Institutional designs of customary fisheries management arrangements in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico

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There are considerable efforts by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia to integrate marine conservation initiatives and customary practices, such as taboos that limit resource use. However, these efforts are often pursued without a fundamental understanding of customary institutions. This paper examines the operational rules in use and the presence of institutional design principles in long-enduring and dynamic customary fisheries management institutions in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Mexico. Rather than a "blue print" for devising long-enduring institutions, this study relies on the design principles as a starting point to organize an inquiry into the institutional diversity found in customary governance regimes. Three important trends emerged from this comparative analysis: (1) despite it being notoriously difficult to define boundaries around marine resources, almost 3/4 of the cases in this study had clearly defined boundaries and membership; (2) all of the customary institutions were able to make and change rules, indicating a critical degree of flexibility and autonomy that may be necessary for adaptive management; (3) the customary institutions examined generally lacked key interactions with organizations operating at larger scales, suggesting that they may lack the institutional embeddedness required to confront some common pool resources (CPR) challenges from the broader socioeconomic, institutional and political settings in which they are embedded. Future research will be necessary to better understand how specific institutional designs are related to social and ecological outcomes in commons property institutions. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.






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Cinner, JE, X Basurto, P Fidelman, J Kuange, R Lahari and A Mukminin (2012). Institutional designs of customary fisheries management arrangements in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico. Marine Policy, 36(1). pp. 278–285. 10.1016/j.marpol.2011.06.005 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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