Resource Management 3

Principles of environmental management from authoritarian to communal

By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2001)

 management Some basic principles apply to the management of resources. Steering the ship.
management types The management regime can be authoritarian or communal or any variation in between. Co-management, data-less management, integrated resources management INRM, ecosystem based management ESB, the influence of NGOs.

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Thousands of books have been written on management, for businesses, finance, the public sector and so on. In this chapter we'll discuss the general principles relating to the management of resources. Elsewhere on this web site, a chapter will be devoted to the principles of management.
management: (L: manus= hand; managere= to handle) the professional administration (being in charge) of business concerns, public undertakings, etc. Being opposite to the concept of laissez-faire (French: let act), it has been proved that managing affairs leads to better outcomes. Ironically, economists have been promoting laissez-faire for governments, implying that management of public affairs leads to worse outcomes (??). They promote the same for the exploitation of resources (??).
If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else. Yogi Berra.

Traditionally, the exploitation of resources just happened by someone recognising an advantage in doing so. It is an almost universal principle that we first just do, and manage later, when problems arise. Management in general is often reactive, rather than proactive (preventative), but good management involves both. It is in the nature of looped-back systems, that reaction leads to instability due to the time delay between cause and effect. For instance, when supplies become scarce relative to demand, the price goes up, which reduces demand somewhat. At the same time, production is increased to meet the initial demand. Stocks increase, and in order to sell, the price is lowered. When saturation of the market is reached, the price may collapse. Manufacturers may go out of business. The economic system of prices determined by supply and demand is naturally unstable, leading to boom and bust in the business cycle. Only vision and proaction can stabilise the cycle, but rapid reaction helps .

When it comes to the supply from living stocks like agriculture and fisheries, an unpredictable amount of variability creeps in due to climatic factors, pests, disease, and so on. Proactive management is difficult because it is almost impossible to asses the volumes of natural stocks (fish, e.g.) and how they behave in the future. A fishery consists of many stocks which consist of clumped schools, all hidden from view.

So, management of any resource relies heavily on understanding the three key elements: the nature of the resource (see the discourse on substance above), the nature of technology and science, and that of humans (see science, technology and human nature for more details). These three roughly correspond to: ecology, economy and society, or what, how and why. Nearly always a workable compromise is necessary, because of many inherent conflicts (management by compromise). Utopia is not achievable.
Time is also an important factor, often overlooked. Through monitoring of measurable qualities and quantities, and by recording these, one can obtain an impression of how the resource behaves under the influence of management. Remember though, that the stronger the forces of extraction are, the weaker the restoring forces will show in the monitored results. In a heavily extracted situation, we'll measure mainly what we do, rather than what the resource does.

The purpose of this chapter on resource management, is to present the principles relating to the management of any resource. In doing so, a very large number of factors have emerged, needing consideration. In order to winnow the relevant ones out, consider first which of the many factors are the most important ones. Remember that the limiting ones are usually the most urgent, requiring to be managed now or in the near future. It is also important to understand that the size of a problem is often caused by a large number of small factors, all working independently in the same direction. Tangible results can always be attained simply by managing all factors, while achieving a small improvement in each (maximising strengths while minimising weaknesses).
Steering the ship
For those not familiar with management, think of yourself as the captain of a ship, and you have to set a course. You'll immediately ask 'where to?'. How can you set a course without knowing where you are and where you are coming from? So these should be your first questions.
Not surprisingly, management begins with analysing the past and the present, leading to an understanding how and why we got from there to here (notice that this is often missing in politics). In doing so, consider all the before-mentioned factors. The next question should be whether and how management could improve the present, often in the light of new external changes (demand, markets, politics, etc). The improvements you can identify, are your new course. Note that good management does not necessarily need a goal, a destination to steer toward. A direction is often all that is needed. However, if a goal can be envisioned, it can be used to galvanise people's focus. Bear in mind that distant goals are often the wrong ones, or they are unattainable, which can lead to disappointment. Be honest about what CAN be changed or attained.

Another important aspect of management is that a plan (the new course) does not necessarily need to be correct, as long as it is evaluated frequently and with honesty. If expected results do not materialise, then the plan must be wrong. It is an important principle of continuity in nature, that a changed course must immediately start to show change, although inertia requires some patience. Note that management by trial and error is far more preferable than management by belief or conviction. Furthermore, let uncertainty never inhibit management - there is always a meaningful improvement to be found.

