Towards adaptive co-management of small-scale fisheries in Uruguay and Brazil: lessons from using Ostrom’s design principles

Last modified: 
August 30, 2016 - 5:55am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2015
Date published: 07/2015
Authors: Micaela Trimble, Fikret Berkes
Journal title: Maritime Studies
Volume: 14
Issue: 1

The literature on commons has established the validity and significance of Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for collective action. Can these principles be used to guide policies and initiatives towards adaptive co-management? We analyze this idea by using two case studies, Piriápolis (Uruguay) and Paraty (Brazil). Both cases are small-scale fisheries, and both have been experiencing a social-ecological crisis in a context of prevailing top-down government management. However, there are signs that government policies are moving towards participatory governance. The objective of this article is to identify opportunities and barriers to adaptive co-management of small-scale fisheries in Uruguay and Brazil using Ostrom’s design principles for guidance. Both case studies partially meet seven of the eleven design principles (as amended by Cox and colleagues), but do not fulfill four. The analysis of the fisheries using Ostrom’s principles sheds light on the opportunities and barriers to adaptive co-management in three categories: resource system, resource users, and governance system. Barriers include long-standing conflicts between small-scale fishers and government agencies, and between small and large-scale fisheries sectors. Nevertheless, recent initiatives involving participatory approaches to research and management show potential to improve compliance with several principles. Two weaknesses of using Ostrom’s principles for the analysis of the cases were a lack of attention to social learning and the exclusion of external drivers.

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