Scope of Cooperative Fisheries Management Globally
John Kearney and Carlos Fetterolf
For the past few decades, fisheries management has been based on the view that fishing is highly competitive and can easily lead to overfishing and a resulting depletion of fish stocks and loss of economic rent. Thus, fisheries management has often been characterized by command and control regulations of fishing operations by government managers guided by scientific information and methods. However, the implementation of these rules has led to a complicated regulatory process that is costly and difficult to enforce.
Recent trends in the natural and social sciences and concerns among stakeholder groups raise questions about the effectiveness of this conventional form of management. First, there is an increasing recognition of the complexity of aquatic ecosystems and the need to incorporate an understanding of ecological processes into fisheries management. This will likely require more adaptive management that is capable of responding to uncertainty and change. Second, there is an appreciation of the value of incorporating other kinds of knowledge, in addition to scientific knowledge, into management systems to help deal with this increasing level of complexity. Third, there is recognition of the need to make better use of the human capital of the fishery by bringing fishers and other stakeholders into the management arena through their involvement in scientific and participatory research, the design of management plans, and monitoring and enforcement.
All of these factors have started people thinking about a kind of fisheries management that is decentralized and on a smaller scale, more focused on local habitats and fish stocks, and that spreads the responsibility and cost of management among a wider segment of the population. Thus arises the theory and practice of fisheries cooperative management, more commonly referred to as comanagement.
There is no single definition of comanagement. Table 1 below illustrates four different definitions drawn from the comanagement literature.
Three out of the four definitions include all of the following elements in some combination: comanagement is a partnership between government and user-groups in which authority is shared in making resource management decisions.
The definitions are in less agreement about who should be part of this partnership. Most definitions include government as one of the partners. From the literature, one can identify three broad categories of comanagement based on who is included as partners with government.