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2.The information needs of co-managers


Data collection is the recording of one or more data variables (catch, price, fish length, etc) from members of a population of sampling units (e.g. vessels, households, fishers, etc). Information is the product of data that have been acquired, analysed, and interpreted for use. In the context of this manual we define a data collection system as the combination of the tools, data sources, sampling design and activities to deliver the necessary data and information to support the roles of co-managers.

Developing an understanding of management roles and who takes responsibility for them in the context of the co-management process is fundamental for designing effective and appropriate data collection and sharing systems. We therefore begin this paper by describing the (co-)management process and the typical roles and responsibilities of co-managers, before introducing broad categories of information that are likely to be required by co-managers to support their roles and responsibilities. Data to generate this information is examined in the following Section 3.


The management process has been defined by FAO (1997) as being:

“The integrated process of information gathering, analysis, planning, consultation, decision-making, allocation of resources and formulation and implementation, with enforcement as necessary, of regulations or rules which govern fisheries activities in order to ensure the continued productivity of the resources and accomplishment of other fisheries objectives”.

It is a process by which fisheries policy is pursued or becomes operational. Fisheries policy describes the broad directions or goals on how resources are to be utilized and managed including any co-management arrangements. Fisheries policy also often reflects national legislation, the broad development and poverty reduction goals of governments as well as obligations resulting from international or regional management and development agreements, or ratifications of conventions, codes of conduct or voluntary instruments - many of which have management, monitoring and reporting obligations associated with them (see Section 3.2.4).

Example of a Fisheries Policy Statement
“Increase fish production; alleviate poverty by expanding employment opportunities and improving socioeconomic conditions of fishers; fulfill the demand for animal protein; achieve economic growth through foreign exchange from fish exports; maintain ecological balance, conserve biodiversity, ensure public health and provide recreational facilities”.
(Inland fisheries of Bangladesh; Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, 1998).

The five main activities that from the management process


The broad goals stated in fisheries policy must be tailored for a specific fishery or resource, but the objectives set for each should be consistent with the policy. Typically, the broad goals are divided into four subsets: biological, ecological, economic and social, where social includes political and cultural goals (Cochrane, 2002), concerning issues such as food security, the maintenance of biodiversity and the maximization of employment opportunities.

Such goals are refined and translated into operational objectives for each fishery or resource via management plans. The process of management requires managers to take responsibility for a number of key activities (Figure 2):

1. Formulating, monitoring and evaluating fisheries policy and development plans

The formulation of national fisheries policy and objectives within the macro-policy and macro-economic (multisectoral) context including the coordination of fisheries with other sectors of the economy having an impact on the fishery. These policies should reflect not only the broad development and poverty reduction goals of governments, but also any obligations resulting from international or regional management and development agreements or ratifications of conventions or code of conduct (see later).

2. Formulating and coordinating management plans (MP) for each fishery, resource or management unit

This involves the setting and recording of management objectives that collectively meet the goals and commitments set out within the national fisheries policy and development plans (see 1.) as well as the often-conflicting biological, economic and social objectives of the various stakeholders who will be affected by the management of the resource. The management plans also effectively serve as a reference and information source for those stakeholders involved in the management of the resource, summarizing the state of knowledge of the resource, its environment and the fishery, the management strategy, details of the monitoring and evaluation approaches adopted, and agreed management roles and responsibilities.

The development of management plans for all resources or management units permits a spatially coordinated approach to management, whereby interactions and externalities among fisheries or units and other sectors of the economy can be monitored, evaluated, and ultimately avoided or managed. This is discussed further in Section 3.3.10.

3. Implementing management plans

This involves the actions required to ensure that the management plan is put into operation and operates efficiently. These include monitoring (collecting) and collating data and information necessary to evaluate the performance of the management plan, enforcing measures (rules) designed to achieve the objectives set out in the plan and resolving conflict.

