All too often, fisheries management is seen as separate from the economic activities that surround it. But the local economy is one of the main drivers of over-exploitation of resources – if fisheries is seen as a business that is more beneficial than other local activities, more people will try to enter the fishery. This is particularly important for the poor who often have limited means to invest in equipment or land and lack the skills to enter other industries.
As coastal populations increase and where fisheries’ entry barriers are porous, more people will join the fishery on a full-time, part-time, seasonal or safety-net basis. A key part of fisheries management must ultimately be the decision to allow some people to fish and others to be excluded. If this is to be done equitably, then the different ways in which fishers depend on and use the coastal environment and its ecosystem services will need to be accommodated in the management system.
If people are to be successfully excluded from the fishery, they need to have access to alternative options for their labor and capital that provide as good, or better, returns than fishing. This is often seen as an area of development that stands outside of fisheries management but, in reality, it is crucial to it. Livelihoods approaches encourage a focus on the contribution of fisheries to wider local economic development, with the opportunities in the wider economy providing livelihood alternatives for fishers which might lower the pressure on stocks and improve the livelihoods of those involved.
It is important to develop livelihood opportunities early in the management process as the sequencing of the introduction of livelihood alternatives is very important (Cattermoul et al., 2008). If restrictions on entry to the fisheries are introduced as part of a fisheries management process before adequate and acceptable alternatives are developed, then fishers are likely to invest in means to circumvent management measures.