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Part 1 - Management Guidelines (Contd)

3 Who Should Manage?

3.1 Introduction - sharing roles and responsibilities

Managing fisheries is mainly about managing the people who exploit the fishery
‘Who should manage’ can not be decided in isolation from ‘how to manage’

The preceding sections have emphasised the high value of floodplain fisheries, their complexity and diversity, and their vulnerability to both over fishing and degradation from other sources. While there is clearly a need for good management to maintain productivity, this may seem an overwhelming task for these complicated systems. This section attempts to resolve this problem, by showing how the various management roles and responsibilities may be shared between a range of collaborators. This sharing may take place both hierarchically, as in a ‘co-management’ relationship between government, local people and other organisations, and spatially, between different geographic sub-units of the fishery. The remainder of this introduction briefly describes these two types of sharing, while the rest of Section 3 explores who may take on the various roles and responsibilities.

3.1.1 Hierarchical sharing: co-management

Co-management has been described as a ‘partnership arrangement using the capacities and interests of the local fishers and the community, complemented by the ability of government to provide enabling legislation, enforcement and conflict resolution, and other assistance’. Co-management requires increased emphasis on communication and the use of flexible approaches to manage successfully, and is seen as a solution to some of the problems experienced by the ‘top-down’ use of standard technical solutions.

The involvement of both government and the community is recommended for both technical and social reasons. Locally appropriate management solutions may best be identified by combining the community's knowledge of local resources with the government's more conceptual knowledge of the dynamics of the whole fishery. One of the greatest incentives for fishers to follow rules and observe agreed practices is for them to have some involvement or responsibility in the management of the fishery.

As illustrated in Figure 3.1., co-management may comprise various levels of sharing, anywhere along a line between fully centralised government management, and totally independent ‘bottom-up’ self-management by communities. The position adopted along the line should reflect the nature and scale of the management problems at hand and the abilities and capacity of each of the different collaborators.

While co-management approaches are recommended here for floodplain fisheries, it must also be recognised that this approach will not always be possible. The movement of fish around the river means that management will always be more complicated for fisheries than for other non-mobile resources such as trees. In addition, conflicts of interests between different social groups, or the self-interests of even a small number of locally powerful community members may prevent any partnerships from working effectively. Certain environmental and social situations will thus be more appropriate for co-management than others, as illustrated later in this section. While some parts of each river should be expected to present major management challenges, other parts may often provide good opportunities. These latter parts are where co-management activities should begin.

Figure 3.1 Co-management as a range of partnership arrangements between central government and local communities.Figure 3.1

3.1.2 Spatial sharing: fishery management units

Management roles may be shared both hierarchically, between co-management partners and spatially, between different geographic sub-units of the fishery

As described in Section 2, floodplain river fisheries are only part of the wider river environment. Interactions of the fishery with other sectors, such as agriculture, will usually need to be managed at a catchment-wide level. Whitefish species which migrate around the full river system must also be managed at this level. Such management activities are best handled by government, with their regional perspective and authority, and access to the departments responsible for other sectors. Local communities will have relatively minor roles at this level.

In contrast, local communities may play strong roles in the co-management of their own local blackfish species. For these species, management tools applied at a local level may result in improved local fish stocks and give direct benefits to the local community. Communities thus have the incentive to manage blackfish stocks, particularly where they have some form of ‘use rights’ to local spatial sub-units of the fishery. Such a sub-division of the fishery into management units would also provide the flexibility needed for effective local management.

These special characteristics of floodplain river fisheries suggest that some management activities will need to be undertaken at a catchment level while others occur at a local, community level. In between these two levels, there may also be certain situations where intermediate management units may be required. The more detailed sub-division of the fishery into management units is considered further in Section 4.

The question who should manage?, then, clearly does not have one single answer. This section attempts to show the process by which stakeholders at different spatial levels can determine who should take responsibility for different aspects of fisheries management. The factors influencing these decisions are discussed in the following sections, which focus on three key questions, as follows.

Issues raised by these questions are then brought together in a table, which proposes a match of roles to three general categories of co-management stakeholders (community, intermediary groups and government) under two spatial management units (catchment and local). The match is based on who is most likely to have capacity at each level and illustrates that, although complex, it is possible to balance the hierarchical and spatial sharing of fishery management responsibility.

