Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

2. The four pillars for successful co-management

There is extensive documentation covering the lessons learnt in trying to implement co-management (Katon et al., 1997; Kalikoskia et al., 2002; Pomeroy and Berkes, 1997; WorldFish Center, 2003; Stern et al., 2002). Katon et al., (1997), for example, identified thirteen characteristics of successful co-management institutional arrangements (Box 3).

An analysis of these lessons learnt shows that the problems faced by those implementing co-management programmes are usually variants of the "generic" problems that face all types of common resource management, although manifestations of these are often very specific to cultural and socio-economic contexts on particular cases (Stern et al., 2002).

These issues and lessons learnt can be categorized under four main pillars for the successful co-management of fisheries:

1) An enabling policy and legal framework;
2) The participation and empowerment of communities (and other users);
3) Effective linkages and institutions; and
4) Resources - a resource worth managing and the people and money to do it.

Box 3 Thirteen characteristics of successful co-management institutions

1. Existence of a resource availability problem.
2. Specification and enforcement of property rights.
3. Influence of fishers on project planning and participation by those affected.
4. Supportive local leadership and cooperation among fishers.
5. Knowledge of project objectives.
6. Positive attitude toward rules.
7. Presence of legal and policy support.
8. Community cooperation.
9. Job satisfaction of fishers.
10. Dependence on fishing as the most important source of total household income.
11. Tangible benefits from co-management arrangements.
12. Built-in monitoring and evaluation schemes.
13. Reinforced incentives to collaborate.

Public acclaim for achievements in fisheries management is instrumental in reinforcing the commitment of the fishing community and the municipal government to sustain project initiatives and enforce fishery rules.

(Katon et al., 1997)

There are many examples both globally and within Asia where one or two of these pillars are in place. However, it is difficult to find examples where all four are firmly "mainstreamed" into the country’s economy and social structure. In Asia, Japan is possibly a unique example where all four exist. The challenge for other countries is to address the issues under all four pillars and commit to a functional form of co-management.

2.1 Enabling policy and legal framework

Policy provides the overall framework for managing the sector through the specification of goals and objectives, and in many cases the related strategies and actions to achieve these goals. Legislation is the formalization of these policies into the legal system of the country, and enshrining them in law.

At its broadest level, legislation must recognize and support the authority of the State as the agency responsible for fishery management. This is known as the "public trust doctrine" which is based in common law in many western countries and empowers the State as the agency responsible for common property resources of a nation. Examples of this include air pollution, water resources, fisheries, forestry and minerals (Tietenberg, 2002).

This authority allows the State to assign rights to individuals or groups. This forms the basis for laws and regulations that relate to many aspects of a fishery using a range of fishery management interventions (the manager’s tool box) including the allocation of uses and users (permits and quotas), enforcing the laws and regulations and the promotion of management plans and objectives.

Co-management must be backed up with ways and means (incentives and deterrents) to implement policies and laws. For small-scale fisheries, success of co-management depends on the ability of users at a local level to devise rules for access to and maintenance of the resource. Importantly, a sanction must be effective (and understood as so) to prevent rule-breaking behaviour. For an example see Box 4.

Box 4 One of the key characteristics of successful co-management in San Salvador, Philippines was the presence of legal and policy support with vigorous enforcement

In the case of San Salvador, the Masinloc municipal government filled this role. Eventually, the government-organized marine guards (Bantay Dagat) and village police (Barangay Tanod) also assisted in patrolling the coastal waters of San Salvador. Co-management efforts resulted in an actual imposition of sanctions against violators of fishery-related laws, higher rule compliance, and reduced incidence of community conflicts. Over time, other supportive policies and legislation came into existence, both from the national and municipal governments.

In 1991, the enactment into a national law of the Local Government Code (LGC) formalized the devolution of powers and responsibilities for coastal resource management to local governments, which created a favourable environment for co-management to prosper. Among other provisions, the LGC also supported the active participation of non-government organizations in community development. In 1993, the national government declared Masinloc Bay as a protected seascape. This resulted in the formulation of a management plan and the zoning of the bay into various management zones in 1996. It also reinforced the status of the San Salvador sanctuary as a protected area.

At the local level, the Municipal Council of Masinloc enacted its Basic Fishery Ordinance in 1995, which affirmed the extent of its municipal waters, declared as unlawful any commercial fishing within its waters such as air bubble fishing (pa-aling), muro-ami, and Danish seine (hulbot-hulbot), and required the issuance of permits and licenses for the capture, use or culture of fishery and aquatic resources, among others.

(Katon et al., 1997)

For large-scale fisheries, the same principle of stakeholder ownership of rules and regulations apply. Experience has shown that Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) schemes based on enforcement and a "big stick" approach are very difficult to apply, especially in remote areas where "cheating" is relatively easy and is generally not punishable.

