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WP4 Overview

The institutional framework of fisheries management within the European Union and Associated Countries

WP4    Objectives

  • Analyse present governance structures, institutional arrangements and the recent developments at
    EU and regional level (NS, NWW and SWW) in the perspective of adaptation of the ecosystem
    based approach, and its implications for initiatives such as MSC certification.
  • Identify critical factors/drivers (social, economic, ecological) that currently influence the policy
    process and decision-making in fisheries.
  • Identify gaps and redundancies in the process and assess the effectiveness and performance of
    existing management mechanisms.
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the present governance structures
    and institutional arrangements for implementing ecosystem based fisheries management.


Description of work

Gray and Hatchard (2003) emphasised that the CFP has a severe democratic deficit and, combined with its
inability to secure healthy fish stocks, is a political failure both in terms of process and outcomes. The CFP
appears to be caught in a deadlock due to the path dependency created by previous decisions embedded in
the quota-system and the principle of relative stability. The reform process of the CFP is captured in a
dilemma between the new modes of governance, generally discussed at EU level focussing on democracy
and participation, and the need to improve the performance of the CFP, ensuring better control over fishing
activities and fishing capacities. Moving towards an ecosystem approach will stand a proper chance of only
intensifying the complexity of the situation.

The CFP is embedded in the “classical approach” to fisheries management by primarily focussing on
managing fish stocks and not fishermen. In reality, however, fisheries management is about
controlling/directing human behaviour through economic and social incentives, and thus organisational and
institutional considerations become crucial in the setting-up of appropriate fisheries management systems.
Gradually, more attention is given to organisational and institutional aspects in relation to the CFP, such as
property rights, stakeholder participation and the role played by the scientific and managerial communities.

This WP recognises that institutional reforms in fisheries management and governance are not created in an
institutional vacuum, but need to build on existing structures and arrangements (Holm, 1995). According to
Jentoft and Mikalsen (2003) it is important to realise that institutional change in fisheries management
institutions is not purely a change in the legal structures, but needs to be embedded in the historical and
socio-political context in which the management system is nested. Changes in the institutional framework are considered to have occurred in small, relatively inconsequential increments with institutes reluctant to
consider fundamental reforms (Symes, 2007). Thus MEFEPO acknowledges that the governance playing
field needs to cover ecology (natural system), economy and society with players form (or in) government an
institutional arrangements, the market (eg. ITQs and MSC certification) and the social mid-field (interest
groups both organisations and grass-roots and the general public opinion).

In this WP, institutions are considered beyond the classical institutional approaches in economics and
political science and will in this analysis also include – to some extent along the lines of the so-called new
institutionalisms - cultural and social structures acknowledging that institutions are dynamic and constantly
changing. The MEFEPO project will particular give focus to:

1) the new modes of governance, in particular in the EU, with their stronger emphasis on voluntary
coordination and accountability, soft-law and benchmarking, collective learning and broader stakeholder
participation with potential implication for ecosystem management; and

2) the relationship between management and the legitimacy of the regulatory regime in terms of
compliance and effective user/stakeholder participation in management arrangements.


1. A literature review
2. Qualitative data-set (key informant interviews)
3. Synthesis paper from the LFA workshop
4. Discussion papers one for each of the three regional areas (NS, NWW and SWW)
5. Workshop decision minutes and discussion points
6. A technical report on governance structures, institutional arrangements and perspective for adaptation of
ecosystem management in EU focusing on the three regional areas (NS, NWW and SWW), including a
SWOT analysis.

WP Lead Institute: IFM-AAU

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