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Comparative Study of the Lobster Fisheries in Maine and Belize: Possible Causes for Success and Failure

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Huitric, Miriam
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/569
Sector: Fisheries
Social Organization
Region: North America
Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): IASC
fisheries--comparative analysis
social organization
collective action
Abstract: "Lobster is an important source of income in many coastal areas. The lobster fisheries in Maine and Belize have been described in the literature as success stories in terms of their social organisation. Here, I compare their success as social-ecological systems. The information from Belize is derived from interviews with actors in the industry, fisheries statistics, the scientific literature and other documents. The Maine information is based on scientific publications. Through a complex history of resource management the Maine system seems to have been able to develop social mechanisms for responding to environmental feedback and embed those into their institutional structure. The development of a 'conservation ethic' among fishers towards resource use and the emergence of political entrepreneurs, or leaders, are examples of such features. The Belize system seems to lack social mechanisms for responding in an effective fashion to environmental feedback as lobster catch per fisher has been in decline since the 1980s. Five factors were attributed to the decline in catch per fisher during interviews in Belize: natural fluctuations, hurricanes, loss of grounds to marine reserves, too many fishers, too much effort, and lack of enforcement. Self-enforcement in Maine was possible as the members of the 'harbour gang' knew that free-riding was controlled, the improvement in catch indicated their efforts were having an effect, and their property rights assured them access to lobster grounds. A precondition for success it that institutions and their organisational structure incorporate the resources ecology and provide a social context for learning and adaptation to deal with change."

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