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The Persistence of a Concept: Maximum Sustainable Yield

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AbstractThis essay explores the persistence of the concept of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) in global multilateral fishing law. It argues that MSY has contributed to the unsustainable governance of fishing activities by focusing on open access and catch-based management, instead of effort-based management. In response to the dire state of world fish stocks, it has been proposed to cut subsidies to the sector, restrict trade in endangered fish species, install marine protected areas and mainstream the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). This essay proposes that the FAO’s EAF, which links in to social-ecological resilience thinking, suggests a new philosophy for fisheries management that offers a basis for introducing the aforementioned measures.

Affiliations: 1: Erasmus School of Law Rotterdam The Netherlands, URL:


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