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4.1 Stakeholder analysis
4.2 Levels of stakeholding
4.3 Criteria for stakeholder and stakeholding analysis
4.4 Cohesion and homogeneity of stakeholder communities
4.5 Capacity for co-operative and collective action

4.1 Stakeholder analysis

One of the first steps in almost any intervention which affects the use of natural resources is the identification of those individuals and groups who hold some kind of "stake" or interest in the resource.

For sociologists, this will often be the initial step based on which they will be able to carry out a more detailed sociological or anthropological analysis of each group depending on the relative importance of their stakes. Simply the identification of these sets of interests in the use or conservation of a particular resource can frequently provide important insights into the issues at stake.

4.1.1 Identifying stakeholder groups

For the purposes of management and decision-making, the sociologist will often need to identify "primary" and "secondary" stakeholders. Primary stakeholders can be defined as those with a direct interest in the resource, either because they depend on it for their livelihoods or they are directly involved in its exploitation in some way. Secondary stakeholders would be those with a more indirect interest, such as those involved in institutions or agencies concerned with managing the resource or those who depend at least partially on wealth or business generated by the resource.

The concept of the stakeholder does not extend merely to those directly involved in the exploitation of a resource but extends to all those deriving some form of benefit from the resource or the area in which it is found. In the case of marine resources, this can include fishers, all those involved in the processing and sale of fish, fish consumers, tourists in the area, transport operators and their passengers, industries using water or polluting it, people involved in forestry in mangrove areas, and any number of other groups or individuals with more marginal interests. At least for those groups identified as having significant interests or deriving important benefits, sociological analysis has to look at their priorities and motivations, decision-making processes and institutions, and understand the social, economic and cultural links between each group and the resource.

At least initially, the term "stakeholder" needs to be interpreted in the broadest possible sense. The five levels of analysis already discussed all need to be considered as possible factors determining stakeholder groups or influencing the characteristics of those groups. Gender, age, community affiliation, household-level relations and the structure of production-units are all likely to influence involvement in or degree of dependence on a particular fishery.

As in the case of some caste fishers in South Asia, entire communities may be dependent on particular fisheries to the near exclusion of any other source of livelihood. In such case relatively homogeneous groups of stakeholders with more or less uniform "stakes" in the resource may be easily identifiable. But, more commonly, a wide range of social, cultural and economic factors are liable to determine a more complex pattern of stakeholding with factors such as religious denomination, ethnic background, social and economic status, professional activity, length of residence and migratory or refugee status all playing a role.

Within the household, other issues are liable to be at stake - the role of women, their degree of mobility and the stage in the household development cycle can all be relevant.

Different members of production units will also have different interests and stakes in the resource according to the benefits they derive from its use. The owner of fishing gear and craft which represent a major investment aimed at exploiting a specific fishery will have a different stake in the resource compared to crew members who may only work seasonally in the fishery and be able to move into other fisheries or other sectors relatively easily.

Gender issues

Women are liable to constitute a distinct group of stakeholders in most fisheries and women from different social and economic backgrounds may also have distinct and different interests. Special attention needs to be paid to fisheries where access is relatively easy, such as floodplain fisheries or coastal swamp fisheries, as there may be quite important involvement of women which is not always very obvious and which needs to be specifically investigated.

Age issues

Likewise, attention needs to be paid to particular age groups that might constitute discreet stakeholder interests. Old people may rely on access to "easy" fisheries which fisheries managers might be anxious to see controlled. Children might make significant contributions to family food supply by occasional fishing and the concerns of these groups can easily be overlooked.


Communities are generally easier to identify and deal with than stakeholder groups defined by age and gender as they are more readily identified by their members. However, there are often quite different stakes held by different community members which have to be clarified and taken into account. Leaders might be concerned with a resource and its use as control of access to the resource will add to their personal prestige. The community as a whole might have similar concerns and wish to enhance their prestige in relation to other communities. At the same time, different members of communities might depend in a far more concrete and fundamental fashion on their access to fisheries resources for their livelihoods.


In some cases, individual households may have distinct interests in a resource which can be distinguished from those of the community or other group stakes.

Production units

Different types of production units and their members will usually represent clearly different stakeholder groups. Units operating large static gears such as set bagnets in coastal areas have a particular interest in stable access as their gears are not mobile and can only be used in certain conditions. Small artisanal units using a variety of smaller-scale fishing gear, such as gillnets, traps and lines are more adaptable and their concerns are liable to be different. Awareness of these variations is important to ensure that different sets of producers' interests are being taken into account.

Other water users

Groups not involved in fisheries but making use of water resources also need to be taken into account as important stakeholders when dealing with aquatic resources. In freshwater fisheries, farmers using water for irrigation will often wield greater influence in decision-making regarding how water is regulated than low-status fishers. Similarly, those involved in water transport may need to be taken into consideration when plans are being made for fisheries.

Increasingly, tourists and those involved in the tourist sector are important stakeholders in the management of tropical reef fisheries as the potential revenues from diving and snorkelling can be more than those from fishing. However, the benefits from these two different uses of the same resource will often be channelled in very different ways.

