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Social-Ecological Collapse: TURF Governance in the Context of Highly Variable Resources in Chile

Jaime A. Aburto, Universidad Católica del Norte, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar; Programa de Doctorado en Biología y Ecología Aplicada (BEA)
Wolfgang B. Stotz, Universidad Católica del Norte, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar; Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas
Georgina Cundill, Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University


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In Chile, a Territorial User Rights for Fisheries system was developed to manage benthic fisheries. This system is referred to as Management Areas for the Exploitation of Benthic Resources. Management areas involved a shift from top-down control by governments to comanagement. We have analyzed the effects of a highly variable fishery, characterized by boom-and-bust cycles, on the governance of local institutions designed for resource management. We focused on a case study in north central Chile, in which the surf clam fishery experienced high levels of variability when the fishery was in an open access system. The management areas were established for the fishery in 1999. As a result, a set of rules for the fishery were created and enforced by fishers and local fishery authorities. Despite intense efforts on the part of all stakeholders, the fishery collapsed after three years of management area policy. This approach has been shown to be an effective management option for other species; however, for resources with boom-and-bust cycles, it is important to understand the response pattern of users confronting this spatial and temporal variability before the establishment of territorial user rights. Defining the appropriate spatial scale of the territorial rights could allow fishers to switch among different surf clam beds to maintain their livelihood and support the sustainability of local institutions for resource management.

Key words

governance; management area; small-scale fishery; social-ecological; TURF

Copyright © 2014 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