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


Operate at Multiple Scales

Fisheries management cannot be addressed in isolation from other factors that affect the fishery. Fisheries are, by the fluid and interconnected nature of the sea, part of a bigger whole which creates the social and ecological context in which fisheries management must operate. Attempts to externalize these wider influences from the fisheries management equation have tended to lead to rather simplistic and often failed management approaches.

The influences that affect fisheries operate at multiple levels. In particular fisheries fit inside a wider set of ecological processes that influence, and are influenced by the fisheries. There are different scales and levels at which fisheries need to be considered. (Jentoft and McCay, 1995; and Raakjaer Nielsen and Vedsmand, 1995). Levels refer to where decisions should be made and scale refers to the fisheries resource system and the management tasks to be undertaken (Sen and Raakjaer Nielsen , 1996). It is clear that when the ecological system is large some decisions have to be made at the national or international levels, such as when dealing with transboundary issues or those which are designed to reflect wider national development policies. Likewise, the economic conditions that allow fisheries to function at the local level are also influenced by the wider national and regional economy (see Box 12). Understanding the need to work at these different scales and to identify the appropriate level for particular roles is important to understanding what works in fisheries and how it works. Legislation is generally a national role, trade may be controlled by an international body and the development of specific site regulations may be much more local. In some cases roles are shared. Policy and planning may be jointly developed and monitoring and evaluation may be participatory.

Increasingly the value of managing at multiple-levels is becoming apparent. Armitage et al. (2012) note that devolution of power to lower levels closer to that of resource users works best where formal policy and regulatory support from the state are provided. However, such devolution can generate the risk of elite capture of decision-making processes. Wilson et al. (2006) also note that complex scale issues are now resulting in combinations of institutions working at different scales to form cross-scale networks to address greater complexity. Whilst the more traditional view of fisheries management has been a more ‘command and control’ approach, these have tended not to create the conservation outcomes that are desired because of the complexity and multi-scale reality of the management issues (Armitage et al., 2012). In response multi-level governance arrangements involving state and non-state actors are emerging.

Clearly, there is a need for fisheries managers to look outside of their normal environment and seek solutions and linkages with other sectors (Mahon et al., 2008). This need for integration of social, economic, environmental and political concerns and issues is starting to take on a new form as integrated ecosystem-based approaches which have considerable potential to integrate sustainable resource-use management, conservation and development into a single paradigm.

Critical Questions

In what way is the fishery composed of different resource scales and institutional levels?

What are the implications of these different scales and levels for the management process?

To what extent is there coherence of scales and levels across different activities, sectoral and thematic areas, and decision-making in the fishery management process?

How have the differences between scales and levels been resolved in the fishery and how can they be more effectively harmonised?

How have these different scales and levels been linked to wider development processes?