Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 February 2003
The management of fisheries in European Union (EU) waters has generally been regulated through government institutions and agreed quota allocations. This top-down management approach may have contributed to the continued decline of targeted fish stocks by forcing fishers to compete for limited resources without engendering a sense of resource stewardship. In attempting to reverse this decline, scientists and managers should examine management systems that do not solely depend on top-down approaches, and the Inshore Potting Agreement (IPA) is an example. The IPA is a voluntary fishery management system designed and operated by inshore fishers of south Devon, England. The IPA was conceived to reduce conflict between static-gear (pot and net) and towed-gear (trawl and dredge) fishers, and is regarded as a successful fisheries management regime by fishers and managers because it has effectively allowed fishers from both sectors to operate profitably on traditional fishing grounds. Another study determined that the IPA has incidentally protected benthic habitat complexity. Fishers from the static-gear and towed-gear sectors were interviewed to determine the evolution and function of the IPA, and to establish the factors that ensure the high level of regulatory compliance amongst fishers from both sectors. Towed-gear fishers gave significantly different responses to the same questions asked of static-gear fishers, and were generally less satisfied with the existence of the IPA. Multivariate analyses of the interview data suggested that fishers who thought the IPA was a good system also thought the system provided pot protection, but had experienced inter-sector conflict. Fishers who thought the IPA provided no personal benefit also thought that static-gear fishers should be more restricted, and that towed-gear corridors or more seasonal-use areas should be established within the existing IPA area. However, fishers from both sectors agreed that the IPA has maintained traditional practices of the local fishing industry, and that the system has conserved target finfish and scallop species. A number of factors were identified as critical to the success of the IPA. These included the voluntary nature of the agreement, the limited number of organizations representing fishers and very high level of membership of those organizations, and the simplicity of the system. Regulatory compliance is enhanced through the ability of fishers' organizations to respond rapidly to inter-sector conflict issues.