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Building blocks for social-ecological transformations: identifying and building on governance successes for small-scale fisheries

Mark Andrachuk, Environmental Change and Governance Group, University of Waterloo; Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo
Derek Armitage, Environmental Change and Governance Group, University of Waterloo; School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
Ha Dung Hoang, Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry
Nam Van Le, Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry


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We introduce building blocks as an approach to assess deliberative transformation pathways in linked systems of people and nature (i.e., small-scale fishery systems). In doing so, we address a knowledge gap about the maintenance and replication of governance processes that support transformative change, with a particular focus on small-scale fisheries that are facing ecological decline. Recent introduction of comanaged territorial use rights for small-scale fishers in the Cau Hai Lagoon, Vietnam has shown promise for alleviating ecological impacts from overfishing and reduced conflicts among fishers. We use this setting to inductively identify building blocks in two case study sites, and highlight the lessons for replicating successes in similar small-scale coastal fisheries. The investigation revealed five building blocks that were instrumental to success in the two case study communities: fisher approval of ecological conservation, cooperation among fishers, support from local government, secure funding, and effective leadership. These findings demonstrate site-level specificity of what governance attributes are already contributing to more durable and transformative change, and how these attributes can be augmented in other communities in the Cau Hai Lagoon. Key lessons for governance of transformations are that (1) building blocks do not need to be identical from case to case, and (2) further consideration needs to be given to how building blocks may nest or fit together. Our research contributes to a relatively new body of literature on deliberative transformations and offers guidance on a way to support and enhance transformations of small-scale fisheries.

Key words

deliberative transformations; small-scale fisheries; territorial use rights for fishers; transformation pathways

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087