Can Local Institutions Help Sustain Livelihoods in an Era of Fish Declines and Persistent Environmental Change? A Cambodian Case Study
This paper sets out to explore fishers’ perceptions of environmental change in coastal Cambodia and to then examine the role of local institutions in working with villagers to adapt to such challenges. The analysis shows that: (1) fishers observe species decline, irregular tides and a change in weather patterns; and (2) local institutions have been working to address some of these issues through a series of resource management and livelihood projects for over a decade. We note that local institutions are well placed to deal with certain types of environmental change projects, such as protecting small patches of mangrove trees or creating fish sanctuaries, along with less controversial, tourism-related projects. It is impossible, however, for local institutions to tackle bigger issues, such as over-fishing or large-scale resource extraction. Fishing villages are dealing with multiple challenges (environmental change and beyond), which may make fishing a less viable option for coastal villagers in the medium to long term. As such, key policy responses include acknowledging and building upon the work of local institutions, enhanced support for patrolling at national and provincial levels, developing response scenarios for coastal environmental change, involving local institutions in scientific monitoring and piloting projects that consider fishing and non-fishing livelihoods.
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