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All hands on deck: an interactive perspective on complex common-pool resource management based on case studies in the coastal waters of the Isle of Wight (UK), Connemara (Ireland) and the Dutch Wadden Sea
Steins, N.A. (1999). All hands on deck: an interactive perspective on complex common-pool resource management based on case studies in the coastal waters of the Isle of Wight (UK), Connemara (Ireland) and the Dutch Wadden Sea. PhD Thesis. Wageningen University: Wageningen. ISBN 90-5808-097-8. XXI, 227 pp.

Thesis info:
    Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), more

Keywords

Author  Top 
  • Steins, N.A.

Abstract
    In 1996, the new fish cages of an Irish salmon farm were sabotaged and juvenile salmon with a value of IR£ 250,000 were released, nearly putting the farm out of business. This deed was an act of protest against the growth of the salmon farming industry. The loss of fishing grounds, ecological and environmental concerns, and the perceived impact on the unspoilt scenery of the area are amongst the factors that explain local opposition against salmon farming. In 1991, Dutch mussel cultivators in the Wadden Sea and the government agreed on a division of available mussel seed between fishermen and birds. A year later, the mussel cultivators voluntarily closed part of the tidal mudflats for the seed fishery. These actions were a response to the heavy criticisms by environmental groups, who blamed the shellfish fishermen for causing the death of thousands of birds by ‘robbing’ them of their main diet. The above examples are illustrative of the problems associated with the management of complex, multiple-use common-pool resources. Common-pool resources (CPRs) are resources for which: (i) joint use involves subtractability (use by one user will subtract benefits from another user’s enjoyment of the resource system), and (ii) exclusion of users involves high transaction costs. For a long time, policies aimed at sustainable CPR management were fuelled by the belief that rational individuals, who are driven by utility maximisation, cannot maintain a common resource (the Tragedy of the Commons). The implementation of a multitude of management regimes to regulate CPR use has, however, not prevented externalities, such as resource degradation and conflicts, from occurring. This is particularly the case in complex, multiple-use CPRs, where different activities take place in the same resource system and where uses may be competing or incompatible (Chapter One). The coastal waters, which are the setting of this study, are an example of a complex CPR. The complexity and interconnectedness of coastal management problems, combined with the incapacity of existing institutions for monitoring and protection to deal with the continuous decline of the coastal zone, has resulted in local, national and global collective action initiatives, which consider management issues from a broader perspective and where stakeholders work collectively towards problem solution. Increasingly, a collective action approach is seen as an alternative in dealing with complex problems (Chapter One). This book aims to contribute towards an understanding of the processes that shape collective actions amongst multiple stakeholders in complex CPRs. The theoretical argument of this study is that CPR theory - a body of knowledge that deals with the analysis of collective action and the associated social dilemmas, in ‘real life’ scenarios - is not sufficiently developed for the study and facilitation of collective action in complex CPR management. This argument is elaborated in Chapter One. On the basis of an examination of CPR theory and its roots, rational choice theory and the new institutionalism, it is argued that the application of the conceptual frameworks of CPR theory to the study of complex resources is problematic, since they are based on: (i) the simplistic assumption that CPRs are used for one single type of use, (ii) the exclusive analysis of the internal dynamics of the collective management system, thereby ‘black boxing’ the influence of external factors, (iii) a static model of strategic rationality, and (iv) the assumption that the outcomes of collective resource management are determined by a number of pre-defined design principles. Building on a grounded theory approach, this book proposes a new perspective for the study and facilitation of collective action processes in complex CPR management scenarios. The empirical basis is laid by three case studies in the English, Irish and Dutch coastal waters. In each study area, fishermen were confronted with the arrival of new activities and/or the articulation of other interests in or near their fishing grounds. The cases focus on the interactions amongst fishermen (or their representatives), other marine users and non-governmental and state agencies, and the way (collective) management of resources, spaces and people take shape. Chapter Three develops a conceptual framework that assists the analysis of the collective action processes in the empirical studies. This conceptual framework is based on a critical examination of CPR theory and its problems in Chapter One, and supported by a case study of complex CPR management in Cowes Harbour (UK) in Chapter Two. It builds on theoretical notions from Habermas’ theory of communicative action, actor-network theory (ANT) and the knowledge systems perspective. It has several methodological consequences for this study. First, the notion of the rational actor is replaced by that of the collectif (Callon & Law, 1995): an actor is considered to be the effect of interactions of human and material resources. The objectives, strategies and rationalities of collectifs are continuously reshaped as new collectifs enter the arena and new relationships are brought into being. Second, following ANT, any pre-defined models and conditions for collective action are left out, and co-operation in a collective action situation is explained in the same way as free-riding. Finally, an action-oriented perspective, aimed at the facilitation of collective action, is adopted. For the organisation of this book, the grounded theory approach to data analysis (Chapter Four) means that the conclusions of each chapter feed into the next one, with the exception of Chapter Four, which describes the research methodology. The case study of Cowes Harbour (UK) in Chapter Two follows the oyster fishermen in their collective action aimed at securing access to the fishery, which was threatened by a closure in the interest of navigation and nature conservation considerations. It illustrates the complexities associated with the management of multiple-use CPRs, by showing how the different activities and interests in the harbour are interdependent and why, in a complex scenario, the presence of individual management regimes