Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

The lawless sea? Policy options for voluntary compliance regimes in offshore resource zones in the Pacific

By Paul D’Arcy

Pacific open ocean fisheries are classic examples of the tragedy of the commons where a lack of defined ownership results in competitive overexploitation by multiple parties. Such circumstances exist over most Pacific seas beyond site of land due to scarce monitoring resources. Voluntary conservation regimes are not working, as fisheries decline substantially. The Pacific has diverse management regimes and approaches, gaps between recommended principles of management and certain practices, and a need for more comprehensive data on assumptions underlying management regimes, especially marine protected areas. Compliance regimes can be enhanced through greater consultation and incorporation of stakeholders in policy-making and enforcement, devoting more resources to monitoring and enforcement, and integrating sustainable management regimes with national economic development needs. The focus of ocean policy primarily on fisheries issues needs to be broadened to include consideration of the compatible use of seabed minerals and biota with medicinal benefit.


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