3.2 Who has an interest in management?

Stakeholder analysis identifies who has a stake, the nature of their interest and clarifies the relationship between the groups
Care should be taken when using the word ‘community’: floodplain communities are rarely homogenous with common aims

Many different groups will have an interest in the management of floodplain fisheries. The first step in understanding the ‘who’ aspects of management is to identify these different groups. The second step is to understand the nature of their interest, for example fishers interested in improving their daily food security have a different stake to landowners interested in improving the profitability of their water bodies. The power to make decisions in the fishery will vary among these different stakeholders. For example, power often lies with individuals who have a financial or political interest, but this may not always be in the best interests of the fishery - neither the resource nor the fishers. Understanding this helps predict how people will be affected by management changes and how they may respond to them: actions to avoid negative outcomes can then be incorporated into fishery management plans. The third step is to look at the relationships between the different groups: are they largely co-operative or competitive, or is any one group dependent on another?

This process is known as ‘stakeholder analysis’ and is a vital step to be taken alongside investigating the more technical aspects of fishery management. Since conditions change regularly as the years go by, stakeholder analysis should be seen as an ongoing process, rather than a once-only activity at the beginning of a project or new management intervention.

An indicative list of stakeholders who might have an interest in floodplain fisheries is given in the table below, along with a description of their potential interests in the fishery. The list provides only a very general picture: any stakeholder analysis of an actual fishery would have more clearly defined categories with more detailed, specific information on the stakeholders groups, their interests and relationships. The activities of each of these groups will have an important effect on the success of any management approach taken. Awareness, consultation, and ideally the full participation of all stakeholder groups will increase the likelihood of successful management.

Care should be taken when using the word ‘community’. This will very rarely comprise only a single group of fishers, all with the same interests. More often, floodplain communities will include some households involved in fishing and other households employed in alternative floodplain activities such as farming. Within the fishing households, some may be full time, while others may be part time. Further differences may exist in social, cultural and financial status between households. There may thus be widely different interests between the members of any single community.

Floodplain fishery stakeholders and their interests

Stakeholder groupNature of interest in the fishery
Individual fishers as part of a wider fishing communityImproved food security or income
Fishers relying on floodplain fisheries for food and income have a very close interest in how the fishery is managed. Their activities - how they fish, where and when - may be directly affected by management, and poor management will reduce the quality, quantity and value of their catch. This group is very broad: a full stakeholder analysis would divide the fishers into smaller categories, for example full-time and part-time fishers.
Resource managers within floodplain communitiesImproved resource management / continuation of community traditions
Floodplain communities often have traditional methods for managing natural resources. For example, a village committee with elders and experts may set and enforce rules defining the use of natural resources such as forestry, grazing land and fisheries. Even where these institutions may not traditionally deal with fisheries, they may be a recognised authority which could potentially take a role if a community's responsibility for its fisheries increased.
Landowners, lease-holdersImproved income
People in this group have the power to determine access to the parts of the fishery which they control. As flood waters decline, remaining water bodies within recognised land boundaries may be controlled by the owner of that land. Similarly people who have control of the lease for a large water body can admit and exclude fishers on their terms. People in this category may or may not be actively involved in fishing, but they are usually a very powerful group in a fishery
Associated industries, e.g. fish processors and marketers, nursery owners, people who provide credit, or owners of large fishing gears.Improved income
Many individuals are involved in processing and marketing fish catches. Since their business relies on the continued supply of fish, they have a close interest in the management of the fishery. People in these industries may be family members of fishers, co-operatives, or ‘middle men’ who organise the sale of fish in distant markets. They may even be based in cities, rather than on the floodplain. As for the fishers, a full stakeholder analysis would probably separate this broad grouping into smaller categories.
Intermediary organisations, e.g. NGO's and projectsAlleviation of poverty / research / improved resource management
Organisations that are neither government nor local communities operate in rural areas. They usually have a remit to reduce rural poverty and this role may often extend to issues in natural resource management, including fisheries and community development.
Administrative levels of the government's Department of Fisheries.Improved productivity / income generation / alleviation of poverty
The Department of Fisheries represents the government in the management of fisheries. They will develop and implement policies to cover international responsibilities and national aims for fisheries. All administrative levels of government have a role in floodplain fisheries. The levels may include:
  • local officers who interact directly with fishing communities, mostly involved in monitoring, enforcing government legislation etc.;
  • regional level officers who coordinate local levels and have a remit for larger geographical areas; and,
  • the Minister who has ultimate responsibility in the government for fisheries development, sets national policies in line with national objectives and international responsibilities etc.
Administrative levels of other government departmentsImproved productivity / income generation / alleviation of poverty
Other government departments, including agriculture, forestry, environment engineering and transport may each be responsible for natural resources on the floodplain in ways that overlap with the fisheries

