Creating a breeding ground for compliance and honest reporting under the Landing Obligation: insights from behavioural science
Fisheries regulations aim to maintain fishing mortality and fishing impacts within sustainable limits. Although sustainability is in the long-term interest of fishers, the regulations themselves are usually not in the short-term interest of the individual fisher because they restrict the fisher’s economic activity. Therefore, as is the case with all regulations, the temptation exists for non-compliance and dishonest reporting. In the EU and elsewhere, top-down, complex regulations, often leading to unintended consequences, with complex and non-transparent governance-science interactions, may decrease the credibility and legitimacy of fisheries management among fishers. This, in turn, may decrease the motivation to comply and report honestly. The Landing Obligation may make things worse because following the regulation to the letter would often strongly and negatively impact the individual fishers’ economic situation. Behavioural science suggests factors that may influence compliance and honesty. Compliance is not necessarily a function of the economic benefits and costs of rule violation: compliance may be more or less, depending on intrinsic motivations. An increased level of self-decision may lead to greater buy-in to sustainable fishing practices and voluntary compliance to catch limits and the Landing Obligation. All else being equal, people in small and self-selected groups are inherently more likely to behave “prosocially”. In this chapter, some key recommendations based on behavioural science are given for changes in institutional settings that may increase voluntary compliance and sustainable fishing practices. However, transition to a system allowing for more freedom from top-down regulation, with more self-governance, may be difficult due to institutional and cultural barriers and therefore may take many years.