Co-management of fish resource: Prospects and Feasibility

As different approaches have been suggested in recent decades for the sustainable use and management of fisheries
Co-management of fish resource: Prospects and Feasibility

Fish is an important food source worldwide and its demand isincreasing due to increase in world population. According to Food andAgriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (1997), fish providesapproximately 16 per cent of protein consumed by the human population, andfurthermore one billion people worldwide rely on fish as their primary sourceof animal protein (FAO, 2000). The aquaculture industry has a pivotal role toplay in meeting one of the greatest future challenges, i.e. to nourish and feedaround 9.6 billion human population by 2050. Although, efforts have been madein the past thirty years to increase the productivity of fish in order to meetthe demands of a growing population, there has been less progress to provide aholistic way for sustainable fisheries management. The problem lies in the factthat we have not been able to address the problems such as reducing wastage offish resources, increased competition for natural resources, and other issuesrelated to the community involved in the fish industry.

As different approaches have been suggested in recentdecades for the sustainable use and management of fisheries, the co-managementis seen as a future holistic approach for achieving sustainable fisheriesgoals. In essence co-management is a realistic way of involving differentstakeholders in fisheries management systems, and sharing the responsibilitybetween the government and users. The co-management of fisheries is not onlyshared responsibility between different stakeholders, but also commitment andpower for achieving ultimate goals. The other perspective of co-management isthe interconnection of three main components, i.e. human resource, aquaticecosystem and fisheries resource. It must be emphasized here that our goal ofsustainable fisheries management cannot exist if ecological systems are showingdeterioration and fisheries resource does not exist. Therefore, there is needthat the major principle governing interaction between human communities andfisheries management need to be deeply understood.

The primary reason for introducing and implementingco-management of fisheries (CF) is based on the fact that it is an eco-centricway of fish management which holistically includes all the stakeholders. Inaddition, CF emphasizes more on local and traditional knowledge which is thenintegrated with the latest know how. The co-management of fish resource is alsoessential to maintain the balance with respect to the role played by the stateand the community.

In order to start co-management regime, it is to be kept inmind that every stakeholder should be given equal and balanced representationfor the success of this important endeavour. The main stakeholders or keyparties in establishing co-management include fishermen, government, communitymembers, fisheries traders, non-governmental organization, universities andresearch institutions. The selection of different stakeholders depends onvarious factors including their expertise, interest and level of collaboration.It is also important for authorities to unravel the interest or influence(positive or negative) on the fisheries resource. The choice and role given tothe stakeholders are an essential step when initiating a co-management regime.

The sustainable management of fish resource is key issue inthe North West Himalayan region. As fish and aquatic resource is losing itsground due to various factors, there has been calls from various quarters tostart innovative ways for the rehabilitation and management of aqua fauna.There is a great feasibility of co-management of fisheries in our region as ourfield setting is ideal for the operation for this endeavour. As co-managementis another name of co-operation and collaboration, there is need of deeperunderstanding of this concept among different agencies. Three pronged approachis to be adopted while initiating co-management of fisheries. In the beginning,various departments and institutions, including universities dealing withfisheries in J&K should discuss various ways by which community, especiallyfish farmers can be fully integrated with the co-management. In the secondstage, the framework can be formulated for the assignment of various commonobjectives and implementation of these objectives. In the third stage, variousagencies, including NGO's should be tied up with the proposed plan andthereafter there should be an intention to fully implement the objective ofco-management of fish resource. It is pertinent to mention that co-managementof fisheries divided into types according to the role of differentstakeholders. These include consultative, cooperative, instructive, advisoryand informative.

Co-management of fisheries (CF) has many potentialadvantages over the traditional management regimes. The first and foremostadvantage of CF is that there will be more transparency in the process betweendifferent stakeholders who are participating in the co-management. Thisintegrated fishery management will pave the way for the more participation ofcommunity and thus will lead to decentralized management. This endeavor willenhance responsibility among different resource users, which has been lackingin our society till date. In addition, CF will integrate and maximize local andscientific information for the sustainable resource management. Apart fromadvantages, there are also loopholes which hinder the progress ofco-management. In ecological terms, co-management if not managed in anorganized way may lead to free access and unrestricted demand for a limitedfish resource that may further lead to overexploitation. The paucity of fundscan halt the co-management regime as it requires huge investment. This conceptcannot be applied in the communities which lack organization, leadership andcooperation. In some cases, new management strategy can be disadvantageous dueto various local factors. Therefore, it is important to understand various prosand cons of co-management system before giving a nod to its implementation.

Dr Ummer Rashid Zargar is Assistant Professor (Zoology),Govt. Degree College Anantnag

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