While many fisheries around the globe are in a state of collapse, many are successful as well. Fishing cooperatives are an approach to sustainable fishing that have received little attention despite the fact that studies have shown potential benefits from this practice such as reducing or eliminating the race for fish, improving economic efficiency and market value, improving enforcement and compliance, and promoting conservation and environmental stewardship. The conditions and attributes that lead to a successful fishing cooperative need to be studied in order to better understand their actual and potential role in fishing management. Fishing cooperatives exist in diverse settings, and for analysis to be broadly applicable, information was drawn from 67 different institutions in different geographic, social, environmental, and economic settings. This enabled Ovando et al. (2012) to analyze the links between specific characteristics and contexts of fisheries, such as the development status of the host nation, fisheries management practices, species characteristics, and collective actions taken by fishery cooperatives. Ovando et al. found that fishing cooperatives often take actions directed toward coordinating harvest activities, adopting and enforcing restrictions on fishing methods and effort, and taking direct conservation actions such as establishment of private marine protected areas.—Evelyn Byer
Ovando, D.A., Deacon, R.T., Lester, S.E., Costello, C., Van Leuvan, T., McIlwain, K., Kent Strauss, C., Arbuckle, M., Fujita, R., Gelcich, S., 2012. Conservation incentives and collective choices in cooperative fisheries. Marine Policy. 37, 132-140.
Ovando and colleagues compiled data from a large set of case studies of cooperatives and organized them into a database of the ecological, economic, institutional, and social structure of the fisheries involved, together with the collective actions fishery cooperatives undertake. Also, these data were used to test hypotheses on how ecological, economic, social, and governance circumstances are linked to the collective choices made by cooperatives. Ecological and microeconomic theories were informally used to guide the selection of six survey question areas: ecology, institutions, economics, government policy, coop structure, and cooperative actions. The first four are hypothesized to influence cooperative formation and action, the fifth category is descriptive, and the sixth category is the main focus of attention. Ecological variables focused on life history traits of the species targeted by the fishery. Institutional variables reflect the national context, such as the per capita GDP. Economic variables are fishery specific, and capture information on species value, market destination, and reliability of catch. Policy variables measure the role of government in the management of the fishery and include variables such as the extent of government subsidizes for fishing. Structural variables describe attributes of cooperatives such as annual landings. Finally, cooperative action variables identify the specific collective activities each cooperative undertakes. The fishing cooperatives were not chosen randomly, but rather were selected from a review of the existing literature, possibly meaning that cooperatives in developed countries are over-represented. Complete linkage cluster analysis was used to identify relationships among cooperative actions to provide insight into choices made by cooperatives. Finally, logit regression analysis for clustered survey data was used to examine factors contributing to the probability of the formation of private marine protected areas (PMPAs).
Ovando et al. found cooperatives often establish PMPAs and take other resource stewardship actions when institutional and ecological circumstances are appropriate. Cooperative fishing was found in every major fishing region and was found not to be solely associated with large, small, rich, or poor fisheries, but rather to represent a broadly applied strategy for dealing with common-pool resources. The fact that the sample contains a greater proportion of democratic and developed countries than the world as a whole means that the world’s fishing cooperatives may not be perfectly represented. Ovando et al. encourages comparative analysis of wide groups of fisheries in order to better understand what incentives drive the actions of cooperatives and thus support the health of fisheries and the communities that depend on them.