Compliance, corruption and co-management: how corruption fuels illegalities and undermines the legitimacy of fisheries co-management
Links between corruption and illegal practices within fisheries are recognised in existing literature but little reference has been made to how these interconnected practices affect the performance and legitimacy of fisheries comanagement. Research in the three countries bordering Lake Victoria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, found that corruption is systemic and that members of all stakeholder groups – fishers, fisheries officers, police and the judiciary – are implicated. It was confirmed that corruption is strongly linked to illegalities and that corruption in this context should be viewed as a collective action problem, with fishers reluctant to invest in legal gears and methods when they perceive illegalities and corruption to be prevalent. It was also found that corrupt practices linked to illegalities discourages local level fisheries management structures – the Beach Management Units – from enforcing regulations and contributes to a lack of trust between fishers and government. Linked corruption and illegal fisheries practices were therefore found to be undermining the performance and legitimacy of co-management. This article concludes that whilst co-management offers opportunities for collusive corruption through collaborative arrangements, any management system will be susceptible to the harmful effects of corruption where it is systemic and is not formally recognised or appropriately addressed. Greater official recognition of the links between corruption and illegalities, and a range of appropriate actions taken to this collective action problem, is essential if co-management is to have a chance of success.