Challenge in the Commons: (Re)defining Rights in a Lobster Fishery

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"Ecological, community, and institutional complexities have gained recognition as important yet vexing elements in the management of natural resources. The lobster fishery of the Long Island Sound (LIS), with complex institutional arrangements regarding access and management of the resource, is subject to increasingly urgent social dilemmas and rising environmental uncertainty. It is one resource in a multi-use commons. There have been recent and extensive die-offs of lobster and other fauna in the western and central portions of the Sound, and shell disease in the east. Some lobstermen may be forced out of the fishery. There is the potential for lobstermen who are able to remain in the fishery to move away from affected areas of the Sound in the west to other areas where die-offs have been less extensive but where other tensions exist. "New York and Connecticut share intersate fisheries resources, providing fishing entitlements across state boundaries. The exception to this interstate agreement, however, is the lobster conservation zone around Fishers Island in the eastern portion of the Sound. A combination of factors have attracted other New York lobstermen to the inshore fishery surrounding Fishers Island creating territorial tensions among several communities of users. The lobster fishery surrounding Fishers Island experiences contested, spatially explicit territorial claims concretized and challenged through interpretation of legal statutes as well as through everyday practices associated with fishing. Historical use of particular locales, narratives of tradition and meaning associated with lobstering, and informal and extra-legal practices are employed to legitimize claims to areas around Fishers Island. Therefore, ecological changes in conjunction with existing tensions present uncertain long-term ramifications in the LIS lobster fishery. "In recent years, an entitlements framework (based on Sen's entitlement analysis of famine) has been broadened conceptually to encompass the environment and resources, including common pool resources and associated institutions. This paper engages environmental entitlements to explore how critical components of livelihood are challenged, extended, and defended through rights claims within institutionally complex property regimes."
IASC, common pool resources, fisheries, lobster, property rights, multiple use, institutional design, conflict