Adjusting to Change: The Dynamics of a Local Management Establishment in the Amazon

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"The focus on local management systems as dynamic institutions that evolve through time is fundamental to understand how users respond to environmental change in order to adjust to new scenarios, and how those responses are consonant with social and ecological systems. In this regard, recently-established local management systems are live laboratories to comprehend under what circumstances local management systems can take place, and how are the internal dynamics of users in the learning process of adjusting their resource use practices in the early stages of such institutions. "This paper discusses the local management of lake that emerged in the 1960s in the Amazon Basin--the fishing accord. In focuses on one case study, covering a 30-year time frame--15-years prior (1970-1985) and 15-years after (1985-2000) its establishment. This fishing accord encompasses two major rules: 1) to refrain gillnet fishing, and 2) to restrict commercial fishing to six months (June through November), and to a few fish species-- catfish and pirarucu (relatively sedentary species with high market value). Dataset combine interviews, fish landing statistics in two time periods (1992-1993 and 1996-1997), fishing accord document, and participant observation at community meetings. "Ethnohistorical data show that the decrease of lake productivity was a major factor in the establishment of the fishing accord, and recent fish landing statistics show that fishing productivity has steadily increased after the establishment of the local management. The fishing accord has constantly been adjusted in order to address ecological (lake productivity) and social issues (internal conflicts and conflicts with outsiders). Problems related to misunderstanding and social heterogeneities within the group have been solved through verbal agreement, while problems related to constant rule breaking, and to threat to lake productivity have been solved by adding new rules. In particular, the rapid recovery of pirarucu fishing productivity after five years of the fishing accord establishment has enabled local residents to rely upon this fishery as one of their major economic source. On the other hand, the increased fishing pressure on pirarucu recently started to threaten the sustainability of this fishery, leading the users to discuss new regulations regarding this activity. Besides the local organization, the increasing involvement of NGOs, GOs and grassroots in this community-based management has started another phase in adapting the rules into a larger policy framework that is legally consistent and supported by scientific knowledge. "The paper discusses the early process of establishing and adjusting local management to ecological and social systems according to new demands raised from constant environmental change both at the local and regional levels. The role of ecological features of the lake system, of the social features of the users, and of the increasing involvement of external agents in the consolidation of this local management system are discussed. "We conclude that ability of the users to respond rapidly to environmental change, combined with the ecological features allowing rapid productivity recovery were major supporting factors in the success of this local management to date."
IASC, common pool resources, fisheries, rules, resource management, local participatory management, CBRM, Amazon River region