The design of monitoring programmes, particularly with respect to the choice of indicators and variables to be monitored should also take account of any monitoring and reporting obligations resulting from international or regional management and development agreements, or ratifications of conventions, codes of conduct or voluntary instruments (see Section 3.2.4). The implementation of the plan might also involve conflict monitoring and resolution either between different fisheries/management units or between fisheries and other sectors of the economy that impact on the fisheries (e.g. agriculture, transport, industry, etc).

4. Evaluating and improving management plans

The evaluation of the management plan performance typically involves comparing management performance indicators against agreed criteria or targets set in accordance with the stated management objectives. This performance evaluation exercise is typically undertaken on an annual basis, and followed by a review or adjustment of the plan based upon the outcome of the evaluation. Such evaluations often combine performance indicators and explanatory variables in quantitative models to help guide the adjustment of the plan (see Section 3.1.1).

5. Evaluating and improving policy and development plans

Similar to activity (4.) this typically involves comparing macro policy performance indicators against agreed criteria or targets set in accordance with the stated policy and development objectives. Under co-management arrangements, this will include evaluating the performance of co-management policy itself (see later).


The management process described above has conventionally focused on maximizing resource and economic output using rules or regulations often selected on the basis of quantitative (single-species) stock assessments and management models, and set and enforced by a centralized (government) administrative authority. This conventional approach to management has frequently failed to deliver desired management and development objectives. Reasons for failure include the lack sufficient resources and institutional capacity to adequately implement and evaluate management plans and enforce rules and regulations among the widely dispersed resource users. Conventional management approaches also often fail because the strategies and plans imposed upon the resource users are inappropriate both from ecological or institutional perspectives.

Fisheries policy-makers increasingly recognize that the underlying causes of over-exploitation and environmental degradation have often social, economic and institutional origins. This has led to widespread policy support for the principles of decentralized and participatory management and development in fisheries. Two approaches, often pursued in unison, have emerged in response.

The co-management spectrum


The first is a suppression of national authority through economic or integrated management organizations often operating on a regional scale. Examples include the Mekong River Commission and the South African Development Commission. The second is the trend towards sharing responsibility for management roles with local stakeholders typically represented by some Local Management Institution (LMI), and often facilitated or supported by “intermediary organizations” (Hoggarth et al., 1999) such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutions or donor projects and programmes. Decentralization of management responsibility may therefore occur both in an upward and downward direction in the institutional hierarchy, with increasing emphasis on communication and flexibility and devolvement of the responsibility for decision-making. Co-management may represent different degrees of sharing responsibility for management roles, anywhere along the line between fully centralized government management, and totally independent self-management by the LMI (Figure3).

The position adopted along the line will invariably reflect the nature and scale of the management problems and the abilities, interest and capacity of each partner.

Recent developments in the co-management literature argue that only cooperative co-management where genuine empowerment and user participation in setting management objectives on equal terms with government is “true” co-management. The usefulness of these Guidelines is not restricted to those situations of true collaborative co-management, but recognize the wide array of possible co-management arrangements, and evolving arrangements, and aim to guide those involved to design appropriate and context-specific systems for information collection and sharing.

Frequently cited advantages of co-management include:

As well as providing a potentially more appropriate institutional framework in support of the management process, co-management also satisfies many of the core principles underlying existing and emerging (fisheries) and development policy including the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS), and National Strategies for Sustainable Development (see Sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.4).

Sharing responsibility
Under co-management arrangements, policy and development objectives are pursued by sharing responsibility for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of local management plans.

2.3.1 Who does what?

Under co-management arrangements, the previously centralized management institution, typically the Department of Fisheries (DoF) or other government Departments, and their administrative sub-divisions or levels (for example regional, provincial, district) are likely to take responsibility for a number of new, or share responsibility for existing roles with a Local Management Institution (LMI) representing the interests of local stakeholders including resource users, in pursuit of policy and development objectives.

Who takes responsibility for each role will depend upon their capacity, in other words their resources, skills, rights and motivation. See Hoggarth et al. (1999) or Garaway and Arthur (2002) for further details.