for the different uses is not a sufficient strategy. The preliminary conclusions support the development of the conceptual framework in Chapter Three. Chapter Five presents a comparative case study of two bays in NW Connemara (Ireland). In this area, local marine resource use has become increasingly become contested, particularly because of the development of salmon farming. The case follows fishermen and freshwater fisheries in the two bays in their interactions with the new user groups. While in one bay, collective action by the fishermen is exclusively aimed at preventing the local salmon farm from expanding, in the other bay, 15km to the north, collective actions amongst the same fishermen, the salmon farm and shellfish producers are aimed at balancing resource use. In this later bay, however, the local freshwater fishery is involved in a heavy dispute with the salmon farm over the collapse of its sea trout stocks, while in the former bay, this dispute is not articulated, despite a similar stock collapse. The case study illustrates how different social, historical, institutional and physical contexts, are important in shaping the interaction processes amongst multiple stakeholders. The case study in Chapter Seven is set in the Dutch Wadden Sea, where the shellfish fisheries are contested by nature conservation groups. It follows the shellfish fishermen in their efforts to achieve a balance between their fishing activities and nature conservation. The implementation of voluntary nature conservation measures by the shellfish sector formed the basis for the implementation of a statutory co-management strategy, involving the shellfish industry, the government, nature conservation groups and scientists. The case illustrates how the images that stakeholders have of each other’s activities and interests, and the role they adopt towards resource management, influence the decision-making process in the co-management platform. In the theoretical intermezzos in Chapters Six and Eight, the cases of NW Connemara and the Wadden Sea are analysed. The conclusions resulting from the analyses are merged and developed further in Chapter Nine. The general conclusion is that, in its present form, CPR theory hampers the analysis of the complex processes through which collective action is achieved (or frustrated), and needs to be redeveloped. First, the definition of the rational, atomised actor is too limited to explain collective action processes. Instead, actors should be regarded as nested collectifs, whose strategies in the collective action arena are constantly reshaped. Second, the use of a static strategic model of rationality is insufficient to appreciate the shaping of collective action (or free-riding). The case studies show how collectifs use different social and material means to achieve their objectives. In trying to enrol other collectifs in collective actions aimed at realising their projects, different forms of strategic and communicative rationality emerge. Third, the use of pre-defined categories and design principles diverts attention from (i) the stakeholders’ constructions of collective resource management, and (ii) the influence of contextual factors, and therefore limits the explanatory power of CPR theory. Furthermore, a danger inherent in the design principles is that they are picked up as blueprints for the development of policies and intervention programmes for ‘successful’ CPR management. For these reasons, CPR theory should become explicitly concerned with contextual analysis, rather than merely describing ‘successes on the commons’ and developing prescriptive principles. In this context, a number of methodologies for contextual analysis are introduced. The second general conclusion concerns the facilitation of collective action, which has only recently emerged on the agenda of CPR scholars. This book demonstrates that balancing a mix of uses is crucial for the management of complex CPRs, since the interdependency of multiple uses is likely to result in externalities. Experiences from the case studies show that nested platforms for CPR use negotiation are a promising heuristic tool for the facilitation of collective problem appreciation and solution. The performance of platforms is, however, associated with, a large number of critical factors, including, amongst others: (i) the influence of different perceptions and ‘stereotyping’ of participants on collective decision-making, and (ii) the position of third parties, who may act as a facilitator or gatekeeper, but may also frustrate collective action by imposing their own agenda. Based on an extensive discussion of the above issues, the book concludes that radical reconstruction of the ontological foundation of CPR theory is needed if it is to be used as (i) a foundation for the analysis of complex CPRs, or as (ii) a conceptual framework in pursuing the idea that collective action is a powerful alternative to deal with complex resource management problems. A social constructivist approach to the study and facilitation of complex CPR management is proposed. Two principles, derived from actor-network theory, form the foundation for this new perspective. The first principle is generalised agnosticism, which means that pre-defined categories (e.g., success, rational behaviour) and design principles have to be abandoned; instead, the focus of analysis should be on the tactics that the nested collectifs employ in mobilising social and material means to enrol others in their projects. The second principle is symmetry, which means that everything in a CPR management scenario needs explaining in the same way; in other words, co-operation in a collective action situation should be explained in the same way as defective behaviour. The adoption of these principles will facilitate the understanding of the contingencies involved in the evolution of collective action, by focussing on the sociotechnical construction of CPR management and the internal and contextual factors that influence the action strategies adopted by nested collectifs. In this analytical process, co-operation, free-riding and rationality are outcomes of the interplay and trials of strength amongst the different collectifs with a stake in the CPR, and their mobilisation of social and material resources. The book concludes with two main recommendations for future research and policy into complex CPR management. First, the potential of a social constructivist perspective needs further exploration. In particular, the development of new methodologies that make the contingencies involved in collective action processes visible, is required. Second, in view of the increasing reliance on collective action to solve complex resource management problems, the development of a praxeology (a theory that informs practice) for CPR theory needs urgent attention.

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