Factors Affecting Compliance

Non-compliance with fisheries regulations is a complex issue, with numerous intertwined processes and influences. However, for many years, little research was undertaken to establish the underlying causes for non-compliant behaviour amongst fishers (Nielsen & Mathiesen 2003). Traditionally, a purely economic approach was applied, accounting, in its simplest form, for monetized costs and benefits of noncompliant behaviour only (Becker 1968, in Eggert and Ellegard 2003). According to this approach, fishers will weigh the expected net benefits of non-compliance, including the expected penalty in the case of being caught and convicted, with the expected net benefits from compliance, and choose their behaviour based on the most beneficial outcome (Eggert and Ellegard 2003).

The OECD (2005) reports that the choice and design of management regimes is a key driver of IUU fishing. This appears to be a governance- related rather than an economic driver. However, the rationale behind the argument is economic in nature: management regimes drive IUU fishing the way in which they determine the income that fishers will be able to make, and the higher the legitimate income the less likely they will engage in illegal activities. This is linked to the importance of introducing capacity management. The OECD does not, however, explain which management regimes are more conducive to legitimate behaviour, although the economic argument they use suggests the management regime that produces the highest level of income would be the best.

An alternative approach is to take into consideration other social factors, described by Eggert and Ellegard (2003) as ‘co-management’ or ‘cooperative action theory’. This approach emphasizes the role of legitimacy of regulations, institutions, etc., in making fishers comply with the rules. According to this theory, fishers will be more likely to comply if they perceive the regulations or decision-making process that has produced the regulations as legitimate. Another aspect of this approach is the perceived behaviour of others. According to this theory, despite potential benefits of non-compliance, fishers are more likely to comply with regulations if they perceive others to be complying or if they can expect informal sanctions from their peers in cases of violation.

Several studies have attempted to investigate the importance in practice of these different factors (Eggert and Ellegard 2003; Hatcher and Gordon 2005). Hatcher and Gordon (2005) conducted an empirical investigation into the factors affecting UK fisheries compliance, specifically with regard to quota limits, to compare the significance of various social and moral factors versus more ‘conventional’ economic incentives. In their model, they included such factors as financial incentives to violate, deterrents to violation, variables related to personal moral judgements about violation, variables related to the perceived behaviour and opinions of others, and variables representing the legitimacy of the regulatory system, including the regulations themselves as well as the institutions and processes. An earlier model that relied upon the same data determined that compliance with quotas was positively associated with a personal perception of fair shares, the perception of compliance by other local fishers, and a sense of personal involvement in the quota management system (Hatcher et al. 2000). However, the alternative model employed in Hatcher and Gordon (2005), which the authors argue is richer and more robust, found that levels of quota violations in the fishery appeared to be driven by financial incentives. Indeed, they observed that variables related to involvement or participation all had near-zero coefficients, although there was some support for the importance of local structures given that the index of support for producer organization rules was association with lower violation levels (Hatcher and Gordon 2005).

Eggert and Ellegard (2003) conducted a similar investigation in Sweden. They surveyed fishers from the Swedish industrial and small-scale fleets to gauge fishers’ attitudes towards the fishery management regulations, including the means and measures to control it, their perception of the risk of control, and their perceptions of the overall compliance with fisheries regulations. They observed that Swedish fishers were far more compliant than would be expected given purely economic considerations. Views concerning the existing regulatory framework were unfavourable: 24 per cent considered the existing management to work badly, about a third considered controls to be completely ineffective, while a majority perceived themselves to have too small an influence on the development of the management policy (Eggert and Ellegard 2003). Fishers estimated that 90 per cent of the catch in their fishery was reported, and although this implied 30,000 tons of unreported landings, a considerably higher degree of violation would be expected in a situation with low legitimacy of regulations, low risk of controls, and mild penalties if the equation were based on economic incentives alone (Eggert and Ellegard 2003). Nevertheless, this points to a compliance problem in the Swedish fishery, and of course, this estimate of unreported catches (only one aspect of non-compliance) may not be particularly robust and could be an underestimate. Interviewees (including industrial fishers) indicated that industrial fisheries (fisheries for herring and sprat destined for fishmeal) were the primary culprits violating regulations. Bearing this in mind, the authors suggest that the culture of profit maximization within these large-scale fisheries—leading to higher investments, greater capacity, and more advanced technology—has translated to economic considerations being more influential in encouraging compliance than moral obligations and peer pressure (Eggert and Ellegard 2003). By contrast, small-scale gillnet fishers are more likely to respond to the latter, noneconomic incentives. The authors postulate that this may be because they mainly come from small harbours in the south and west of Sweden, fish more traditionally, and are therefore more susceptible to peer pressure and have a greater sense of moral obligation (Eggert and Ellegard 2003).

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