Integrating Cooperative Research and Management
Robert S. Pomeroy
Cooperative management or comanagement can be defined as a partnership arrangement in which the community of local resource users (fishers), government, other stakeholders (boat owners, fish traders, boat builders, business people, etc.) and external agents (nongovernment organizations [NGOs], academic and research institutions) share the responsibility and authority for the management of the fishery. Through consultations and negotiations, the partners develop a formal agreement on their respective roles, responsibilities, and rights in management, referred to as “negotiated power.” Comanagement is also called participatory, joint, stakeholder, multiparty, or collaborative management. Comanagement covers various partnership arrangements and degrees of power sharing and integration of local (informal, traditional, customary) and centralized government management systems (Pomeroy and Rivera-Guieb 2006).
There is no blueprint or model for comanagement, but rather a variety of arrangements from which to choose to suit a specific context. Comanagement should be viewed not as a single strategy to solve all problems of fisheries management, but rather as a process of resource management, maturing, adjusting, and adapting to changing conditions over time. A healthy comanagement process will change over time in response to changes in the level of trust, credibility, legitimacy, and success of the partners and the whole comanagement arrangement. Comanagement involves aspects of democratization, social empowerment, power sharing, and decentralization. Comanagement attempts to overcome the distrust, corruption, fragmentation, and inefficiency of existing fisheries management arrangements through collaboration. Comanagement is adaptive; that is, through a learning process, information is shared among partners, leading to continuous modifications and improvements in management. Through comanagement, the partners actively contribute and work together on fisheries management. They share the costs and benefits and the successes and failures.
Comanagement is not a regulatory technique, although regulations are used in comanagement. It is a participatory management strategy that provides and maintains a forum or structure for action on empowerment, rule making, conflict management, power sharing, social learning, dialog and communication, and development among the partners. Comanagement is a consensus-driven process of recognizing different values, needs, concerns, and interests involved in managing the resource. Partnerships, roles, and responsibilities are pursued, strengthened, and redefined at different times in the comanagement process, depending on the needs and opportunities, the legal environment, the political support, capacities of partners, and trust between partners. The comanagement process may include formal and/or informal organizations of fishers and other stakeholders.