Environmental Partnership with Local Economies

Do Hyun Kim

This case presents a successful partnership between environmentalists and local fishing industry in the California coast.  The partnership has proved to be mutually beneficial for both parties and enable to accomplish each of their objectives – preserve fish stocks and livelihoods of fishing industry.

When Government imposed the strict regulations to protect “essential fish habitat” in 1996 and 2006, the fishing industry has struggled to balance between compliance requirements and financial impacts to the industry (Kaufman, 2011).  The capability of voluntary compliance was limited due to financial hardships, limited tools and resources available.  As a result, government has dictated over the fishing business practices to ensure the compliances to the imposed regulations with the close monitoring.  Although its involvement has improved the compliance rate and fish stocks through the quota system, it has failed to establish sustainable business practice for the fishing industry.

As there are growing concerns of scarcity of natural resources and ecological environment in the global community, it is quite understandable that governments actively impose regulations to protect environments including fish stocks.  However, the government’s direct intervention has proven to be ineffective and created adverse effects as it has threatened local economy and failed to gain voluntary collaborations from the local fishermen in this case.  The role of government should be building an infrastructure with reasonable regulatory environment, but without killing the local economies through direct intervention of business activities.

The mission of the Nature Conservancy is to transform commercial fishing in the region by offering a model of how to keep the industry vital without damaging fish stocks or sensitive areas of ocean floor (Kaufman, 2011).  The conservatory has identified the challenges of local fishing industry to be self-sustainable due to limited access to technological tools, strategic management techniques, and capital resources to further develop into sustainable business practices. Its direct involvement through purchasing fishing boats and licenses has created an opportunity to collaborate with the fishing industry and establish a bridge to meet stricter federal regulations.  The conservancy has designed and implemented a model that empowers regional fishermen to be more responsible and accountable for their actions in fishing operations while encouraging them to be compliant with the imposed regulations.  This empowerment approach has gained active collaboration from the regional fishing industry and it has enabled to establish better conservation practices through them.

The local fishermen are the front line of the fishing industry and they undoubtedly have the most local knowledge of the fish habitats.  The conservancy has recognized that these local knowledge bases are valuable resources for the conservation efforts.  The collaboration of fishermen has opened the access to the local knowledge bases and enabled to establish informational network through the delivery of information technology and effective data collection.  These information networks are found to be valuable database that are shared among the fishermen and the conservancy, which have become a determining factor to transform the fishing industry into sustainable business practices with the conservation in mind.

The case is an excellent example of a local economic development with sustainable business practices.  The local economies are critical components of global economy where they are inter-connected and the local economies are optimized when people have the sense of ownership and access to necessary resources to further develop into sustainable business practices.  The partnership with the Nature Conservancy along with its empowerment approach has enabled to local economy to prosper and accomplish environmental objective.

Works Cited

Kaufman, L. (2011). Partnership Preserves Livelihoods and Fish Stocks.


3 thoughts on “Environmental Partnership with Local Economies

  1. jmcadams2012 October 31, 2012 at 6:07 PM Reply

    I think you hit the nail on the head when concluding your post. This business arrangement between local fisherman and the Nature Conservancy has been successful because of its ability to empower local fisherman. It allows them to do what they do (fish), more effectively and more profitably. It also encourages the existent sense of community among the local fishermen. They are able to help one another to fish more profitably, by posting and sharing live data. The Conservancy has figured out how to marry the interests of the parties, marine conservation and the fishing industry. This model has made sustainable fishing something that the local fishermen are able to do, by teaching them to use technology which enables them to avoid ecological damage. This model has created a win-win scenario. Local marine conservation is in effect, which will preserve the ecological system for future generations, and the fishermen are able to continue to earn a living with a sense of satisfaction that they are doing so in the best way possible.

  2. tud34838 November 1, 2012 at 11:00 PM Reply

    An interesting contingency to this structure is the honest participation of the individual parties involved, the fishermen. I feel that the article comes up short in explaining significant reasons that would compel the parties to cooperate in this system. The assumption may be that social structures will ensure honest participation; however, game theory suggests departures from honest participation. One could argue that some of the participants, in an effort to force others toward a zero sum situation, may attempt to withhold valuable information, or even falsify their information. This very real economic dynamic would then render this system virtually ineffective. The case focuses in on a particularly honest example. Idealistically, the theory behind this model is flawless; however, it is realistically questionable. More information in the form of statistical accounts of false or lack of reporting versus honest reporting would be very useful in assessing the effectiveness of this system.

  3. tlhill2012 November 2, 2012 at 12:33 AM Reply

    Always a good sign when a post sparks debate!

    The alignment of interests is at the heart of many a promising solution, and I think that one of the most exciting social ventures are those that find ways to pull certain economic levers to increase the likelihood of non-economic impacts. Surely, this fishery example is one. Another is the way in which the Great Lakes Protection Fund (with the help of an EMC team!), a consortium of state and province governments surrounding the Great Lakes, was able to convince re-insurers to ask insurers whether they had adquate reserves in case of catastrophic disease or other outbreaks due to invasive species carried in the bilge water of ships! That long chain of what-ifs led to the situation in which tankers have to demonstrate excellent bilge water controls (where and when they pump, use of UV lights, etc) or else find themselves ineligble for shipping insurance. Quite the lever…

    As always, however, the devil is in the details of who started the arragnements, who governs it and how (which grouops have which rights), who controls the resources – or in this case the long arm of the regulation.

    Finally, questions of motivation are critical, and one could write a good paper applying game theory to commons management. While I am far from a game theorist, I’ve seen this kind of relationship modeled by a prisoner’s dilemma rather than the typical zero-sum game. The idea here is that while each prisoner has an incentive to cheat, the best solutions for both come from cooperation. And the more the game is repeated, the more likely the prisoners are to figure this out. Applied to fisheries, while there is plenty of incentive to cheat once, twice, three times, this game has been going on for a long time – rising and falling (mostly falling) fish stocks, various regulations and self limitations tried and falling apart, finally one that seems like it might work, given forbearance and an agreement to play by certain rules. Two points here: First that repeated games are differnt than single round games, and that they might apply better to these sorts of issues. And second that there is a good paper here comparing, for example the Maine management of lobsters with this management of fisheries, both in the light of game theory.

    Finally finally, see some of my other mini rants that argue for a more complex model of motivation than that assumed in most game theoretic analyses.


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