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Institutions in fisheries: what they are, what they do, and how they change


  • Jentoft, Svein


'Institution' is a concept with many definitions and interpretations. Yet it is a key concept in the fisheries management discourse, as it is through institutions that management systems work. Hence the efficacy of fisheries management is largely a question of institutional design and dynamics. In this paper, I argue that we need to clarify what we mean by institutions, what functions they have, and how they develop over time. How we perceive institutions determines what we can and must do in order to make management systems operate more effectively, as our perspectives define the range of options for intervention in the management process. Drawing on classical and modern social science literature, I claim that we need a broader concept of institutions than is currently in fashion among fisheries social scientists inspired by rational choice. We need a concept that includes the social and cultural underpinnings of management systems and one that captures the social processes and governance mechanisms that are essential to fisheries management in the broadest sense. If not, our visions of the challenges that fisheries management represents, and what needs to be done in order to make fisheries more sustainable, become too restricted to make any long-term impact.

Suggested Citation

  • Jentoft, Svein, 2004. "Institutions in fisheries: what they are, what they do, and how they change," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 137-149, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:marpol:v:28:y:2004:i:2:p:137-149

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    Cited by:

    1. Eriksson, Hampus & Conand, Chantal & Lovatelli, Alessandro & Muthiga, Nyawira A. & Purcell, Steven W., 2015. "Governance structures and sustainability in Indian Ocean sea cucumber fisheries," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 16-22.
    2. Standal, Dag & Annie Sønvisen, Signe, 2015. "Gear liberalization in the Northeast Arctic cod fisheries – Implications for sustainability, efficiency and legitimacy," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 141-148.
    3. Thomas, Alyssa S. & Milfont, Taciano L. & Gavin, Michael C., 2015. "What determines fishers’ knowledge of and attitudes towards regulations? A case study from the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 547-554.
    4. Caballero-Miguez, Gonzalo & Varela-Lafuente, Manuel M. & Dolores Garza-Gil, María, 2014. "Institutional change, fishing rights and governance mechanisms: The dynamics of the Spanish 300 fleet on the Grand Sole fishing grounds," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 465-472.
    5. Barbara Quimby & Arielle Levine, 2018. "Participation, Power, and Equity: Examining Three Key Social Dimensions of Fisheries Comanagement," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(9), pages 1-20, September.
    6. Kahmann, Birte & Stumpf, Klara Helene & Baumgärtner, Stefan, 2015. "Notions of justice held by stakeholders of the Newfoundland fishery," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 37-50.
    7. Nguyen Thi Quynh, Chi & Schilizzi, Steven & Hailu, Atakelty & Iftekhar, Sayed, 2020. "Vietnam’s Territorial Use Rights for Fisheries: How do they perform against Ostrom’s institutional design principles?," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 17(C).
    8. Fiona Nunan, 2007. "Reducing poverty through fisheries co-management: an analysis of design and intentions in Uganda," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(8), pages 1151-1164.
    9. Nunan, Fiona & Hara, Mafaniso & Onyango, Paul, 2015. "Institutions and Co-Management in East African Inland and Malawi Fisheries: A Critical Perspective," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 203-214.
    10. Standal, Dag & Hersoug, Bjørn, 2014. "Back to square one? Fisheries allocation under pressure," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 236-245.

    More about this item


    Fisheries management Institution Embeddedness Social theory;


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    1. Socio-economics of Fisheries and Aquaculture


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