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In many management and development settings for small-scale fisheries, regardless of the resource or social conditions, or the management approaches involved, there are constraints in achieving positive outcomes. While some of these relate to the physical or financial resources available, or to the need to strengthen policy or legal structures, many of these involve the organisation and skills of the agents involved and the ways they are accustomed to behave and function.

These constraints may apply to public sector agencies, NGOs and to communities alike, and to their abilities to interact with each other. In many cases, these are essential constraints, and without addressing these sufficiently, physical and other investments, policy or legal development will have little impact. There is therefore an increasing concern in developmnent and support programmes to focus on assessing and building the capacity of various stakeholders in the small-scale fisheries context, and where appropriate supporting processes of change in function, behaviour and performance of the related institutions, whether formal or informal.

 
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