Incorporate Politics and Political Choices
Fisheries management is, in part at least, about the distribution of rights to access resources and the distribution of the benefits from those rights. These are largely political decisions and can be subject to both the choices of political parties and the personal choices of politicians. These two choices manifest themselves either as overt policies or covert forces behind the scenes. Political decisions can be some of the most important influences on fisheries and the political economy needs to be fully included with the management process if it stands a chance of being successful.
In management more generally the political aspect of environmental protection has often been downplayed (Belsky, 2000) or even externalized in the resource management equation. Economic rationalization approaches to fisheries management tend to focus on the state capture of resource rents for the wider application to national economic development - a political decision which prioritizes economic impacts over other impacts. Welfare approaches tend to focus more on the distributive aspects of resources rents to fuel local development and secure livelihoods. Politics, power and corruption often influence how wealth is redistributed in both cases e.g. through the political economy of national governments and through patronage at a local level.
The key challenge here, and one widely recognized by respondents during the expert interviews, is that these issues relating to politics and power relations in society are too often regarded as “externalities” which cannot be influenced or addressed by interventions focused on fisheries management. However, the critical role that these factors play in influencing fisheries management outcomes is equally recognized. This is in part attributable to the nature of projects working on fisheries management, which do not necessarily have the skills, mandate, resources or time required to engage at the political level. However, it is also due to a general paucity of appropriate tools for analyzing and addressing the political economy surrounding fisheries management and understanding how it can be influenced, or adapted to, during the course of interventions.