Operationalising the precautionary principle in developing countries’ fisheries management: the case for differentiation

Project outline and objectives

Fishing contributes significantly to the livelihood of coastal communities in many developing countries, through subsistence, artisanal and commercial operations. Over-exploitation of fisheries resources is a major challenge in many of these countries, a consequence of economic imperatives and non-existent or inadequate regulation and enforcement of fishing activity. The precautionary principle has long been recognised in international law as a guiding principle for fisheries governance to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources. Most countries have explicitly or implicitly committed to manage their fishery resources in a precautionary manner, yet the implementation of precaution in domestic law and policy remains fraught. Developing countries in particular have limited legal and institutional capacity and struggle with the cost of the scientific inputs required for implementation approaches that are favoured by wealthier countries. A more contextual, tailored and nuanced approach to operationalising the precautionary principle is needed for developing countries. This would enable them to meet their common–but-differentiated international responsibilities, while recognising that limited resources are available for fisheries management.

There has been remarkably little focus on this challenge in fisheries management research and practice. This research project will identify the mechanisms by which developing countries can enhance implementation of the precautionary principle through domestic law and policy, based on an in-depth comparative analysis of the legal regimes for fisheries management in one developed country (Australia) and two developing countries (Colombia and Chile).

More specifically this project will:

  1. Explore how the current knowledge on the precautionary principle has contributed to its implementation in fisheries management in developing countries in accordance with their capabilities
  2. Investigate the constraints and limitations in the implementation of the precautionary principle in fisheries law in Australia, Chile and Colombia through interviews with key informants
  3. Propose legal mechanisms and tools to meet developing countries differentiated capacities and constraints in the implementation of precautionary approaches in fisheries management
  4. Contribute to a broader understanding of the implications of sustainable development in the context of developing countries


 PhD Student

Lynna Cortés Rueda



Jan McDonald, Faculty of Law
John Tisdell, TSBE

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