Creating a Breeding Ground for Compliance and Honest Reporting Under the Landing Obligation: Insights from Behavioural Science

  • Sarah B. M. KraakEmail author
  • Paul J. B. Hart


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.


Behavioural economics Being watched Carrot or stick Hidden cost of control Honest reporting Lack of trust Loss aversion Moral priming Nonmonetary incentives Self-decision Self-selected groups Voluntary compliance 



The ideas brought forward in this chapter are largely based on the BehavFish workshop funded by the ICES Science Fund and the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (Kraak et al. 2015), and we therefore thank all participants of this workshop: Chris Anderson, Dorothy Dankel, Matteo Galizzi, Mark Gibson, Diogo Gonçalves, Katell Hamon, Ciaran Kelly, Jean-Jacques Maguire, Jeroen Nieboer, Ingrid van Putten, Andrew Reeson, Dave Reid, Andries Richter and Alessandro Tavoni.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea FisheriesRostockGermany
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and BehaviourUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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