Small-scale Fisheries and the Global Economy: Understanding Common-pool Resource Governance in the Context of Market Pressures, Neoliberal Policies, and Transnational Institutions
The purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to a better understanding of how global seafood trade interacts with the governance of small-scale fisheries (SSFs). As global seafood trade expands, SSFs have the potential to experience significant economic, social, and political benefits from participation in export markets. At the same time, market connections that place increasing pressures on resources pose risks to both the ecological and social integrity of SSFs. This dissertation seeks to explore the factors that mediate between the potential benefits and risks of global seafood markets for SSFs, with the goal of developing hypotheses regarding these relationships.
The empirical investigation consists of a series of case studies from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. This is a particularly rich context in which to study global market connections with SSFs because the SSFs in this region engage in a variety of market-oriented harvests, most notably for octopus, groupers and snappers, lobster, and sea cucumber. Variation in market forms and the institutional diversity of local-level governance arrangements allows the dissertation to explore a number of examples.
The analysis is guided primarily by common-pool resource (CPR) theory because of the insights it provides regarding the conditions that facilitate collective action and the factors that promote long-lasting resource governance arrangements. Theory from institutional economics and political ecology contribute to the elaboration of a multi-faceted conceptualization of markets for CPR theory, with the aim of facilitating the identification of mechanisms through which markets and CPR governance actually interact. This dissertation conceptualizes markets as sets of institutions that structure the exchange of property rights over fisheries resources, affect the material incentives to harvest resources, and transmit ideas and values about fisheries resources and governance.
The case studies explore four different mechanisms through which markets potentially influence resource governance: 1) Markets can contribute to costly resource governance activities by offsetting costs through profits, 2) markets can undermine resource governance by generating incentives for noncompliance and lead to overharvesting resources, 3) markets can increase the costs of resource governance, for example by augmenting monitoring and enforcement burdens, and 4) markets can alter values and norms underpinning resource governance by transmitting ideas between local resource users and a variety of market actors.
Data collected using participant observation, survey, informal and structured interviews contributed to the elaboration of the following hypotheses relevant to interactions between global seafood trade and SSFs governance. 1) Roll-back neoliberalization of fisheries policies has undermined cooperatives’ ability to achieve financial success through engagement with markets and thus their potential role as key actors in resource governance (chapter two). 2) Different relations of production influence whether local governance institutions will erode or strengthen when faced with market pressures. In particular, relations of production in which fishers own their own means of production and share the collective costs of governance are more likely to strengthen resource governance while relations of production in which a single entrepreneur controls capital and access to the fishery are more likely to contribute to the erosion of resource governance institutions in the face of market pressures (chapter three). 3) By serving as a new discursive framework within which to conceive of and talk about fisheries resources, markets can influence norms and values that shape and constitute governance arrangements.
In sum, the dissertation demonstrates that global seafood trade manifests in a diversity of local forms and effects. Whether SSFs moderate risks and take advantage of benefits depends on a variety of factors, and resource users themselves have the potential to influence the outcomes of seafood market connections through local forms of collective action.
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