|Strategic groups in the Belgian fishing fleet|In: Fisheries Research. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0165-7836, more
Fisheries; Fisheries management; Taxonomy; ANE, Belgium [gazetteer]; Marine
Strategic groups; Taxonomy; Belgian fisheries; Fisheries management
This study examines the heterogeneity of the Belgian fishing fleet based on “strategic groups”, a concept borrowed from the field of strategic management. Its objectives are: (1) to define strategic groups within the Belgian fishing fleet; (2) to examine the performance differences among these strategic groups; (3) to examine whether firms (i.e., vessels) move between strategic groups over time; and (4) to examine if firm-movement (i.e., vessel-movement) differs across strategic groups. In this study, strategic groups are derived through clustering firms based on their state of resources, built up through the collection of their past competitive strategic decisions, which are perceived as the main sources of mobility barriers (i.e. competitive advantages) in the fishing industry, namely: (1) technology, (2) product range and (3) geographic reach. Highly valid cluster solutions are obtained through use of excessive within- and between-method triangulation. Following this method, five strategic groups are identified that have distinct performance outcomes: (1) the large beam trawler fleet; (2) the small beam trawler fleet; (3) the shrimp beam trawler fleet; (4) the otter trawler fleet; and (5) the trammel netter fleet. Furthermore, in terms of firm movement and group loyalty, this study finds that once a vessel has decided on its strategic position in the fishing industry (i.e., the strategic group), in 80% of the cases, it stays in that position for a significant amount of time (in this case 10 years). However, not every strategic group enjoys this high level of group loyalty, since firm-movement differs significantly between the strategic groups. Although this is definitely a topic for further research, a possible interpretation for this phenomenon is the theory of “asymmetric mobility barriers” in combination with a firm's “isolating mechanisms”. The value of this study lies in its practical relevance to both policymakers and ship owners. Strategic group theory gives insight into the strategic differences and the patterns of rivalry between firms within the same industry. Such insights are crucial when managing fisheries and could result in regulations which are more focused on (1) affecting strategic groups’ competitive advantages (i.e., mobility barriers), (2) affecting “isolating mechanisms” of firms, and (3) managing rivalry between strategic groups. Ship owners and skippers can use the results of this study on the different performance potentials for the different competitive strategies in the current industry to determine if they are still satisfied with their current strategic direction. It allows them to reflect on current business and change strategic course based on the various performance indicators included in this research.