Experience has shown that following key factors in relation to national policies and institutions are important in successful co-management of fisheries:

1. Willingness of governments to initiate legislative and policy change: In most circumstances, the change from a top down/centralised approach to a co-management approach requires changes in laws and the development of new laws. This can take considerable time and needs strong political leadership.

2. Coherent policy and legislation that are mutually supportive: Are required to create the enabling environment for co-management. For example, see Box 2 Tonle Sap. This must apply to both small-scale and large-scale fisheries and should be closely linked to any decentralization policies of the country.

3. Authority and roles: It is essential to define clearly the role and function of government, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and private sector organizations, along with clear specification of the boundaries of co-management areas. In addition, the clear assignment of property rights (ownership) is considered vital. Without clear property/access rights, investment in development of resources will be difficult.

4. Shift responsibility for decision-making and action away from a central agency: In order for co-management to succeed, administration needs to be deconcentrated, clear delegation given to local players and some power must be devolved from central government to agencies or individuals involved in co-management. Privatization may be an appropriate way to transfer certain government functions to individuals and corporations.

2.2 Empowering communities

In keeping with our focus on both large-scale and small-scale fisheries communities, we refer here to communities as a set of people (or agents in a more abstract sense) with some shared element. For small-scale fisheries, a community is a group of people that live in the same area. For large-scale fisheries it is the fishing industry group, normally based on a type of fishing (e.g. the trawl industry, the tuna industry). In some cases, they will be organized (e.g. trawler boat owner association, fishers federation etc.) but need to become partners with government in fisheries management.

Based on the enabling legislative and policy environment, power and authority need to be actually devolved to user groups. Further, the government must support the emergence of local organizations and their empowerment. Under co-management regimes local co-management organizations must, for example, be free to develop and to hold meetings when they want, and to be able to question and comment on government policy. Government officials must be accessible to the fishers and be willing to listen and learn. The fisher’s organizations must be allowed to form their own institutions (rather than take part in government sponsored ones) and develop their own rules, subject to any legislation or policy specifying the extent to which such rules can be developed in the face of other national government policies and legislation.

In order to empower communities successfully, participation and participatory approaches can be used to actively involve people and communities in identifying problems, formulating plans and implementing decisions. These approaches are often seen as a set of principles for generating insights about people and the communities in which they live. Participation for empowerment must be seen as a process. The process of continued, active stakeholder involvement in activities will result in sustainability of impact, a greater sense of ownership and agreement of the processes to achieve an objective, better targeting, accountability and equity.

Ownership of any rule or regulation is essential if any degree of compliance is going to be achieved, and for that community empowerment is essential. Communities may require the backing of government to settle some conflicts and dispute and, importantly, have access to an arbitrator.

Experience in several projects carried out in a number of countries has shown that for empowerment to be effective it must be carried out holistically. A narrow approach to empowerment with a single aim to get better fisheries management is not a practical option. Talking about conservation of resources in situations where communities are wholly dependent on fishing in order to feed their families and raise enough income to survive is counter-productive. Instead, they need to be empowered to the extent that they are in a position to analyse their situation, look for alternatives and initiate preparatory actions to address some of their immediate concerns before tackling issues of resource use. These include helping them out of their current state of hopelessness, uncertainty, social deprivation, inner conflicts, sense of insecurity and isolation, dependency etc. Their concerns are multifold and as such a broad-spectrum or holistic approach is needed for their empowerment covering wide-ranging areas from organizing the communities to strengthening their organizations and facilitating various community development activities covering sanitation and drinking water, primary health care, primary education, disaster preparedness, microfinance and also natural resource management which are directed and implemented by their organizations.

It is only when human well-being has improved sufficiently that any progress to improve ecological well-being can be tackled. A good example of this type of approach is an FAO/UNDP coastal community empowerment project being carried out in southern Bangladesh. Through the formation of village organizations (both women’s and men’s organizations), the project assisted in improving basic cleanliness, provision of multipurpose village resource centre cum school buildings, salary of teachers, training of health focal points, training of village-based natural resource conservation/management activists, training in safety at sea and the initiation of savings. Most of these provisions have been made on matching support basis. Subsequently, it was possible to form a network of village organizations at subdistrict and district levels. It was through these organizations that decisions to increase mesh size and remove destructive gears such as shrimp fry catching nets was possible. The communities also built up enough confidence and capability to interact better with both local and central government. A key to this success was the grassroots level involvement of local fishery officers from the Department of Fisheries as well as project staff.