3.3 What types of activities are needed for floodplain fishery management?

Successful management requires that stakeholders take responsibility for a range of roles. Eighteen roles have been identified in Figure 3.2, although the list is not exhaustive. It is not expected that any one stakeholder group can do all of the roles or that each of the roles will take place at each level of spatial management unit. Fortunately, by using a co-management approach, the roles may be shared between many stakeholders, distributed according to who is most able to achieve them. Each of the roles is briefly discussed below.

Establish management objectives

No one stakeholder group will be able to take on all of the roles

As discussed in Section 1.2, fisheries may be managed for a wide range of objectives, and different stakeholders will often have different objectives. While government may wish to impose a general goal of sustainable resource use, the detailed specification of local objectives must be made by those local partners responsible for the management unit, within the principle of sustainability. Local people will not contribute effectively to the management of the fishery if they have not taken part in establishing objectives. The objectives at each level should be complementary. Where differences do exist, they cannot be ignored - stakeholders at the different levels should discuss the conflict in objectives and reach a compromise.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Management roles required for effective management of floodplain fisheries

Ensure international responsibilities are taken into account

As floodplains are part of larger river systems that may cross country borders, management of their fisheries needs organisations capable of making decisions on wide geographical and sometimes political levels. Certain specific management tools, such as species introductions, may be constrained by international agreements.

Ensure the environment is protected

A healthy environment provides the basis for the high productivity of the fishery, but is highly vulnerable to overuse and degradation. Many floodplain activities have the potential to alter hydrology (i.e. the quality, quantity, timing and duration of annual floods) and water quality (e.g. pollution from agricultural pesticides or industrial effluents). Countries are often bound to protect natural resources through international agreements.

Assess the fishery

Management must be based on an understanding of the floodplain fishery, i.e. the environment, the fish, the fishing practices and the stakeholders. Assessments of flood patterns and migratory whitefish must be made at a catchment wide level while individual fishing grounds and black fish must be assessed at the local level. Tools such as stock assessment models may assist the technical appraisal of a fishery, while a range of rural appraisal methodologies (e.g. participatory rural appraisal, stakeholder analysis) may provide information on stakeholder involvement. Assessment of the fishery can also be undertaken by members of the fishing community on the basis of their own fishing experience.

Provide technical guidance (knowledge / expertise)

Floodplain fisheries are complex: many different fish are caught by many different gears, used by many different people. Technical understanding of this complexity may be gained through both traditional knowledge (often detailed and specific to a particular area) and scientific knowledge (important for a catchment perspective). Technical guidance contributes to the assessment of a fishery and the development and implementation of a management plan.

Conduct research - pure and applied

Research may contribute to the broad understanding of the floodplain system (e.g. pure scientific research of floodplain ecology or hydrology) or may be part of the daily management of a fishery (e.g. adaptive management where managers ‘learn by doing’ and so increase their understanding and ability to manage). Floodplain fisheries are often well understood from a technical point of view, but poorly understood with regard to social and institutional issues which also determine the success of management.

Provide a catchment perspective for management

Since the quality, quantity and timing of flood water provide the basis to floodplain fisheries production, managers must consider floodplains as part of entire river systems. Large-scale interventions such as dams, flood control measures and the cumulative effects of many small scale interventions carried out at local level may all affect floodplain fisheries. Catchment managers must balance advantages for one sector against the potential impacts on another (most often the fishery). Clearly, this is a cross-sectoral activity, so co-ordination and communication are critical for success. Migratory whitefish stocks also cross many community fishing grounds and thus require management at a catchment level.

