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Institutional and ecological interplay for successful self-governance of community-based fisheries


  • Basurto, Xavier
  • Coleman, Eric


The goal of this paper is to improve our understanding of the role of institutional arrangements and ecological factors that facilitate the emergence and sustainability of successful collective action in small-scale fishing social-ecological systems. Using a modified logistic growth function, we simulate how ecological factors (i.e. carrying capacity) affect small-scale fishing communities with varying degrees of institutional development (i.e. timeliness to adopt new institutions and the degree to which harvesting effort is reduced), in their ability to avoid overexploitation. Our results show that strong and timely institutions are necessary but not sufficient to maintain sustainable harvests over time. The sooner communities adopt institutions, and the stronger the institutions they adopt, the more likely they are to sustain the resource stock. Exactly how timely the institutions must be adopted, and by what amount harvesting effort must be diminished, depends on the ecological carrying capacity of the species at the particular location. Small differences in the carrying capacity between fishing sites, even under scenarios of similar institutional development, greatly affects the likelihood of effective collective action.

Suggested Citation

  • Basurto, Xavier & Coleman, Eric, 2010. "Institutional and ecological interplay for successful self-governance of community-based fisheries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1094-1103, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:5:p:1094-1103

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ghazala Mansuri, 2004. "Community-Based and -Driven Development: A Critical Review," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 19(1), pages 1-39.
    2. Edella Schlager & William Blomquist & Shui Yan Tang, 1994. "Mobile Flows, Storage, and Self-Organized Institutions for Governing Common-Pool Resources," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(3), pages 294-317.
    3. Edella Schlager & Elinor Ostrom, 1992. "Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 68(3), pages 249-262.
    4. Xavier Basurto & Elinor Ostrom, 2009. "Beyond the tragedy of the Commons," ECONOMICS AND POLICY OF ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 0(1), pages 35-60.
    5. Cinti, A. & Shaw, W. & Cudney-Bueno, R. & Rojo, M., 2010. "The unintended consequences of formal fisheries policies: Social disparities and resource overuse in a major fishing community in the Gulf of California, Mexico," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 328-339, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anne-Sarah Chiambretto & Hubert Stahn, 2017. "Voluntary Management of Fisheries under an Uncertain Background Legislative Threat," AMSE Working Papers 1712, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France.
    2. Richter, Andries & Dakos, Vasilis, 2015. "Profit fluctuations signal eroding resilience of natural resources," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 12-21.
    3. Quérou, N. & Tomini, A., 2013. "Managing interacting species in unassessed fisheries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 192-201.
    4. Musson, Anne, 2012. "The build-up of local sustainable development politics: A case study of company leaders in France," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 75-87.
    5. Kaplan, Katherine A. & Ahmadia, Gabby N. & Fox, Helen & Glew, Louise & Pomeranz, Emily F. & Sullivan, Patrick, 2015. "Linking ecological condition to enforcement of marine protected area regulations in the greater Caribbean region," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 186-195.
    6. Coleman, Eric A., 2010. "Implications of external validity for research on polycentric and complex adaptive systems," IAMO Forum 2010: Institutions in Transition – Challenges for New Modes of Governance 52713, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO).
    7. Esther Blanco, 2011. "A social-ecological approach to voluntary environmental initiatives: the case of nature-based tourism," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 44(1), pages 35-52, March.
    8. Silva, Monalisa R.O. & Lopes, Priscila F.M., 2015. "Each fisherman is different: Taking the environmental perception of small-scale fishermen into account to manage marine protected areas," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 347-355.


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