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Alternatives to conventional management: lessons from small-scale fisheries

Publication date:
F. Berkes
Type of publication:

This paper is based on long-term research on small-scale fisheries and community-based resource management and discusses alternatives to conventional management which may be more responsive to uncertainty, complexity and knowledge-sharing.

The second starting point concerns the need to manage environment and resource systems for resilience, rather than for products and commodities.

The argument here is that maximization or optimization approaches tend to reduce natural variability, impairing renewal capacity of ecosystems and making social-ecological systems fragile and vulnerable (Holling and Meffe 1996).  Since social-ecological systems are characterized by cycles of renewal, their integrity is closely related to their ability for self-organization, renewal, learning and adapting (Gunderson and Holling 2002).  

Systems need to be nurtured for diversity and flexibility. Such resilient systems contain the components needed for renewal and reorganization (Folke et al. 2002). These two points provide the context for the critique of managerial approaches, and for the search for alternatives.

If conventional managerial approaches do not work, what would the alternatives look like?  What can we learn from the diversity of
emergent ideas? The paper discusses the relevant issues and explore new approaches through five themes:

The need for a shift in our philosophy of resource management;
The appreciation of fisheries as social-ecological systems, and more broadly as complex adaptive systems;
The need to expand the scope of information and knowledge, including the use of fishers knowledge;
The need for broader objectives for management that can deal with social-ecological systems, and in  particular with social objectives such as sustainable livelihoods and communities; and
The significance of participatory management, with community-based institutions and cross-scale governance