Towards sustainable tuna fishing: understanding the role of private incentive mechanisms

Tolentino-Zondervan, Frazen


Unsustainable fishing practices, including the use of non-selective fishing methods and Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, contribute to the decline of tuna fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). This has led to emergence of different public and private governance arrangements to foster the sustainable exploitation of tuna stocks. This thesis focuses on the performance of three innovative private incentive mechanisms: Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s Pro-active Vessel Register and eco-FADs, and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, to deliver economic incentives for improved production. The overall objective of this thesis is to evaluate the extent to which private incentive mechanisms influence Filipino fishers’ decision to improve their fishing practices.

In order to address the overall objective, this thesis first analyses and compares the ways existing private incentive mechanisms influence the upgrading strategies of Filipino tuna fishers in the value chains (in chapter 2). Second, it evaluates the important determinants for small-scale handline fishers’ decisions to participate in two FIPs for yellowfin tuna in the Philippines (in chapter 3). Third, it examines the effect of MSC certification on the allocation of fishing days by Filipino purse seiners operating in Parties to Nauru Agreement (in chapter 4). And finally, it analyses the profitability of investments in measures needed to comply with private incentive mechanisms by Filipino purse seiners (in chapter 5).

The findings show that overall, the incentive mechanisms are able to improve the practices of fishers, however only to a limited extent. The first two chapters (chapters 2 and 3) show that producers first need to have the capabilities to meet the requirements of private incentive mechanisms, so that they can be included in the value chain and that they can realise the incentives offered by these mechanisms. However, being capable does not guarantee that producers will improve their practices. As shown in the last two chapters (chapters 4 and 5), producers must also have the willingness to upgrade, based on their risk attitude and on the ability of the economic incentive to cover the additional costs and to compensate for the increase of the risks of participation of producers. Given that producers have the availability of capabilities to upgrade and that the benefit is sufficient to opt for participation, then producers may decide to improve their practices, which may contribute to the sustainability improvement goal of private incentive mechanisms. As a consequence of this finding, the incentives, inclusiveness, and improvements must be taken into account in both the design and implementation of private incentive mechanisms.