Develop management plans

A management plan for a fishery may specify the objectives of management, the tools by which these objectives may be achieved, and the responsibilities of the different partners in the management process. The full development of a management plan may require each of the following steps:

Setting rules for fishing (i.e. who can fish, which species, where, when and how)

The technical basis for fisheries management is the set of rules defining who can fish, which fish they can catch, and where, when and how they can catch them. The high variability of floodplains (water, fish, fishing gears, fishers) means that there are few rules which are universally applicable for all parts of the fishery. A flexible approach to selecting management rules is therefore essential. To improve the likelihood that fishing rules will be obeyed, they should be locally appropriate and made by the people who will be governed by them. Decisions on ‘who can fish’ are very important in terms of wider management objectives for the distribution of benefits. Appropriate setting of access rules provides a powerful way to direct benefits to a targeted group and ensure that vulnerable groups are not excluded.

Set rules for institutional support of fisheries management

An important, and often overlooked, part of fisheries management is the analysis of stakeholders, their inter-relationships and their potential influence on outcomes of management. As floodplain fisheries management must consider national, catchment, and more local elements of the resource, it requires the involvement of stakeholders at all of these levels. It should be clear and generally agreed which stakeholders will have responsibility for which roles. When different groups need to work closely together, it is helpful if the nature of their reationship is clarified.

Develop appropriate legislation to support fisheries management

Co-management means that the roles can be shared between stakeholders

Formal legislation should be used to give authority to the co-management partners for the management of their fishery. Legislation may provide critical recognition and support, particularly when attempting to limit access to the fishery. However, since the formal law-making process is slow and unwieldy, it will never be flexible enough for the year-to-year management of each local fishery. Formal laws on mesh sizes or small portable gears may also be almost impossible to enforce from above in dispersed, rural fisheries. National legislation for floodplain fisheries should therefore aim to provide an enabling framework within which more detailed, locally appropriate management can take place rapidly and independently, but still with the full backing of the law.

Provide mechanisms for conflict resolution

Fishery managers will often need to resolve conflicts, either between different fishers, or between the fishery and the other sectors that have a claim on floodplain resources (e.g. agriculture, transport, aquaculture etc). Conflict resolution involves three steps: discussion, adjudication and enforcement. These steps can take place formally, for example in a court with a judge deciding some legal penalty or informally, for example in a village meeting chaired by an experienced and respected fisher who decides on some social sanction.


Floodplain fishery management involves people and decisions at many different administrative levels (national, catchment and local), from many different sectors and from many floodplain communities. Effective co-ordination of all of these stakeholders will be a vital role to ensure that activities and responsibilities are complementary and do not conflict with each other. Experience in co-ordination may be quite limited in fisheries and so it is important to establish an agreed system within and between relevant stakeholder groups.


Effective communication will build trust between stakeholders and encourage their continued participation in the co-management partnership. Exchange of information between stakeholders in floodplain fisheries is important to develop, maintain and improve fisheries management. Good pathways of communication are necessary both within and between organisations. Many different methods of communication may be used, for example, posters, regular meetings, workshops, newsletters, study tours etc.

Provide training and extension

To be successful, the people involved in fisheries management will need operational, technical, social, financial, economic and management skills. Usually, the co-management team will not have all of these skills, so training will be required. Training can either be formal or informal, and may include focused workshops, visits, conferences, individual courses or on-the-job experience.


Monitoring is an essential role, needed to assess both the state of the fishery and the effectiveness of management. Fish stocks, fishing activities and outside environmental influences should thus be monitored (see Section 4.4), in addition to the performance of the various stakeholders in carrying out their management roles. Feedback should be given to the stakeholders at regular intervals both to maintain their commitment to the co-management process, and to improve their effectiveness in their roles.


Rules are made to govern fishing activities so that fisheries management objectives are met. To be effective, rules must be enforced and a system must be established to deal with rule-breakers. The system may either be based in the legal system with fines being the main form of penalty, or be community based with a range of penalties from short term exclusion from a fishery, through to complete social exclusion. It is often beneficial to have penalties of variable severity, so that first offenders may be penalised less heavily than the more regular lawbreakers.

Fund fisheries management

Fishery management will require funding for a wide range of different activities, such as training, producing posters and newsletters, collecting monitoring data, resolving disputes, developing capacity and so on. Some management tools such as stocking or habitat restoration will also have capital or labour costs. Over time such costs should increasingly be recovered from the fishery itself, usually by charging fishers in some way for their access to fishing. This ‘cost recovery’ will be most successful where the access rules for the fishery are widely understood and agreed, and a transparent financial system is established to prove that funds are being used in the agreed manner. The use of credit schemes as a method of supporting fisheries management needs to be investigated. Credit may be particularly relevant where communities are taking on new roles and need to develop different skills.

