Managing inequality or managing stocks? An ethnographic perspective on the governance of small-scale fisheries

Michael Fabinyi, Simon Foale, Martha Macintyre

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    A growing volume of recent research on small-scale fisheries governance has a focus on local perspectives and priorities of small-scale fisherfolk. This paper develops from this local perspective a novel focus on what is a fundamental priority of many small-scale fishers: concerns about inequality. The paper begins with a critical review of the literature on small-scale fisheries governance and suggests how a focus on inequality can make a useful contribution. The paper uses case-studies of small-scale fisheries in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Philippines to highlight local priorities about inequality and the implications for small-scale fisheries governance. PNG and the Philippines have very different social, political and environmental contexts, yet in both cases, local inequalities were a key pre-occupation of fisherfolk and posed major challenges for fisheries governance. While in both of the case-studies, fishers were aware of and keen to act on resource sustainability, this concern was overridden by concerns over: who obtained benefits from the fishery; who was responsible for resource degradation; and who should bear the costs of regulation. We conclude by discussing how our emphasis on the importance of inequality at a local level can potentially be integrated within many influential approaches to small-scale fisheries governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)471-485
    JournalFish and Fisheries
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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