Adaptive Co-Management in Fisheries
Over the course of my blogging hiatus (apologies, dear readers), one article that caught my attention was (from Nature, sub. req.), "Leadership, social capital and incentives promote successful fisheries."
The University of Washington's Nicolás Gutiérrez, along with coauthors Ray Hilborn and Omar Defeo, examined 130 co-managed fisheries in 44 countries and identified factors important to success. They defined co-management as, "fishers and managers work[ing] together to improve the regulatory process." And they measured fishery success according to ecological, social and economic indicators such as: increases in stock abundance, social welfare and unit price.
Writing in the comment thread, Gutiérrez provides some background:
[C]ommunity-based co-management is the only realistic solution for the majority of fisheries worldwide, particularly yet not exclusively, those artisanal and in developing countries. In these fisheries, management, monitor, control, and enforcement of regulations under top-down centralized governments is extremely difficult, if not impossible, due to limited economic and human resources. Users' involvement in all aspects of resources management is then the only sensible solution to sustain aquatic resources. This is not a conclusion of our study, but a well known fact in natural resources management shown elsewhere in the primary literature during the last 20 years.
Much can be gleaned from the study. As described in its headline, leadership, social capital and catch share incentives were found to be important factors for success. Among the developing countries' fisheries studied, the existence of long-term management plans was identified as the most important factor of all.
The study supports Elinor Ostrom's research on resource users' self-management of common pool resources, and Ostrom comments in the press release ("Co-Management Holds Promise of Sustainable Fisheries Worldwide"):
While many previous studies have detailed changes to fish stocks, this study takes an innovative look at the social networks that drive fisheries to success or failure. Importantly, it draws a detailed road map for building and supporting sustainable fisheries through community co-management, providing possible solutions for scores of poorly managed fisheries. My main worry is that local successes achieved through co-management may be imperiled by more large-scale factors, such as foreign or illegal fishing, and changes in climate.
It's worth noting that the study says nothing about centralized, "top-down" management versus co-management. From the paper:
[A]lthough comparison to top-down management would be of interest, the objective of this study was to identify and quantify the co-management attributes determining successful fisheries, and not explicitly to compare its performance with top-down centralized management.
This understanding of factors that lead to success in co-managed fisheries is exciting and significant. Another challenge, however, is understanding the processes through which more co-managed fisheries might emerge.
An insightful paper on the topic is Fikret Berkes' (2009) "Evolution of co-management: Role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning":
Co-management presupposes that parties have, in a formal or semi-formal way, agreed on a process for sharing management rights and responsibilities. But getting to co-management involves institution building, the development of trust and social capital, and generally a long voyage on a bumpy road.
Co-management emerges out of extensive deliberation and negotiation, and the actual arrangement itself evolves over time. Co-management is path-dependent. That is, the outcome is strongly influenced by the history of the case (Chuenpagdee and Jentoft, 2007). Long-term studies characterize co-management not as an end-point but as a process in which relationships among the parties are constantly changing (Pinkerton, 1992).
The length of time needed for this evolution or development process may be quite substantial, perhaps as long as a decade, as in the case of salmon of the Pacific Northwest (Singleton, 1998) and various examples from the Canadian North (Kendrick, 2003; Eamer, 2006).
Understanding co-management "not as an end-point but as a process" implies a learning-by-doing approach, an idea that is also central to theories of adaptive management.
From the conjunction of these two theories comes the idea of adaptive co-management, defined as: "a process by which institutional arrangements and ecological knowledge are tested and revised in a dynamic, ongoing, self-organized process of learning-by-doing" (Folke and coauthors, 2002). Characteristics of adaptive co-management include: a high degree of dialogue among multi-scaled actors, a degee of autonomy for each, and a commitment to the pluralistic generation and sharing of knowledge (Armitage and coauthors 2007:6).
Sounds ideal. I wonder: How many of the 130 fisheries in the study by Gutiérrez and coauthors would meet this definition and characterization?
By the way, an upcoming conference on this topic is People in Places:
Engaging Together in Integrated Resource Management, June 26-29 in Halifax, Canada.
"Fikret Berkes: Community-Based Conservation"