3.4 What stakeholder capacity is needed for management?

To decide who should take responsibility for these many different roles, it is necessary to consider who could take responsibility, and also who would have the incentive to take responsibility. This section thus deals with the ‘capacity’ that stakeholders need to successfully take on the various management roles in the fishery. In the following sub-sections, four different types of capacity are discussed - resources, skills, rights and motivation - and questions are asked to help clarify whether the necessary capacity is available.

3.4.1 Resources - people and money

Fishery management requires both individuals to carry out the different roles and money for them to work effectively. Some management tools (e.g. stocking) require capital investment.

?How many people are needed to carry out each role? Do stakeholder organisations have enough staff or members?
?What are the costs associated with each role (e.g. for staff time, travel, training, equipment, monitoring etc.)? Is the budget adequate?

3.4.2 Suitably trained people

Fisheries management needs people with skills in many areas, from technical skills for the assessment of the fishery, through to social and management skills for encouraging co-operation and reducing conflicts. Co-ordination and communication skills are also very important in managing such complex resources.

?What kind of skills are needed and does the organisation have people with these skills?
?How do people within an organisation communicate with each other?
?How will information be passed between people in different organisations?
?What kind of training would be most suitable, and cost effective?
?Who could provide the training?
?How long would it take, who should be trained, and who would pay?

3.4.3 Rights - recognised roles, responsibilities and the right to manage

The capacity of stakeholders will help determine who should take responsibility for each role

With so many stakeholders involved in floodplain fisheries, it is important that everyone understands and agrees who is to perform each role. The rights and responsibilities that go with each role must be clear at all levels, from villages up to government departments, and include any local NGOs or projects. Conflict in fisheries is often caused by confusion about who does what. Without a recognised right to manage, the actions taken by a group of stakeholders can be ignored or challenged. Recognition can either be formally written, such as under a legal agreement (e.g. a lease), or exist informally in the case of traditional community management rights.

?What roles have been assigned to different stakeholders and by who?
?How has that responsibility been recognised and recorded (e.g. national legislation, letter of agreement or informal conclusions of meeting)?
?What will happen if conflict arises between stakeholders over who has responsibility?

3.4.4 Motivation

Capacity can be thought of under four headings: resources, skills, rights and motivation

Without appropriate incentives, people will not want to be actively involved in fisheries management. In government departments, incentives may be salary, promotions, training etc. For fishers, incentives may include early benefits from improved management of the fishery, in addition to secured access to the fishery, long term control of the resource, opportunities to learn new skills, tangible benefits such as more fish, larger fish or social recognition.

?What are the incentives for different stakeholders, and are they adequate?
?What are the disincentives for involvement, and can they be overcome?

For each co-management partnership, then, the decision on ‘who should manage’ should take account of the capacity of each stakeholder group (Section 3.2) to fulfil each of the different roles (Section 3.3) successfully. If skills, experience, or resources are lacking, then such capacity must be developed. This may involve the exchange of skills between people, villages or government departments, or formal training through workshops or courses. External support from local development projects may also be vital in helping a community develop the necessary range of skills.

3.5 Matching stakeholders to roles in fisheries management

Involving all stakeholders at a level appropriate to their capacity will increase the chances of successful fisheries management

As noted earlier, no single group of stakeholders will have the capacity to take on all of the roles necessary to manage the fishery. The full combination of capacities may only be available in co-management partnerships involving representatives of different stakeholder groups at the appropriate levels. Which stakeholder should take on which role in each co-management partnership will depend on their respective capacities and other local factors. The following sections give general advice on the contribution that different stakeholders may make to each role. For this illustration, the stakeholders are grouped as government departments, local floodplain communities and other intermediary organisations such as development projects and NGOs. The section concludes with a potential match between these broad groups and roles at two levels of management unit (local and catchment).

3.5.1 Government departments

Governments will always have an important role in the management of floodplain fisheries

Although current trends in resource management are for devolution of responsibility to communities, the characteristics of floodplain fisheries mean that governments will always have an important role.

The administrative levels of appropriate ministries provides an established nested structure (e.g. national, regional, district.…etc.), which could support the layers of management units in Figure 4.1. Governments are in a good position to coordinate activities across different sectors. They can also identify areas where research could improve management and apply for national and international resources through projects.