4.2 Levels of stakeholding

Beyond the basic identification of primary and secondary stakeholders, some kind of ranking of the relative "stakes" of different groups needs to be carried out to try and clarify which groups are most concerned with particular sets of issues. This is necessary as, when looking at environmental and resource management in an integrated fashion, the interactions are likely to become so complex and far-reaching that almost everyone in a particular area may seem to be a "stakeholder" of some kind in all sectors and sub-sectors. These sorts of interaction need to be recognised but some means of identifying who the "key" or principal stakeholders concerned with particular resources is important in order to maintain the involvement of different groups in each intervention within reasonable limits. As an example, in a typical Southeast Asian mangrove area, the range of potential stakeholders might include:

1. Inshore artisanal fishers

8. Landowners

2. Coastal artisanal fishers

9. Tenant farmers

3. Semi-industrial fishers

10. Landless labourers

4. Fish processors

11. Traders

5. Fish dealers

12. Transport workers

6. Aquaculture operators

13. Oil companies and workers

7. Charcoal collectors and processors

14. Plantation workers

This already complex set of stakeholder groups would need to be further broken down into sub-groups with clearly different sets of interests. Coastal inshore fishers may include a wide range of operators using many different gears, all giving them a slightly different interest in the resources of the area. Similarly the stakes in coastal zone management of the owner of a large palmnut plantation which is polluting local mangroves with pesticide run-off and of plantation workers who engage in occasional fishing in the off-season are quite different. In many cases, groups of stakeholders will overlap and be dynamic with the same person or group having different stakes at different times of the year or at different stages of their life.

The variety of stakeholders and their often conflicting interests in the resource will often mean that managers have to prioritise levels of interest of different groups in different resources. It will rarely be possible to accommodate all interests. However, sociologists can assist in identifying key or primary stakeholders and those with less direct or secondary interests. After analysis and investigation, some stakeholders might be felt to have only minor or very indirect interest in the management of mangrove areas and therefore not need to be directly involved in the decision-making process, although their concerns might be registered more indirectly.

4.3 Criteria for stakeholder and stakeholding analysis

Especially in situations where there are a complex set of overlapping stakeholdings, clear criteria for the identification of stakeholders and the ranking of their stakeholdings is important. These are likely to be particularly important in fisheries management interventions which result in a short-term reduction in the benefits available from fisheries, and possibly a shift in the way benefits are distributed. A detailed identification of current patterns of distribution of benefits is important so that future impacts of management can be determined.

The question of who continues to have access to fisheries resources, who receives compensation for loss of livelihood because of management and for whose benefit resources are being managed in the first place is a frequent source of conflict. Often, failure to resolve these issues of distribution can lead to the breakdown of attempts to manage resources as consensus over the need for management can be lost where some are perceived to be unfairly benefiting at the expense of others.

Sociological analysis can contribute by indicating how current access is distributed and why, including the historical roots of the existing situation and the relative dependence of different groups on the fishery. This analysis can then be combined with biologists' estimates of catch quotas or licensing limitations to enable fisheries managers to determine what constitutes a "fair share" of a fishery and who should obtain those shares. The translation of biological estimates of the size and availability of a fisheries resource into a set of access rights, whether in the form of quotas or licenses, which are widely accepted and perceived to be equitable, is an extremely complex task. Without detailed prior sociological analysis it is almost impossible and liable to lead to conflicts and failure.

Various criteria are usually employed for establishing the basis on which particular groups may be allocated quotas or licenses or preferential access to fisheries. Among the criteria which have been used in different circumstances are (adapted from Lawson, 1984):

· historical involvement in the fishery
· tenure over a particular fishing ground (area licensing)
· what particular fishers or production units "normally" catch, based on some kind of averaging of past catches (for quotas)
· socio-economic status
· use of catch.
4.3.1 Historical involvement In fisheries

"Historical involvement" in a fishery is a very subjective issue. The period of time required to establish "historical" rights of access will vary considerably according to the perceptions of the individuals involved. While fisheries managers, taking a more global point of view and comparing the relative claims of different groups, might determine that several decades of involvement are required to establish such rights, this might be perceived as patently unjust by individuals or groups who regard themselves as full-time fishers but have been involved for a relatively short period. Especially in poor, rural fishing communities, the whole issue of "historical" rights is likely to seem academic compared to the far more pressing issue of day-to-day survival. Someone who currently relies completely on fishing as a source of livelihood is unlikely to sympathise with the view that he or she does not have "historical" rights simply because they have only been dependent on fishing for the last year or two.

Historical association can be important, especially as long-established fishing communities often have a better understanding of the resource and of the need for its management. But the claims of such communities have to be balanced with the needs of other groups who may depend on the resource as much or even more, but without having the long-term cultural and professional background of "fishing" communities.

Factors such as ethnic or religious background may provide important indicators of historical association with fisheries, but it has to be borne in mind that all such fishery may now have associations are dynamic - social groups which once were involved in a particular shifted to other activities although this may not prevent them from claiming preferential rights of access.

