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When regulation fails: vendace fishery in the Gulf of Bothnia

By Carl Rova and Lars Carlsson


The fishing of vendace (Coregonus albula), in the Gulf of Bothnia, is a good illustration of the presumption that institutional arrangements that are too inflexible to cope with changing ecological conditions, are unlikely to prosper. Although the vendace fishing is regulated by the State, catches have decreased dramatically, and there is a considerable fear that the resource is about to be depleted. This article discusses how the present institutional arrangement affects collective action and why political solutions seem to have failed. The vendace case illustrates that even a rather limited resource concentrated in a limited area is unlikely to be sustainably managed by top-down regulation performed by the State. It is concluded that changes in management practices that are obvious from the perspective of ecosystem management might turn out to be unfeasible, given the multi-stakeholder character of the management system. From this article it can also be concluded that resilience theory and experiences from long-enduring CPRs correspond very well with each other. Finally, it is discussed whether it is meaningful to talk about institutional, or managerial, resilience uncoupled from the ecosystem it is supposed to be managed. If an ecosystem, like the vendace, that is subject to human activity loses its resilience this would automatically indicate the socio-economic system, as manifested in management practices, has already lost its ability to adapt. Thus, social and ecological resilience are communicating vessels but not perhaps as the concept might be understood according to a popular call for increased institutional resilience in natural resource management.Bleak-roe fishing Common-pool resources Resilience Co-management

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