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The concept of governance has gained increasing significance in development approaches, in recognition that formal and infomal institutions need to be carefully understood and selectively supported or promoted if positive development objectives are to be realised. In fisheries development and resource management, governance derives both from the wider context of national policies and their implementation, and from the more local environment of government presence and action, social process and traditional understanding.

Apart from the fundamental issues of the extent, nature and impact of existing governance processes, important areas of development concern the definition of objectives and mechanisms for improving access and empowerment, reducing vulnerability, widening economic opportunity, delivering information and services, and resolving conflicts. This is a steadily developing area within small-scale fisheries, for which governance relating to fishing resources is increasingly linked with wider issues of local and national development.

 
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