Water bodies are typically multiple user resources, which further complicates co-management in fisheries. When other users are included in water resource management or environmental management decision-making (such as other fisher groups, tourism, industry and agriculture), agreement on management priorities becomes complex and it is necessary to facilitate processes to reach consensus.

For example, recent government support to co-management in the Tonle Sap shows how the government followed up policy change with commitment to develop fishers groups. Some key steps in the empowerment of these communities were: (i) organization/mobilization of people; (ii) development of associations; (iii) inclusive involvement of people (ensure marginalized groups are involved); (iv) human capacity building; (v) delegation of responsibility; and (vi) participatory planning. This management system aims to achieve a balance between the needs of forestry, fisheries and agriculture (Box 2) (Evans et al., 2004).

2.3 Linkages and institutions

As shown in Figure 3, the network of stakeholders is complex, both in terms of vertical linkages (national to local), horizontal linkages (between different users of the natural resources) and in terms of geographic coverage. Communication and information exchange throughout the network is critical for success. But what information is needed by the different players and in what form? Much more work is needed to determine what the information needs are and how to manage this huge amount of information.

Institutional arrangements, both in terms of how the players will be organized and the rules and regulations governing their activities must be set up and understood by all. For example, in many cases decentralisation of management also allows a limited decentralisation of fiscal authority giving the management agency the authority to collect revenue/recover costs towards a management of the fishery. The local management agency may have the right to employ enforcement officers or to pursue offenders through the courts. This becomes more complex where a fisher’s group is responsible for patrolling, since a decision must be made as to whether they are empowered to apprehend fishers that are contravening local regulations and whether this applies to only their members or members of the public.

In order to facilitate dialogue and communication, success in co-management must be defined. Success criteria, priorities and management objectives vary between stakeholders, a diversity that must be understood and respected. A key question that must be answered by the players in a co-management system is "what is co-management trying to achieve?". These different objectives might relate to economic, biological/resource, social or environmental ideals and cultural norms. For example, management may be undertaken to maximise economic return from a fishery or it may be to allow it to act as a social safety net (providing economically low value fish) for the poor. Reducing overexploitation of resources is often a main objective, but whilst this is important, it is not the only issue for resource users. Livelihoods and well-being are also important. Trade-offs may have to be made between efficiency, sustainability and equity. Models for co-management must take into account the many different values and ideas that stakeholders have about the desired outcomes. In other words, fisheries management must strive to promote the contribution that a fishery makes to sustainable development by balancing the ecological well-being with the human well-being of the dependent communities in a way that promotes the best balance for long-term sustainability.

Figure 3. Typical network of relationships between players in a co-management arrangement: 1) National/central (often in national capital), 2) Province, 3) District, 4) Subdistrict, 5) Civil Society Organizations (NGOs/CBOs), 6) Fishing communities, 7) Other stakeholders (e.g. tourism), 8) the offshore fleet, 9) Marine Protected Area.

A key issue for successful (and sustained) co-management in small-scale fisheries is compliance with locally agreed rules and regulations relating to access to the resource. A possible reason why coastal community-based management has been so difficult to achieve/sustain (apart from the "pilot nature" of project interventions) is that the resource can be mobile and is dispersed over a large unenclosed area. Many pilot co-management initiatives deliberately choose locations that have a degree of enclosure such as bays, or that are geographically identifiable such as reefs or rock outcrops, since this facilitates the definition of boundaries and therefore access. Unfortunately, this may constrain subsequent up-scaling to areas that lack such clear boundaries, particularly straight stretches of coastline and open waters. Without involvement of other users of the fishery resource (typically the larger industrial-scale fishing operations), any local consensus may not be effective. In many circumstances, a network of committees will be required with representatives of different stakeholders involved at different levels.

Table 2. Description of the elements of a co-management system




Other agencies/groups (indirectly) involved

Skills/capacity development required

National Agency Responsible Fisheries

- Fishery Department

- National advisory committee on co-management

- Review and amend legislation if necessary

- Review and amend policy if necessary

- Link with RFOs/donors/(I)NGOS

- Links with other government department

- Direct co-management research activities required

- Budget allocation

- MOU/Agreements between related agencies

- National fishers federation

- Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

- Ministry of Investment and Planning

- Ministry of Finance

- National Rural Development Agency

- National Law and Enforcement Agency

- Bureau of local government

- Coordinate on financial support

- Fishery research institutions

- National level advisory committee

- Basic concepts of co-management - national workshop (once off activity); literature esp. on success stories

- Needs of the grassroots level; awareness of local issues

Provincial/State Advisory Committee

- Provincial fisheries department

- Provincial co-management unit/committee

- Approval of mgt plans coming up

- Guidance on developing mgt plans going down

- Monitoring and evaluation of co-mgt

- Other provincial departments (part of provincial co-management committee)

