Special Collection: Sustainable Fisheries

Coastal Fisheries Success Factors

Policy & Planning

Embrace Complexity

Address Conflicting Aims

Recognise Context

Operate at Multiple Scales

Ensure Institutional Coherence

Ensure Sustainability

Adapt to Changes

Technical Implementation

Establish Rights & Responsibilities

Change Incrementally

Understand Institutional Fit

Incorporate Politics

Address Costs and Benefits

Get Market Measures Right

community engagement

Understand Dependency

Balance Livelihoods

Build Capacity

Engage Fishers

Address Compliance

Ensure Participation

Link Knowledge Systems


Understand Institutional Fit

The issue of institutional ‘fit’ of a set of management/governance issues is increasingly being recognized as important (Armitage et al., 2012). This might include the suitability of different institutional arrangements to address specific problems. A significant factor regarding fit that has been identified by some researchers is that resource boundaries rarely fit institutional boundaries (Folke et al., 1998).

Traditionally in many parts of the world customary marine tenure (CMT) was the norm and in some places, particularly in the Pacific, CMT still plays an important role. In many places, however, as fisheries capacity has developed and concerns over the resource have increased, so the management process has become more centralized and developed. The move from community-based fisheries management systems to centrally controlled government systems is seen by some as resulting in the replacement of common-property regimes with open-access (Pomeroy, 1994). However, in many cases traditional community-based institutions, in their original form, are no longer appropriate for the management of more mechanized fisheries which extend beyond traditional grounds, involve many more people and feed into more easily accessible and larger markets.

The way in which the legal and institutional context mesh with management efforts on the ground emerged repeatedly during expert interviews. This often took the form of constraints encountered by local-level fisheries management initiatives where existing legislation on fisheries and management contradicted rules and regulations being evolved at the local level. Often, the fact that legislative functions are entirely held at the national level meant that local administrations could not be as responsive as they wished in approving and sanctioning new forms of management being generated at the ground level. The issue of subsidiarity and the devolution of decision-making responsibility to the lowest appropriate level in order to support adaptive management in the field therefore seems to be particularly important here.

Climate change and its effects of fisheries is an example where the more traditional institutional arrangements within government no longer fit the problems to be addressed. Where different agencies and ministries need to collaborate and share information and experience, (e.g. in cross-sectoral functions such as climate change response, disaster risk reduction and ICM) appropriate incentives for collaboration need to be in place.

Likewise, other external considerations such as fuel and food prices, fisheries-tourism interactions, coastal development, and livelihood diversification might need changes in the institutional fit to be considered. And, the move from a production focus in many fisheries to a poverty reduction or food security focus may require skills and experience that fisheries departments do not have.

Another, often overlooked aspect of institutional fit, is the way that external funding can distort fisheries management processes. Projectised support can provide a hothouse effect which ensures a greater chance of a fisheries management initiative succeeding. However, reporting on the success of such projects during implementation may generate a more favorable assessment than would be the case several years after the project has finished. Likewise donor willingness to compartmentalize the policy process and fund certain aspects of fisheries management but not other aspects can distort those policies such that long-term adverse effects are the result. Aid effectiveness processes have been established to try to address some of these distortions. The situation has shown considerable progress in the fisheries sector in Cambodia (See Box 21) where there is now much greater policy coherence and the transaction costs of policy, planning and policy implementation are reduced.

The engagement of any external implementer (NGO, consultancy, intergovernmental agency)/funder in the process of fisheries management can distort the factors that support sustainability of positive change. The ecoregional approach adopted by TNC and WWF works with national and local partners and with NGOs that are committed to the kind of long-term, (15-20 year), intervention needed. However, the long-term engagement of an external NGO can impede the emergence of sustainable governance (Bensted-Smith and Kirkman, 2010). Such powerful organisations can influence policy implementation in much the same way described for donors above, and Aid Effectiveness procedures need apply equally to them.

Critical Questions

To what extent do the institutional boundaries and capabilities of management agencies reflect the geographical, sectoral and thematic requirements of an integrated fisheries management process?

What policy, legislative and support mechanisms exist to allow decisions to be made at the lowest effective level?

How have the different roles, incentives and mandates of government, the private sector, the community and civil society been accommodated in management?

How can traditional village institutions be incorporated in management?

To what extent have aid effectiveness principles been incorporated in the design of management?