Due to their overview of fisheries in a country, governments are also in a good position to initiate the identification of potential management areas (catchment, and various local units) for floodplain fisheries. Governments can also set up the framework and arrangements for giving authority to these various management units. This is an important part of the strategy for floodplain fisheries as outlined in this document.

Fisheries Departments are responsible for making national policy and this will influence the legal system governing fisheries management. Fisheries law plays an important role in the management of fisheries in each of the units illustrated in Figure 4.1 from national, through catchment to local units. Only national law is capable of devolving responsibility to lower management levels. An important role for government is thus to provide a legal framework that enables appropriate institutions in each of the management units to take responsibility for their section of the fishery.

An important consequence of governments' giving authority to various management units is their continued involvement in conflict resolution. Challenges to the established system must be met and government has the capacity to support valid managers against the claims of others wishing to take control of the resource. Government must ensure that there is a framework for conflict resolution within fisheries, and between fisheries and other sectors. This must be supported by appropriate policies, institutions, laws and information flows. Although the actual resolution of fisheries conflicts at village level will usually best be done by suitable supported village institutions, national legislation may be required to empower them to do this.

Clearly government involvement is necessary where catchments cross national boundaries. In addition, governments often have international responsibilities for the management of natural resources and the environment which will have implications for fisheries management.

Staff of fisheries departments often have considerable technical knowledge and may be actively involved in research. Therefore, these departments can provide advice and take responsibility for sharing information that will improve the management of the fishery.

3.5.2 Floodplain communities

Floodplain resources comprise many different fishing grounds of various sizes, including river channels, permanent water bodies, and seasonally flooded pools and shallows. Their hydrology and vegetative cover differ and vary with the season. This determines the types of gears which may be used and the vulnerability of both blackfish and whitefish. Decisions on how to manage these individual fishing grounds are beyond the capacity of any national organisation. They are more appropriately made by local communities. Although the legal and policy framework must be agreed with a national organisation such as a Fisheries Department, most decisions and activities should be made at a very local level.

However, for a range of reasons, some communities may not be able to make such decisions effectively. A list of conditions which may improve the likelihood of successful community participation in management is given in Box 1. Situations where these conditions are not met and cannot be developed or encouraged will present a real constraint to the local management of the fishery. The successful involvement of communities depends particularly on the unity of the stakeholders and the strength of their systems of authority. A divided community with a weak authority system is less likely to successfully manage their unit of the floodplain, than a unified community with clear, strong leadership.

Community involvement in fisheries management also requires a great deal of trust among stakeholders. This requires time to develop, particularly where previous relationship have included some degree of conflict. Close involvement of a development project or another intermediary group will often be required to provide the incentives for community stakeholders to become actively involved. Without this stimulus, people may be reluctant to participate, particularly if their previous involvement has been limited and they cannot see how they will benefit.

3.5.3 Intermediary organisations

Intermediary organisations may help governments and floodplain communities to develop their management capacity
Devolution of responsibility to floodplain communities is not a simple task a range of resource and community characteristics provide guidance to where the chances of success will be higher.

This category covers a range of organisations, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international projects, aid agencies, extension and development projects. Such organisations are often active in rural areas and may help to improve linkages between government and communities.

These groups often have a poverty focus, which includes resource management and may extend to environmental protection. Projects are often research-based, aiming to understand the nature of the resource to assist management.

People in these organisations often have specific skills in training, extension, and communication which can assist both government and local communities with their responsibilities for fisheries management.

In some circumstances projects or agencies may provide initial support, such as developing skills or providing credit, which can help communities and governments build their capacity to manage. Projects may be critical to developing the meaningful involvement of communities in management by helping to clarify roles, introducing management methods and procedures, encouraging stakeholders to take on new management responsibilities, helping to identify the benefits of participation, and reinforcing relationships between stakeholder groups.