Another point to remember is that a plan means change and change means expenditure of energy (cost). The faster the change, the more energy is required. Twice the speed means four times more energy, so frequent and gradual change is the most energy-efficient (cost the least). Another thing to remember is that, like the steering of a ship, every turn of the wheel requires at some time in the future a counter-turn, in order to stabilise the ship in its new course. Change is a destabilising influence, requiring a correction later. Thus any change leads eventually to a wrong outcome.

Although it is advisable to make small corrections in order to steer a ship, a jolt is often needed to steer a wagon out of the rut (deep track). Before executing a plan, make sure you have analysed the depth of the rut (opposition) in your organisation. Make sure you have identified the opposing forces. Now you have two courses of action, by jolting out of the rut (confrontation) or by smoothing the track (winning support). It depends on how much time is left, and whether smoothing is possible.

We have mentioned the 80/20 rule before, but wish to mention it again. The 80/20 rule was invented by business managers, knowing its value from experience. But it is indeed backed by science, although perhaps not exactly 80 over 20. In physics it is found in the bell-shaped distribution of most qualities (like intelligence, customers), and in the saturation curve towards equilibrium, both of which are applicable to management. The 80/20 rule implies that 80% of the plan can be achieved for 20% of the cost. It would indeed be foolish to manage by a 100/100 rule, which is what laws do. Management always involves a compromise, but compromises are not necessarily less efficient.


Management types

Where resource extraction is done by a business, it is usually authoritarian, being directed from the top down.  This has advantages but many more disadvantages:
+ supposedly improves delivery: regulated by supply and demand, private interest is supposed to be effiicient, but markets can be distorted by subsidies, limited supply and high transport costs.
+ competition: keeps cost and price down and forces businesses to consider efficient procedures and continual improvement in order to stay ahead.
- private/shareholder interest overrules: environmental objectives and the interest of future generations are overruled. 
- loss of accountability: it is difficult to determine who has done what and the relationship between cause and effect. Mishaps and spills can be hushed up, as is mismanagement. 
- power of knowledge: power is concentrated and management secret. Knowledge about the resource, extraction & transport technology, and where used (customers) are also kept secret.
- public not able to constrain stakeholders: business knows best; the market rules. Law without teeth. Businesses have limited liability.
- stakeholders wary of one another: no data sharing; no trust. Competing rather than co-operating.
- resource is supply-limited: economic theory fails when supply cannot match demand, resulting in high prices, high profits and inefficient delivery. 
- resources belong to all people: the old mantra that resources are there to be exploited by whom can do so best, is no longer true in the new era of scarcity. The public must have a say, particularly when society is going to suffer from a lack of resources.
In recent times, it has been recognised that some resources lend themselves better to other forms of control, particularly where a local community has the necessary commitment. The following types of management can be established, ranging from authoritarian to communal: Here is an example of the local management of a fishery resource in New Zealand. It concerns the rocklobster fishery off the east coast of the North Island. It yielded low catches of poor quality, due to poaching in summer time, and overfishing. The local fishermen then came up with a plan that caught national fisheries managers by surprise, but against their reservations, it proved to work, because: The above list of factors that made this resource management experiment so successful, can now be used as a template for other co-management successes.
A fisheries management success story in New Zealand
By Paul A Breen and Terese H Kendrick, NIWA.
Abstract of a paper presented to the NZ Marine Sciences Society conference of 199?

The New Zealand fishery for Jasus edwardsii is managed by individual transferable quota (ITQ) determined by fisher catch history and imposed in 1990 in nine quota management areas. In one area, the fishery showed continuing declines in catch and CPUE (Catch Per Unit Effort) to 1993. The total quota could apparently not be caught in this area. Fishers complained that there were few legal-sized lobsters and that they caught and returned many sublegally sized lobsters. They were concerned about damage to, and mortality of, sublegal lobsters caused by handling and pot-related Octopus predation. They were also concerned about theft of all sizes of lobsters from commercial pots.

