The challenges facing fisheries resources are complex, dynamic and viewed by stakeholders and the rest of the world as needing better management methodologies to ensure their sustainability. The search for sustainable fisheries management paradigms has occurred over the last 20 years, encouraged by international laws and conventions sponsored by the United Nations. The current paradigm underpinning the management of Australia's fisheries resources is Ecological Sustainable Development (ESD) whose guiding principles encourage a cautionary, multidimensional long term approach incorporating stakeholders and communities in the decision making process.
However, the adoption of a multidimensional approach to fisheries management has been hampered by lack of data and
the slow, reluctant acceptance of the importance of social and economic dimensions of the ESD paradigm by fisheries agencies around the world.
This weakness was analysed through a model that related the objectives, strategies and outcomes of the ESD paradigm and stresses the need for economic performance indicators as the linkage required for sustainable decision making. The model was tested through a case study of the Queensland fishery based on a cost and earnings survey.
The key economic performance indicators chosen were based on variants of profit relating to the various types of costs associated with the financial, economic and social costs attached to the
fishing activities. The main 'profit' indicators chosen were boat business profit (BBP), rate of return to capital (RRC), boat economic profit (BEP) and net economic returns (NER). Other indicators were developed to account for various forms of private and social opportunity costs such as boat cash income (BCI), profit at fiall equity (PFE), sustainable boat economic profit (SBEP) aid sustainable net economic return (SNER).
At the business of fishing level, the Queensland fishery was found to be very complex as a result of its licensing policies. The foundation of the licensing system was the Licence Package which gave access by the firm to various fisheries and created the fishing business.
At the firm level, the economic performance is analysed through the characteristics of the firm derived fi-om the data collected under fisheries logbooks. The characteristics chosen are degree of specialisation, type of fishing sector, level of fishing activity, intensity of fishing operation, location of the firm, size of fishing operation and fishing pattern. Each of these characteristics is analysed through the set of economic performance indicators and tested for their significance as determinants of the economic performance of the firm. Level of fishing activity, intensity of fishing operation and fishing patterns were found to be statistically significant.
The owner of the firm, as the major stakeholder, also had a set of characteristics that were also
tested for their significance in determining the economic performance of the fishing business. Characteristics were chosen based on the findings of a questionnaire and included age, extent of involvement in the fishery, intention to remain in the fishery, dependence on the fishery, views on current size of the fishing fleet, future outlook and views on threats to commercial fisheries. Extent of involvement in the fishing industry, reliance on the fishing sector for family income and views on current size of the industry were statistically significant.
The results of the analysis of the surveyed Queensland fishing firms revealed that overall, these firms generated a financial profit measured by BBP of $2.24M but were given 'benefits' of $3.36M by the rest of Queensland when full opportunity costs of capital were included. If
externalities such as habitat loss and fish stock depletion were viewed as the opportunity cost of natural capital the estimated 'benefits' rose to $4.84M. The average firm made a BBP of $4,687, a BEP of -$7,037, and an SBEP of -$10,110, generated average earnings of $ 151,830, and had an RRC of 4.7%.
The link between economic performance and changes in fisheries management policy was analysed through two case studies of the Queensland fishery. The first case study tests the hypothesis that attaining sustainable fishing sectors ensured that not all fishing firms can be profitable. Results indicated that the change in behaviour of the fleet needed for all firms to be financially viable is neither achievable nor sustainable without a reduction in the number of firms operating in the fishery. The inevitable
result is that a certain proportion of the fleet will not be economically viable at any given time. The various cycles within the fishery, such as repairs and maintenance, weather, seasonality, attitudes and skills of owners and skippers and the changes in fisheries management will lead to certain groups of firms being profitable.
The second case study tests the hypothesis that economic impact of structural adjustment through an effort reduction policy in the otter trawl fishing sector will increase profits of the individual otter trawl firms. The effort reduction policy was based on two main strategies: 1) capping of the total number of effort units for the fishery allocated to individual firms based on performance criteria and 2) a 15% reduction of the initial allocation of individual effort units.
Results showed that regardless of their level of BBP prior to the policy, all firms were better off provided they were rational and used their quota of fishing days with the highest daily cash receipts. If firms were of the perception that cash flows should be based on chronological order of days fished or based on total TBCR earned during 1997/98, the analysis indicated that they would have been worse off under the policy.
A comprehensive ESD fisheries management paradigm should be based on fishery management plans linking objectives, strategies and agreed outcomes linked to well chosen economic performance indicators, so that the often neglected economic dimension of fisheries management can be effectively analysed. But further research is required to understand the multi-dimensional
behaviour of the fishing business to build better decision making processes.