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Unbundling and Trading Property Rights in a Fishing Commons

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Quintana, Anastasia; Basurto, Xavier
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10637
Sector: Fisheries
Region: South America
Subject(s): property rights
Abstract: "Property rights structure incentives for long-term sustainability. Here we investigated how areabased policy tools that can adapt to climate change create trade-offs in terms of property rights. There is tension between property rights theory (long-term secure rights associated with sustainability) and resilient, adaptive tools where rights are temporary. Schlager and Ostrom have useful a conceptual schema for thinking about property rights of commons (Schlager & Ostrom, 1992); we use this tool to analyze trade-offs. Fish Refuges are adaptive and temporary area-based tools in Mexico that were established to solve fisheries decline. They are one of the few (but growing number of) adaptive area-based conservation tools, and have restructured property rights. We qualitatively analyzed how these Fish Refuges restructured property rights, thus creating different trade-offs for different actors. Fish Refuges were made legally available from a new fisheries law in 2007, and were first established in 2012. By 2017, there were 40 Fish Refuges in Mexico accounting for 20,000 km2. Before the Fish Refuges, there were overlapping and unclear legal harvest rights in the Corredor region. In practice (de facto rights), local communities harvested fish with no limits, as did outsiders. Management and exclusion rights legally rested with the state, but de facto were nonexistent. Thus there were few incentives for long-term management, beyond local dependence upon the fishery. Fishing was going down, and local fishers in the region blamed this on overharvest from poor management and lack of exclusion. Fish Refuges are created when fishers submit a proposal (assisted by a non-governmental organization), which is assessed and edited by the state fisheries research agency, then established by the state fisheries enforcement agency. The process of these first Fish Refuges has led to fishers gaining de facto management and exclusion rights by giving up harvest rights. Outsiders have lost harvest rights and have been excluded from management. Adaptive area-based conservation tools create unstable and temporary property rights, but here have allowed local resource users to give up shaky harvest rights and gain shaky management and exclusion rights. They have led to new opportunities for negotiating management and rights with the state, some of which may be formalized into legal management and exclusion rights in the future."

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