Cooperative and noncooperative strategies for small-scale fisheries' self-governance in the globalization era: Implications for conservation

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Fishing cooperatives (co-ops) and patron-client relationships are the most common cooperative and noncooperative strategies for self-governance for small-scale fisheries around the world. We studied what drives fishers to choose between these two self-governance arrangements in 12 communities in the Gulf of California, Mexico. The communities depend on similar fishing resources, are located in contiguous portions of the coast, fish roughly the same species, have similar socioeconomic characteristics, and sell to similar markets, yet half of the fisheries are organized around co-ops and the other half work through patron-client arrangements. Using participant observation, in-depth interviews of key informants between 1995-2008, and a survey of 55% of the fisheries in the study area, we found that the presence of high transaction costs of commercialization, the desire to acquire fishing licenses, and the existence of traditions of successful collective action among fishing groups within each community strongly influence fishers' choices regarding membership in fishing co-ops. We also examined the implications of our findings for conservation of fishing resources. Given that the emergence of co-ops was associated with high transaction costs of commercialization, we hypothesize that cooperative strategies are more likely than patron-client strategies to emerge in communities in isolated locations. In an era of globalization, in which the rate of development and urbanization will increase in coastal areas, patron-client strategies are likely to become more prevalent among fisheries, but such self-governance strategies are thought to be less conducive to conservation behaviors. © 2013 by the author(s).






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Basurto, X, A Bennett, AH Weaver, S Rodriguez-Van Dyck and JS Aceves-Bueno (2013). Cooperative and noncooperative strategies for small-scale fisheries' self-governance in the globalization era: Implications for conservation. Ecology and Society, 18(4). 10.5751/ES-05673-180438 Retrieved from

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Xavier Basurto

Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor

I am interested in the fundamental question of how groups (human and non-human) can find ways to self-organize, cooperate, and engage in successful collective action for the benefit of the common good. To do this I strive to understand how the institutions (formal and informal rules and norms) that govern social behavior, interplay with biophysical variables to shape social-ecological systems. What kind of institutions are better able to govern complex-adaptive systems? and how can societies (large and small) develop robust institutions that provide enough flexibility for collective learning and adaptation over the long-term?

My academic and professional training is based on a deep conviction that it is through integrating different disciplinary perspectives and methods that we will be able to find solutions to challenging dilemmas in natural resources management, conservation, and environmental policy. Trained as a marine biologist, I completed a M.S in natural resources studying small-scale fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Realizing the need to bring social science theories into my work on common-pool resources sustainability, I earned an MPA and a Ph.D. in Management (with a minor in cultural anthropology) from the University of Arizona and under the supervision of Edella Schlager. Following I spent two years working with Elinor Ostrom, 2009 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, at the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis of Indiana University. Methodologically, I am familiar with a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches and formally trained to conduct Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA or more recently fsQCA), that allows among other things, systematic comparisons of middle range N sample sizes and address issues of multiple-causality.

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