4.3.2 Tenurial Rights

In some cases, particular groups or individuals may claim tenurial rights over a fishing ground. This is encountered particularly in inland fisheries and on reef areas in coastal waters where claims to land adjacent to fishing grounds are often extended to rivers, lakes, flooded areas or to the edge of fringing reefs. Where the validity of such claims can be established and are generally accepted, quotas, licenses or access rights can be awarded to those who would normally have enjoyed control over a fishery.

However, it is seldom the case that tenure of water areas has remained static. Conflicting claims are the norm rather than the exception and tend to be particularly widespread when the fishing areas at issue are inherently vague in their definition. In floodplains, which are only seasonally underwater, or areas where the course of rivers is constantly changing, the problems involved in confirming the validity of different people's claims to water areas can be particularly intractable. Similar problems are often encountered on reefs or tidal flats.

Great care has to be exercised by fisheries managers dealing with "customary" or traditional rights of tenure which are not formally documented. Who provided information about tenurial rights can be particularly important. Different respondents will give different versions of how rights are distributed and it may be difficult or impossible to establish which version is "correct" as there may be no objectively verifiable basis for different tenurial claims. A wide range of opinion may need to be tested in order to establish a widely acceptable version of distribution of tenure and this will need to be compared with actual patterns of use of water and land areas. Even so, some disagreement over customary tenure is almost inevitable.

4.3.3 "Normal" Catches

The establishment of quotas according to average or "normal" catches is clearly dependent on the availability of the data on past catches which goes back sufficiently far to eliminate seasonal and annual variations. Even where this data is available, a formal distribution of quotas which follows past patterns of catch distribution may conflict with people's perceptions of distribution of the resource. Traditional fishing communities with a long history of resource exploitation may feel that they have rights to a greater portion of the catch even though more of the catch is actually being taken by more recent entrants to the fishery using more modern and efficient techniques.

4.3.4 Socio-Economic Criteria

Socio-economic criteria may be used as a means of identifying stakeholder communities and deciding on new patterns of resource distribution. However, the potential for conflict generation in this approach is also significant. Once again, in the context of more developed economies, data may be available which can facilitate some form of "means testing" to ensure that catch quotas go to those most in need. However, in circumstances where large sections of the fishing population perceive themselves as being "poor", it may be extremely difficult to establish criteria which will be widely acceptable.


Fishing by indigenous people living on the islands in the Torres Strait, between Australia and Papua New Guinea, is regulated by the 1976 Torres Straits Treaty between the two governments. This treaty establishes that the inhabitants of islands in the Straits can fish in their Customary Marine Tenure areas, which often cut across international boundaries, "for 'traditional' purposes". "Traditional" is defined in the treaty as "non-commercial" but the islanders argue they have been fishing "commercially" for 5 generations and the exchange and sale of fish is a traditional use. This illustrates the risks of assuming certain patterns of resource use. (Schug, 1995)

In some places, attempts have been made to establish quotas or award licenses on the basis of how catch is used. This approach has generally tried to accommodate the requirements of indigenous populations with long-established customary patterns of use of a particular resource while at the same time protecting fisheries which are perceived as being in need of management. Usually this entails some kind of distinction between "subsistence" fishing, destined for household consumption, and "commercial" fishing, which is sold or exchanged for goods. In some traditional management systems, such as those found in many areas of the Pacific, this is a distinction which is widely acceptable and fairly clear. But, as illustrated in the case in Box 2, assumptions regarding local or indigenous populations' uses of fisheries resources can also be dangerous.

4.4 Cohesion and homogeneity of stakeholder communities

The fact that a particular group has a reasonably homogenous pattern of dependence on and use of a particular resource does not necessarily mean that all the members of that group are homogeneous from other points of view. Every member of every community has their own needs and priorities. Community-based interventions generally operate on the principle that communities themselves will have mechanisms which enable them to accommodate the differences in needs and priorities of different groups within the community. Sometimes this is the case - small, tightly-knit social groups are generally able to arrive at consensus decisions, especially about resource issues which affect the entire community in similar ways.

But very often, this sort of cohesiveness and identity of viewpoint does not exist. Different social and economic strata within the community may have radically different points of view and sociologists may have to spend considerable time identifying the ways in which the views of these groups differ. Where interests and points of view are in conflict, the feasibility of developing mechanisms, whether informal or institutional for negotiating compromise positions has to be assessed.

The failure of some community structures to allow representation by all community members is frequently a reflection of power relations within the community. Wealthier individuals or groups with high social status and control of resource access may be unwilling to admit other, poorer groups to decision-making forums as this could threaten their position.

Sociologists need to indicate such differences dividing different stakeholder groups and account for them in their initial identification of the levels at which resource use decisions will be taken.

4.5 Capacity for co-operative and collective action

Especially where the management of "common-property" resources is being considered, it is easy to assume that communities will be prepared to undertake collective or co-operative action in order to ensure access to and the sustainability of the resource. However, where there is no past history of collective activity and no tradition of the "community" undertaking action as a collective group, this may be extremely difficult to bring about. This can undermine attempts to encourage community-based management or participatory planning of resource use. Consideration of the precedents for collective action within stakeholder groups is therefore important as an integral part of the analysis of those groups.

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