The industry was asked by the Minister of Fisheries to develop a management scheme to reverse these problems. Their scheme, developed in conjunction with recreational fishers and Maori, included 

  • a temporary reduced quota, 
  • a greatly shortened season for the commercial fishery, 
  • a slightly reduced season for the recreational and Maori fisheries, 
  • a decreased minimum legal size for males during the winter fishery. 
The aim was to increase landed value to compensate for quota reductions, and to do this by landing more lobsters in winter (when prices are higher) and to land smaller lobsters (which had a higher unit price). The shortened season and shift to winter fishery were also designed to reduce poaching from commercial pots, and to reduce handling mortality by reducing fishing effort.

The proposal to reduce the male minimun legal size caused controversy. However, the package was evaluated with a simple model and then accepted by the Minister. This paper describes the results: substantially increased CPUE since 1994, a successful shift to a winter fishery, and a shift in length frequency towards larger sizes. The paper will also describe a simple size-structured model fitted to the fishery data and used to evaluate future management options.
(end of abstract)

Canada has worked out a strategy for implementing marine conservation by means of Marine Protected Areas (MPA), which may illustrate that world-wide, people are finding different ways of managing resources.
Data-less management
Traditionally, management is done by business, solutions are provided by engineers, while scientists do experiments to further their knowledge. But the advent of environmental problems has brought scientist into all these arenas. Data-less management is their discovery that resources can be managed in the absence of certainty and scientific data, because management can be done in uncertainty, and other forms of data are available:
  • anecdotal evidence: people talk about what they know, what they have seen or heard. Such data can be corroborated by witnesses and others.
  • historical evidence: local newspapers have recorded many events faithfully. A search through the files of newspapers, fishing clubs and so on, may retrieve valuable data.
  • current practice: the present way of doing things, has evolved over time, and includes a number of practices and beliefs which serve a purpose.
When exact data (quantitative data) is not available, it is advisable to err on the safe side, which is called precautionary management. Dataless management goes one step further. Valuable data can be collected, although such data lacks the rigour of scientific experiment. But for a long time it may remain the best that can be obtained. Besides, many resources exist for which optimum yield is not the aim (marine reserves, for instance), so they can be managed with less certainty and more precaution.
Integrated Resource Management (IRM)
Integrated Resource Management recognises that many causes may contribute to a single problem. For instance, integrated coastal zone management (ICM) takes into consideration the combined effects of all types of land use, as well as coastal development and industrial activity. It is a holistic approach to resource management, applicable particularly to the management of down-stream problems. Unfortunately, IRM has become a catch-phrase or buzzword for activities that do not have sustainability as their goal.

Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM)
In many countries, governments and development agencies are turning to integrated natural resource management (INRM) as a means of safeguarding the natural resource base and improving agricultural productivity. In national planning, integrated catchment management and integrated water resource management are now synonymous with “integrated management” of land, water, and forest resources at river catchment scales, typically 5000–500,000 km2. The boundary ascribed in this case is always the physical watershed, or the boundary of the catchment. The general objective of INRM is improvement of the quality of life (less poverty) while safeguarding the natural resources. Often the boundaries of the catchment area are less important than those of the communities living there. A Community-Based Organisation (CBO) of the management of the resources appears to be the most successful approach to meet the various needs of diverse peoples. However, an overarching policy is needed as well, in order to integrate communities and river catchments into a larger framework.

Eco System Based Management (ESB)
Ecosystem based management is the latest of buzzwords. Cynics say that it is an euphemism (a nice way of saying) for having lost the plot and not knowing what to do. (Read UNEP ESB for more detail) But let's listen to what it says. 
The management of national parks is often compared with that of fisheries, but a comparison is hardly possible because of the enormous differences between land and sea. Park management once aimed at conserving the status quo at all cost. But that in itself is unnatural. A good example is the prevention of forest fires and fighting them as soon as they occurred. As a result, the amount of wood on the forest floor built up, making a large fire a possibility. Indeed because fires were prevented, the ones that happened, were more damaging to the ecosystem than when small fires were left to run their course. As a result, modern forest management now inlcudes 'controlled burning'. In doing so, the forest becomes more patchy with more species and a higher abundance of these, resembling the more natural sate.

Management of fisheries is totally different, because here humans are harvesting (as opposed to nature parks). There is critism of the 'single species' management of fisheries, negating the fact that relationships between species exist, which is a characteristic of an ecosystem. So a more 'balanced' approach may result in better management or reduced risk of overexploitation. So far so good, but the concept is rather shaky.

