Community-managed Fisheries: Say Goodbye to Fisheries Police States
Encouraging new evidence suggests that the bulk of the worlds fisheries – including small-scale, often non-industrialized fisheries on which millions of people depend for food – could be sustained using community-based co-management.
“The majority of the worlds fisheries are not – and never will be – managed by strong centralized governments with top-down rules and the means to enforce them,” according
to Nicolas Gutiérrez, a University of Washington doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences who is lead author of a paper that went online Jan. 5 in the journal Nature. “Our findings show that many community-based co-managed fisheries around the world are well managed under limited central government structure, provided communities of fishers are proactively engaged. — (Univ. of Wash, source).
In Ray and Ulrike Hilborn’s Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, Chapter 11 discusses “Small-Scale and Artisanal Fisheries.” Coastal fisheries in Chile offer models for reform for marine natural resource policies in the U.S. The key insight follows the diversity of coastal ecosystems and local knowledge of those ecosystems. Central and regional planners lack the knowledge to devise governance schemes to stop or reduce tragedy of the commons in local fisheries.
The Hilborns’ story starts with a fist-sized snail called the Loco. Marketed as Chilean abalone, loco became popular in world markets and was soon fished out. The loco fishery closed nationwide by 1989. Another case of greedy capitalist exploitation of a marine ecosystem? Or another fishery collapsed by feverish consumption of exotic sushi in Japan?
No, just another failure of top-down fisheries regulation:
Chile, like many countries of the world, has largely adopted a Western style “top-down” management system. There is a centralized fisheries agency that coordinates data collection and research, sets regulations, and has enforcement officers to try to assure compliance with these regulations (Overfishing, p 85)
A regular fisheries police state!
Chile’s new fisheries law in 1991 allowed for MEABRs (Management and Exploitation Areas for Benthic Resources). Benthic resources are those plants and animals of the ocean floor, and allowing local fishing communities to establish their own governance system for sustainable management turned out to be a good idea. By 2005 some 547 MEABRs were registered in Chile, managed by caletas (the cove), and the locos are back providing local income and employment and restored to the plates of weird sushi consumers overseas.
For more examples of locally-managed fisheries around the world, see this FAO
report, “Case studies in fisheries self-governance.” (pdf) (The book is $100 on Amazon, but pdf seems the same.) See also research on community fisheries management by the late Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons, discussed here.