Untangling the drivers of community cohesion in small-scale fisheries
Sustainable fisheries require strong management and effective governance. However, small-scale fisheries (SFF) often lack formal institutions, leaving management in the hands of local users in the form of various governance approaches (e.g., local, traditional, or co-management). The effectiveness of these approaches inherently relies upon some level of cohesion among resource users to facilitate agreement on common policies and practices regarding common pool fishery resources. Understanding the factors driving the formation and maintenance of community cohesion in SSF is therefore critical if we are to devise more effective participatory governance approaches and encourage and empower decentralized, localized, and community-based resource management approaches. Here, we adopt a social relational network perspective to propose a suite of hypothesized drivers that lead to the establishment of social ties among fishers that build the foundation for community cohesion. We then draw on detailed data from Jamaica’s small-scale fishery to empirically test these drivers by employing a set of nested exponential random graph models (ERGMs) based on specific structural building blocks (i.e., network configurations) theorized to influence the establishment of social ties. Our results demonstrate that multiple drivers are at play, but that collectively, gear-based homophily, geographic proximity, and leadership play particularly important roles. We discuss the extent to which these drivers help explain previous experiences, as well as their implications for future and sustained collective action in SSF in Jamaica and elsewhere.