The plankton ecosystemFirstly one must see an ecosystem as a closed loop, which starts for many with the phyto plankton, while ending in the decomposers. This is not quite the same as aiming for a balance between competing predators like humans, whales, dolphins, sharks and more. The picture shows that fish are but an insignificant part of the whole and predators an even smaller part, reason why fisheries usually recover after a no-take period.

Herring fishery in the Gulf of MaineSecondly one must accept that humans have for a very long time been active predators in the sea, competing with other predators (although not everywhere). So humans are an integral part of the system, and their needs must be acknowledged. Indeed many publications do so. But humans have expanded their influence on the ecosystem quite beyond the bounds of what is natural. In doing so, they have displaced natural predators. Evidence that these are returning once human fishing stops, is given by the Gulf of Maine herring fishery. Accompanying the stock recovery (in green) were populations of the harbour seal, minke whales and others. At present the fishery is managed at a much lower level (red curve) than 30 years ago, but the increased populations of other predators may turn out to be unwelcome, being protected species as well.

The recovery of the Gulf of Maine fishery shows that it is possible to manage stocks successfully at levels profitable for both natural predators and people. Indeed, it forces us to decide what adequate levels of natural predators are. Obviously the pristine situation before human existence, is not an achievable nor a desirable goal.

One inescapable consequence of ESB is that of  maintaining a balance in predators or if that balance has been disturbed, aiming to restore it. So where we are harvesting bait fish (sardine to mackerel), we must also harvest dolphins to retain the balance. Where we are taking squid, we must also harvest seals and pilot whales. This is where proponents of ESB draw the line, which makes ESB just a talking point.
Another major issue is that of the unnatural abundance of minke whales. Because the large whales were almost extirpated, the vacuum left behind was quickly filled by a tenfold increase in minke whale numbers. These now prevent the large whales from recovering because of competition for the same food. ESB demands that we reduce minke whales to the level they once were, which means killing tens to hundreds of thousands each year for many decades. Oops!

The extreme view of ecosystems based management says that because humans are natural (true), the global changes they cause, are natural too (mmm). We are just entering a period of large-scale but natural ecosystem changes. It is true that many species, including threatened ones, have learnt to live with, even exploit humans [1]. For them there is more food (crops, garbage), more available freshwater (lakes, irrigation), more shelter (houses & cities, bridges & culverts), more warmth (heating in winter) and so on. We must probably accept that some of the global changes humans have brought about, can no longer be undone. We are entering a new nature which must be managed accordingly.

ESB for fisheries management
As far as ESB relates to fisheries management, it is complicating, adding considerably to the cost of management. Essentially, it integrates the following considerations:

with the following (new) actions or methods: As can be seen, for none of these resolutions have cost-effective methods been invented. It is not surprising then that the establishment of marine reserves draws so much attention at the moment, because it is the only ESB action we know how to do, and even that is only partially true. Consequently ESB must remain in the vapourware category for a few more years [2].
[more about ESB for fisheries management in the planned section on fishing]

[1] Tim Low: The new nature: winners and losers in wild Australia. 2002. Viking/Penguin Australia 377p.
[2] See also the ESB table of objectives, indicators and reference points in the United Nations ESB discussion document (abridged on this site)
Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
Non-Government Organisations are well-informed action groups which put pressure on businesses and governments to change their ways. They operate both nationally and internationally, and are usually funded by influential supporters. Their activities consist of (but are not restricted to):
  • to educate the public and government agencies.
  • to analyse current policies and to evaluate their consequences.
  • to play an advocacy role in achieving important legislation.
  • to participate in the oversight of implementing protective laws and agreements.
  • to organise the grassroots or community groups.
NGOs have become indispensable in redressing the balance caused by the inequal distribution of wealth and power. By representing large groups, and being independently funded by these, they are able to sway public opinion in favour of actions against offenders. Businesses and governments have come to fear being singled out by such groups, resulting in progress being made in conservation, in the face of wide ranging opposition.

NGOs can also have a negative influence which comes from small ideologically motivated groups of individuals by-passing the democratic process and coercing governments into actions that are not supported by the populace. It can also create cultural conflicts by forcing western morality and ways of living onto eastern nations. Occupying the moral high ground, they meet little resistance from politicians.

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