Box 1: Conditions that improve the chance of successful community involvement in fisheries management
  • The boundaries of the management unit must be clear and of a manageable size. This includes both the physical boundary of the fishing ground, e.g. an agreed area of a floodplain such as a dry season water body, and who is part of the management unit, e.g. a list of legitimate fishers and the membership of any management committee and its structure.
  • The ‘community’ should live near the fishery and have a common approach to shared problems. A community with previous experience of solving problems facing its members and that has a shared understanding of key objectives, will have more chance of successfully meeting the challenges of managing a fishery than a community with many internal conflicts.
  • It is helpful if the community has an existing organisation with management responsibility, even if not specifically covering fisheries, as this provides a structure for the introduction of any new management interventions. Previous experience of managing natural resources within a community provides a good basis for stakeholders to take on responsibility for fisheries management.
  • Individuals are more likely to participate when it is clear to them that the benefits exceed the cost of their involvement. Therefore, it is very helpful if benefits are demonstrated early in the process of developing stakeholder capacity - this is a great incentive for future involvement.
  • Rules that specify who can fish, how, where and when must reflect local conditions (i.e. they must be appropriate for a multi-species, multi-gear fishery on a seasonal floodplain exploited by many different types of fisher).
  • Rules are best made by, or with the cooperation of, the individuals affected by them. This includes detailed fishing rules as well as rules governing who can make and change the arrangements guiding the management of the fishery.
  • Managers need to monitor both the state of the fishery and the activities of fishers, including any rule-breaking. Monitoring should either be carried out by the fishers themselves or at least people accountable to them.
  • Communities should set up a system of penalties to deal with people who break rules. The system should include a mixture of light and severe penalties to deal with different levels of rule breaking and individual circumstances. Penalties should be seen to be given out. This gives confidence to stakeholders that monitoring is effective and that rule-breakers are penalised. These are both key factors in encouraging rule compliance.
  • Communities should establish ways of resolving conflict. Mechanisms should be fast and low cost, relying on both formal (e.g. law courts) and informal (e.g. committee meeting) methods.
  • Communities must have external recognition of their right to manage (e.g. government legislation giving tenure or government policy delegating responsibility to a well defined management unit).
  • Management should be supported by a nested arrangement of organisations such as the system of river fisheries management units in Figure 4.1. All types of local floodplain management units are grouped within their river catchment, and all catchments will be grouped under a national organisation.
  • There should be a core group within the community that takes leadership responsibility for the management process. Individual fishers may need incentives to commit time, money and effort into fisheries management.
  • Communication between government and the community requires a joint body to be established. Membership should include representatives from both stakeholder groups (community and government) and should have a remit to monitor progress, resolve conflict and reinforce local decisions.
Adapted from:
Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 280 pp.
Pinkerton, E. (Ed) (1989). Cooperative management of local fisheries. New directions for Improved Management and community Development. University of British Columbia Press. Vancouver, 299pp
Pomeroy and Williams (1994). Fisheries Co-management and small-scale fisheries: a policy brief. International Centre for Living Aquatic resources Management, Manila 15pp.

3.5.4 Illustration of who might do what

In summary, the table below illustrates how communities, intermediary organisations and government departments could contribute most usefully to the various management roles at both local and catchment levels.

It is clear from this table that, in local management areas, floodplain communities can take a very active role with governments providing the supportive framework. At the catchment level, governments will more often be the lead organisation. At both levels of management unit, the intermediary organisations may provide support to both governments and communities.

It should be clear by now that devolution of fisheries management to local co-management partnerships is not a simple option. It requires legal, technical, financial, social and administrative support. Ironically, it also requires a strong central government, committed to the principle of decentralisation. The proposed hierarchical and spatial sub-division of responsibilities is designed to provide a structure, based on the characteristics of the resource, that will allow decentralised local partnerships to gradually take on full responsibility for managing the fishery. The following section describes in more detail, how resources may be sustainably managed.

Potential roles for different stakeholder groups in local and catchment management units

 Floodplain communitiesIndependent OrganisationsGovernment Departments
Local Management Areasset objectives  
  international responsibility
protect environmentprotect environmentprotect environment
resource assessmentresource assessment 
(VMAs and IMAs)technical guidancetechnical guidancetechnical guidance
  catchment management
decide management plansdecide management plans 
set fishing rulesset fishing rules 
set institution rulesset institution rulesset institution rules
  develop legislation
conflict resolutionconflict resolutionconflict resolution
trainingtraining / extensiontraining / extension
Catchment Management Areas  set objectives
  international responsibility
protect environmentprotect environmentprotect environment
 resource assessmentresource assessment
 technical guidancetechnical guidance
(CMAs) researchresearch
 catchment managementcatchment management
 decide management plansdecide management plans
  set fishing rules
set institution rulesset institution rulesset institution rules
  develop legislation
conflict resolutionconflict resolutionconflict resolution
 training / extensiontraining / extension
enforcement enforcement

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