Government departments

All administrative levels of government (e.g. national, regional, provincial and district), typically within the Department of Fisheries, will have a role in fisheries management. Depending upon the structure of the government, other departments, for example the Department for Agriculture or Livestock, may be assigned, or share with the department of Fisheries, responsibility for these roles. These administrative levels may include:

Dedicated offices may also exist within fisheries departments to deal with issues and activities associated with co-management such as the Community Fisheries Development Office (CFDO) in the DoF, Cambodia.

Many governments and their respective administrative levels may need to be convinced of the benefits of co-management before making changes to existing management legislation or promoting it as policy and practice on a larger (national) scale. Therefore, in addition to their existing roles of formulating, monitoring and evaluating fisheries policy and development plans, new roles of government departments may also include monitoring and evaluating the performance of the co-management policy itself, and making refinements and adjustments where necessary.

New roles of government departments may also include formulating local management plans with LMIs to ensure that management objectives are consistent with policy goals or objectives, and that the rules and regulations or management interventions (including stocking practices) selected by the LMI in pursuit of their objectives comply or are consistent with existing national legislation. The monitoring of management plans also allow governments to coordinate the management activities of LMIs and thereby minimize conflicts and promote integrated approaches to management.

Another important role of government departments might be providing local managers with information or technical advice to formulate management plans or pursue alternative livelihoods. Facilitating communication and learning among LMIs in support of adaptive approaches to management plan performance evaluation (Section 3.5.4), as well as to help evaluate the co-management policy (Section 3.5.8) are other important new roles that government departments may adopt. Effective communication is fundamental to build trust among stakeholders and encourage their continued participation in the co-management partnership.

Government departments are also likely to continue to have important monitoring and enforcement supporting roles at the local level. Indeed, if monitoring programmes undertaken by the LMI do not meet the policy needs or obligations of the government then parallel independent monitoring programmes (see information flow (1) in Figure4 below) may need to be undertaken by the appropriate administrative levels of government departments.

Examples of LMIs
Examples of LMIs include Beel or River Management Committees (B/RMC) in Bangladesh, Beach Management Unit (BMUs) in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, Reservoir Fisheries Management Committees (RFMC) in Lao People's Democratic Republic , Community Fishery in Cambodia, Fishing Union in Viet Nam, Or-Bor-Tor (OBT) in Thailand, and Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (MFARMCs) in the Philippines.

Local management institutions

The local management institution (LMI) typically comprises a committee representing the interests and welfare of local stakeholders including fishers, fish traders, processors, farmers, land-owners, water users, nursery owners, gear manufacturers, and people who provide credit and other services. They may be responsible for the co-management of the resources within a defined water body (e.g. lake or reservoir), section of river, or stretch of coast or lake shoreline.

Committee members often comprise elected village representatives including village headmen. Local government staff may represent the government on the committee, provide technical advice and support and ensure that management plans are formulated within the overall framework of the countries legislation.

Decisions on how to manage individual fisheries grounds are generally beyond the capacity of any national organizations. Key roles of the LMIs therefore often centre upon the formulation, implementation and evaluation of the local management plans with the support of administrative levels of government departments and intermediary organizations. These roles are likely to include setting local objectives, selecting and enforcing rules and regulations, designing and implementing stocking or habitat rehabilitation programmes, and monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of their management activities.

LMIs may also be responsible for resolving conflicts locally, contributing local knowledge (see Box 4) or participating in data collection programmes to help governments coordinate local management activities, formulate and evaluate national fisheries policy and development plans, comply with reporting obligations and inform intersectoral planning decisions.

Representatives of LMIs, and government departments may also form higher-level management decision-making bodies or committees when overarching management plans or the coordination of management plans of more than one Committee is required. Examples include “Cluster”, “Central” and “Lake-Wide” Committees (see below).

Intermediary organizations

This category of stakeholders covers a range of independent organizations including NGOs, international projects, aid agencies, extension and development projects, research institutions. However, this category might also include intermediary or sub-national management bodies as the Lake George Basin Integrated Management Organisation (LAGBIMO) - a lake-wide management institution comprising representatives from both LMIs and various administrative levels of government.

