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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Successful co-management requires full involvement

Posted By: Omar Defeo
Date: Monday, 14 June 1999, at 2:23 a.m.

In Response To: Why did the wise practice fail? (Gillian Cambers)

I will answer your questions in the same order:


a) When the fishery was closed in 1987, the decision involved all parties because the resource was almost depleted. The recommendation to close the fishery came from resource biologists who showed both the authorities and the fishers that the stock has been dramatically over- exploited.

b) and c) All fishers know well that priority was given to those fishers with longer activity in the fishery. As this is a very small artisanal fishery, almost all the fishers are well known, they permanently reside near the fishing zone and thus they were involved in enforcing regulations in order to set up an accurate control of the regulations. However, they need continuous meetings with resource biologists to enforce this kind of management system. Continuous problems occurred among fishers because membership was not clearly defined and there was no group cohesion.

d) Perception of ownership. As said in the example, the Chilean Fishing and Aquaculture Law incorporates the implementation of marine reserves and "Marine and Exploitation Areas" (MEA's). These MEA's, defined over reduced extensions of coastal segments (i.e., <100 ha of sea bottom) with very clear defined boundaries of each "caleta" (fishing ground). They were accessed ONLY by organized artisanal groups who live near the MEA. These areas were granted to the groups for 2 years on the basis of previously agreed management and exploitation plans in which they actively participate. Thus, community involvement improved the effectiveness of shellfish management programs, having the capacity to regulate its own MEA.


a) The decision to leave the fishery as an open access system came from the management body because of its "relative" importance when compared with the large-scale, mechanized fisheries. The role of some marine biologists was not as substantial as in the previous phase. As access to the fishing zone is very easy, many fishers with low incomes and lack of alternative employment entered to the fishery. As fishing costs are very low (e.g., hand-picking of clams), the open access regime motivated the dramatic increase of fishing effort in the short-term, thus depleting the resource.

b) and c) Yes, when the fishery collapsed in 1992, this resulted in a total loss of confidence. The fishery was closed again in 1993, and the stock has not recovered since then, because of a global collapse all along the Atlantic coast (thousands of km), for reasons other than fishing, still unknown.

3. QUALITY OF LIFE. Certainly it is very difficult to measure and is a relative term according to the sector of the society, which we deal with. We estimated a minimum catch volume per fisher. Given the low incomes and the scarce labour opportunities, net benefits equivalent to 2 times the national minimum wage was seen as a reasonable benchmark. Then, we estimated the number of fishers who should participate in the fishery as the ratio between the net value of the seasonal catch quota and 2 times the minimum wages. Restricted access and the global catch quota increased the demand for the product and the unit price, thus increasing fisher incomes.

4. TRANSFERABILITY. The development of co-management systems is not simple and there are not universal rules for its implementation. There are major differences between areas, regions and countries. However, it necessarily requires the FULL involvement of fishers, scientists and authorities in the management process. This is, to my view, the unique transferable concept.

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