Examining the Seascape of Compliance in U.S. Pacific Island Fisheries

January 31, 2020

Recent noncompliance research has focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fisheries and capacity shortfalls in marine protected areas (MPAs), but less work has assessed other aspects of noncompliance.

Noncompliance is a major threat to marine social-ecological systems. Recent noncompliance research has focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fisheries and capacity shortfalls in marine protected areas (MPAs), but less work has assessed other aspects of noncompliance. Although there is wide recognition of the role of noncompliance in governance failures, the academic literature on compliance rarely acknowledges the connections between governance processes, compliance activities, and management outcomes. Likewise, scholars often highlight instrumental approaches that include law enforcement tools, instead of a diverse suite of non-instrumental interventions that encourage voluntary compliance through education, outreach, and targeted behavior change. We sought to understand the seascape of compliance across the United States Pacific islands region, an area of 5.83 million km2 that includes Hawai'i, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and one of the world's largest MPAs. The region includes commercial, subsistence, and non-commercial fisheries, and a diversity of cultures that rely on them. To examine compliance, we employed a qualitative approach, including an extensive review of historical and archival data sources, an analysis of the fisheries management literature in the region, and 29 expert interviews. While the literature highlighted the importance of enforcement, experts called attention to multiple factors that affected compliance, such as capacity, governance processes, and a lack of data. Although several fisheries may benefit from an increased enforcement presence, we argue that non-instrumental and governance approaches can complement enforcement and should be part of an integrated compliance approach both in the region and worldwide. 


Ayers AL, Leong K. 2020. Examining the Seascape of Compliance in U.S. Pacific Island Fisheries. Marine Policy: 103820. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.103820.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 04/22/2020