- Concepts on co-management

- Legal aspects of management

- Planning & monitoring

- Local issues

- Conflict resolution

- Training of trainers

Middle-level interface

- Subdistrict/district level;

- possibly multi-sectoral; "co-management organization"

- Development of district mgt plans

- Implementation of district mgt plans

- Request specific advice

- Enforcement staff

- Local government administration

- NGOs

- Concepts of co-management

- Awareness of local issues

- Conflict resolution

- Organization & training of users

- Training of local district committees

- PRA, institutional strengthening, formulation of management plans, group mobilization/dynamics, social savings, livelihoods

Note: Approach as LEARNING (learning by doing, exchange visits etc.)

Aggregations/Federations of villages/communities

- Federations of village groups

- (e.g. waterbody level; "community-based")

- District Community (Fishery) organizations

- District level representatives of users

- Represent members at meetings with middle-level interface

- Concepts of co-management

- Awareness of local issues

- Self-organization for representation of members

- Conflict resolution and mediation

Local level/communities

- Village level groups ("community-based")

- Possibly with occupational or gender subgroups

- Development of local mgt plans

- Implementation of community mgt plans

- NGO/co-management facilitating organization

- Users

- Local level association -needs training; same as that of district level

Note: Should be seen as LEARNING (leaning by doing, exchange visits etc.)

2.4 Resources - people and money

Understanding the economics of fishery co-management is critical to its success. Management of any fishery (whether community-based, co-managed or government-managed) will require inputs in terms of resources. In the central government model of fisheries management, these resources included financing for research, monitoring, compliance and surveillance (enforcement) and maintaining local, national and international institutions (these could be community-based such as associations, trader associations or national such as fishery departments and police and include human capital, or international organizations such as FAO and APFIC). An important aspect of sustaining stakeholder interest in being part of a co-management arrangement is that the resource that is to be co-managed is actually worth managing. This means that the value of the resource to the stakeholders is sufficient to justify the investment of time and financial resources that is required under a co-management system. This is an important consideration, since there may be local interest to manage a fishery resource and the willingness to invest time and effort to do so, but the commercial value of the fishery and the opportunity of cost recovery is so low that the government does not find it viable to support.

The top-down management systems which have come into prevalence since the 1950’s traditionally attempt to recover cost through: taxation or levies on the produce (either on landing or during processing); quotas (either for access to an area, for species, gear, time); or general taxation. Financial aspects of fisheries are gaining increasing recognition, and there have been recent moves towards greater "market discipline" in the sector as a way of contributing towards a transition to responsible fisheries, as evidenced by recent focus on issues such as: withdrawal of subsidies; strengthening of use rights; substitution of grants with loans; and cost-recovery programmes and greater emphasis on capture of resource rents. In this context there has been concern that the resource rent/revenue recovered from co-management schemes does not cover the management costs. For example, in the United Kingdom it is estimated that 20 percent of the gross value of the fishery is spent on monitoring alone. The fishing industry has in this case received special status because of its perceived social importance to communities.

However, for co-management to work, the investment in time, resources and capacity building to ensure successful co-management cannot be underestimated. In cases where a network of committees is established to cover both the hierarchy from national to local and the different stakeholders, costs both in terms of travel, as well as time away from the source of people’s income and livelihoods, can be very demanding and few incentives for participation exist, especially when the participants lose out in any allocation or negotiation.

According to Kuperan and Pomeroy (1998) transaction costs can be classified as: (i) information costs (costs associated with acquiring knowledge of resources and organizations); (ii) collective fisheries decision-making costs (costs involved in setting up meetings, agreeing on policies and rules, communicating decisions and coordinating stakeholders); and (iii) collective operational costs (compliance costs, resource maintenance and resource distribution costs). Makino and Matsuda (2005) calculated these costs in one district (prefecture) in Japan. They showed that the total costs corresponded to about 27 percent of the total annual fisheries production, 70 percent being paid by

the government and 30 percent by fishers. They pointed out that in this system, however, compliance costs were very low and the largest share of the government’s cost goes to information costs. It would be interesting to compare this with the top-down central approach which has large enforcement budgets and large research budgets, with researchers often not doing work that is especially relevant to better management.

Although the costs may appear high, these have to be related to the benefits. The benefits themselves are in terms of lessened conflicts, increased social cohesion, more independent communities, not to mention the large economic and social gains that are possible to recoup from healthy fishery resources, as well as increased nutrition and health. The cost of not investing in co-management is potentially enormous, and with current trends in Asian fisheries both the economic and social impact of collapsed fisheries could cost governments many times more than strategic intervention taken now.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page