Micro-level explanations for emergent patterns of self-governance arrangements in small-scale fisheries—A modeling approach


Emilie Lindkvist, Maja Schlüter, Xavier Basurto

Journal or Book Title: PLoS ONE

Keywords: Complex adaptive systems, social-ecological systems, agent-based modeling, fisheries, self-organization, Mexico

Volume/Issue: 12(4): e0175532

Page Number(s): 23

Year Published: 2017


Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) in developing countries are expected to play a significant role in poverty alleviation and enhancing food security in the decades to come. To realize this expectation, a better understanding of their informal self-governance arrangements is critical for developing policies that can improve fishers’ livelihoods and lead to sustainable ecosystem stewardship. The goal of this paper is to develop a more nuanced understanding of micro-level factors—such as fishers’ characteristics and behavior—to explain observed differences in self-governance arrangements in Northwest Mexico. We focus on two ubiquitous forms of self-governance: hierarchical non-cooperative arrangements between fishers and fishbuyers, such as patron-client relationships (PCs), versus more cooperative arrangements amongst fishers, such as fishing cooperatives (co-ops). We developed an agent-based model of an archetypical SSF that captures key hypotheses from in-depth fieldwork in Northwest Mexico of fishers’ day-to-day fishing and trading. Results from our model indicate that high diversity in fishers’ reliability, and low initial trust between co-op members, makes co-ops’ establishment difficult. PCs cope better with this kind of diversity because, in contrast to co-ops, they have more flexibility in choosing whom to work with. However, once co-ops establish, they cope better with seasonal variability in fish abundance and provide long-term security for the fishers. We argue that existing levels of trust and diversity among fishers matter for different self-governance arrangements to establish and persist, and should therefore be taken into account when developing better, targeted policies for improved SSFs governance.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175532

Type of Publication: Journal Article


Chris T. Bauch, University of Waterloo, CANADA

Publisher: PLoS ONE