Strong collective action enables valuable and sustainable fisheries for cooperatives


Seafood is one of the most internationally-traded food commodities. International markets can provide higher revenues that benefit small-scale fishing communities but can also drive a decline in fished populations. Collective action in collective organizations such as fishing cooperatives is thought to enhance the sustainability of fished populations. However, our knowledge of how collective action enables fishing cooperatives to achieve positive social-ecological outcomes is dispersed across case studies. Here, we present a quantitative, national-level analysis exploring the relationship between different levels of collective action and social-ecological outcomes. We found that strong collective action in Mexican lobster cooperatives was related to both sustaining their fisheries and benefiting from international trade. In the 15 year study period, lobster cooperatives that demonstrate characteristics associated with strong collective action captured benefits from trade through high catch volumes and revenue. Despite lower (but stable) average prices, the biomass of their lobster populations was not compromised to reap these benefits. Individual case studies previously found that fishing cooperatives can support both positive social and ecological outcomes in small-scale fisheries. Our results confirm these findings at a national level and highlight the importance of strong collective action. Thus, our work contributes to a better understanding of the governance arrangements to promote fishing communities’ welfare and benefits from international trade and, therefore, will be invaluable to advancing small-scale fisheries governance.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Laura G. Elsler
Anastasia Quintana, Duke University
Alfredo Giron-Nava, UC San Diego
Maartje Oostdijk, University of Iceland
Stephanie Stefanski, Duke University
Xavier Basurto Guillermo
Mateja Nenadovic, Duke University
María José Espinosa Romero
Amy Hudson Weaver, Niparaja
Salvador Rodriguez Van Dyck
E. W. Tekwa
Environmental Research Letters

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