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Assessment of Ostrom’s social-ecological system framework for the comanagement of small-scale marine fisheries in Colombia: from local fishers’ perspectives

Darlin Botto-Barrios, Grupo de Investigación Evolución y Ecología Pesquera (GIEEP), University of Magdalena; Grupo de Investigación en Sistemas Socioecológicos para el Bienestar Humano (GISSBH), Department of Biology, University of Magdalena
Lina M. Saavedra-Díaz, Grupo de Investigación en Sistemas Socioecológicos para el Bienestar Humano (GISSBH), Department of Biology, University of Magdalena


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Fishery resource management under extractive production models in the Anthropocene has contributed to the collapse of fish stocks, threatening the food and livelihood security of many people, especially fishers. Common-pool resource theory has established the relevance of the design principles of Elinor Ostrom, which favor collective actions for the management of these resources. With the help of small-scale fishers, we assessed the state of Ostrom’s principles in the study system to determine the conditions required to implement fishery comanagement in the future. The communities of Taganga (Caribbean coast) and Tumaco (Pacific coast), Colombia, served as case studies because of their known dependence on fishing and because both communities are currently facing a social-ecological crisis within their top-down administrative frameworks. We performed six hearings, three in each community in 2009, 2012, and 2014, in which fishers brainstormed about the weaknesses that are closely related to Ostrom’s social-ecological system framework. Additionally, 14 focus groups with 119 fishers (31 in Taganga in 2015; 88 in Tumaco in 2017) were conducted, one for each major fishing method used in each community. The obtained results made it possible to establish a community vision on the condition of the principles in each community, and the principles were prioritized by the fishers do determine which ones need immediate attention. The inhabitants of both Taganga and Tumaco expressed the urgent need to establish clear biophysical limits among resource users, to gain the participation of all actors involved, and to build nested enterprises. In particular, the community of Tumaco considered monitoring resources and regulations, establishing graduated sanctions, and recognizing basic rights to be priorities. Furthermore, future opportunities and conflicts related to fishery comanagement implementation were evident in both communities. Therefore, our results indicate that Taganga and Tumaco are not yet ready to implement fishery comanagement. Nevertheless, they have the knowledge and motivation to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from moving forward with managing their fishery resources and to face the tragedy of the commons.

Key words

Anthropocene; fishery comanagement; local ecological knowledge; small-scale fishing; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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