiN activities listed below.

(ii) A series of five thematic and regional Workshops forms a core activity with the purpose of reviewing the key issues in fisheries management from a social science perspective and facilitating the pooling, assessment and refining of the most recent research findings.

(iii) A selected and annotated Bibliography of the Social Science of Fisheries surveys the contribution of the social sciences during the period since 1985 and thereby makes good some of the problems posed by the widely dispersed and sometimes inaccessible location of key publications in the field.

(iv) Establishing the framework for a Socio-Economic Data Base for Fisheries Dependent Areas is an initial step towards creating more specific and relevant information for monitoring the impacts of fisheries policies on fishing communities and the wider regions in which they are located.

(v) A comparative assessment of Inshore Fisheries Management Systems attempts to fill a specific gap in our knowledge and understanding of fisheries management in an area where there are increasing demands for integration with other users of marine resources and maritime space.

The final report on ESSFiN activities will outline the main issues and areas of future research in the social science of fisheries management. Throughout all of the tasks identified above, particular importance is attached to the need for effective dissemination of results and recommendations.

Funding Scheme

CON - Coordination of research actions


University of Hull
Cottingham Road
HU6 7RX Hull
United Kingdom

Participants (7)

Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Otto Nielsens Vei
7034 Trondheim
Rue De Saint Brieuc 91
35000 Rennes
C/ Maria De Padilla S/n
41004 Sevilla
201 B,breivika
9037 Tromsoe
University of Arhus
8270 Hoejbjerg
University of Patras
Pillinis 9
30100 Patras
University of Roskilde
212,Hus 212
4000 Roskilde