These organizations often have specific skills in training extension, communication and research that can assist both government and LMIs with their responsibilities for fisheries management. Indeed, these organizations may even help establish LMIs. Projects or agencies may also provide initial support, such as developing skills or providing credit that can help LMIs and government build their capacity to manage. Key roles of these organizations might include helping local managers formulate and evaluate their management plans by providing knowledge and advice and helping design and implement effective data collection systems. Other important related roles might include developing communication networks and facilitating information sharing among LMIs. Table 1 summarizes who might take responsibility for the various co-management roles described above.

Mekong fish migrations and the use of local knowledge
Knowledge about the life history of fish, particularly with respect to the timing of migrations, migration routes and the location of spawning areas is crucial for determining the potential impacts of water management projects on fisheries in large rivers such as the Mekong. Under the Assessment of Mekong Fisheries - Fish Migrations and Spawning Habits and Impacts of Water Management Component of the MRC Fisheries Programme (AMFC), the local ecological knowledge of some 355 expert fisherman operating at 113 locations along the length of the Mekong River was compiled using interview and questionnaire techniques to generate a detailed basin-wide synopsis of the spawning and migration behaviour and habitat preferences of 45 important fish species (Poulsen and Valbo-Jørgensen, 2000). The results of the study including maps, pictures and species descriptions have been made available on an interactive CD. See for further details.

Typical roles of co-managers and intermediary organizations

1. FORMULATE /REFINE FISHERIES POLICY & DEVELOPMENT PLANSFormulate fisheries policy and development plans  
Allocate financial and human resources  
Ensure fisheries are adequately valued
Formulate co-management policy  
Ensure objectives are consistent with policy & development goals 
Agree rules & regulations/ decide upon interventions e.g. stocking
Ensure rules/regulations are consistent with national legislation 
Provide technical advice and information 
Provide local knowledge and advice  
Coordinate local management plans
3. IMPLEMENT LOCAL MANAGEMENT PLANSEnforce rules and regulations including access restrictions  
Monitor local management plan performance against objectives 
Share local knowledge and experiences  
Facilitate the sharing of local knowledge and experiences 
Stocking water bodies
Monitor fisheries policy and development plan performance
Monitor the performance of co-management policy
Monitor local management activities  
Monitor and resolve conflicts
4. EVALUATE LOCAL MANAGEMENT PLANSEvaluate local management plan performance
Information sharing and among unit evaluation and learning
5. EVALUATE FISHERIES POLICY & DEVELOPMENT PLANSEvaluate fisheries policy and development plan performance 
Evaluate co-management policy performance 

NB There may be many other roles that must be assumed by co-managers that have been omitted such as establishment of LMIs and appropriate legal and institutional frameworks (enabling environment) for management (see Hoggarth et al. 1999 for details), capacity building, provision of infrastructure, managing savings and credit programmes etc. However, the table above encapsulates the most important roles within the context of this manual.


Information is required to support the five management activities described above. Information for both formulating and evaluating fisheries policy and development can be combined into a single category (1) because of their similar nature, leaving four categories of information:

The use of the four main categories of information in the context of co-management illustrating opportunities and benefits of information sharing. For the sake of clarity, only two co-management “units” or co-managed fisheries are shown. In reality, hundreds of units may exist.

  1. Information to help formulate and evaluate national fisheries policy and development plans. This will also include information to evaluate the success of co-management policy and any data and information required to meet reporting management and reporting obligations.
  2. Information to formulate and coordinate management plans.
  3. Information to implement management plans. This will include data and information for enforcing rules and regulations and monitoring and resolving conflicts.
  4. Information to evaluate and improve management plans

Exactly what data are collected by whom to meet these information requirements will depend on who takes responsibility for each activity as well as the policy goals, management objectives and capacity (including motivation) of the main stakeholder groups. These four categories of information in the context of the co-management process are illustrated in Figure 4 below together with opportunities for information sharing.

The next section provides details of the typical data required to generate these four categories of information, and examines in more detail opportunities for information sharing. Guidelines for selecting appropriate sources and methodologies to provide these data are described in Section 4. Section 5 describes a participatory approach to designing context specific data collection systems including guidelines for establishing the information sharing pathways illustrated above.

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