In general, mechanisms for fishery management fall broadly into 3 categories:
Input controls are regulations upon the extent of fishing in terms of quantity, magnitude, and equipment. For example, one could require fishers to get a license, which tries to limit the number of people even allowed to fish. Additionally, the amount of time spent fishing or the regulations of types of net and fishing gear are also examples of input controls. Data shows, however, that input controls must be combined with output controls because limiting fishing efforts does not take into account the increase in technological efficiency (Mission 2011, 2007).
Output controls are regulations on how much fish can be removed from the sea itself. Usually this involves a cap on the total mass of fish taken, a total allowable catch (TAC) limit. Problems arise, however, because of the lack of consistency and stability in the supply of fish. Studies by the OECD show that fish stocks declined or collapsed and TAC quotas were often exceeded because of a phenomenon called the race-to-fish, in which all the participants fish as much as possible until the TAC is reached. In Canada, an entire year's TAC was caught in a few days, resulting in price depressions. Individual transferable quotas (ITQs) are another example of output controls that try to resolve the flaws of the TAC system. With an ITQ, permits to take a share of the TAC are divided among participants and these permits can then be sold to other owners. However, sufficient regulations and a correct evaluation of the TAC are essential for the systems to work (Mission 2011, 2007).
Technical measures are mechanisms that do not fall into the previous two categories. These include protective areas (discussed below) or limitations on fish size. The latter is usually not successful in practice, however, because the fish that are discarded do not tend to survive the ordeal (Mission 2011, 2007).
Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) was adopted by the FAO Technical Consultation on Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) an approach that was initially adopted but later pushed aside due to misinterpretations (Garcia et al., 2003). EAF is defined by Ward et al. (2002) as
"An extension of conventional fisheries management recognizing more explicitly the interdependence between human well-being and ecosystem health and the need to maintain ecosystems productivity for present and future generations, e.g. conserving critical habitats, reducing pollution and degradation, minimizing waste, protecting endangered species".
The idea is that ecosystem considerations will be taken into account by conventional management of fisheries. The goal of EAF is to create a more holistic approach that looks at entire marine ecosystems instead of specific target species, which makes sense since fish are part of an intricate marine ecosystem. It has been widely touted by the scientific community as essential for healthy, sustainable marine life. The current issue is the slow implementation of EAF. New metrics, standards, and research must be developed for a full implementation of EAF (Garcia et al., 2003).