Conflicts over the use and management of natural resources are widespread, and may arise at a number of different levels of society, and for a variety of reasons. Whilst few fisheries conflicts result in violence, they may still have a significant effect on development initiatives, particularly because the numbers of people dependent on fishing is large. There have been various case studies, but few systematic investigations of the causes and types of fisheries conflict.
In order for the management of conflict to be improved, the nature of conflicts in tropical fisheries first needs to be understood, and the current conflict management mechanisms documented and analysed. Only then can recommendations for improved management be made.
The project developed an analytical framework for assessing the role, causes and consequences of conflict in tropical developing countries. The framework developed was unique, based upon institutional economics, transaction costs and institutional failure theories. Case studies were conducted in three distinct settings: complex inland floodplain fisheries (Bangladesh), over-capitalised, predominantly artisanal marine fisheries (Ghana), and small island fisheries (Turks and Caicos Islands, Caribbean). A new typology of fisheries conflicts was produced, specific to tropical fisheries, and applied to case study information. Based on the evidence from the typologies, tools for conflict management were developed and promoted.
This project has increased knowledge on the types of conflicts that exist in tropical fisheries, and how they are currently managed. It successfully developed an analytical framework that will assist fisheries managers and policy makers to assess conflicts, and to improve conflict management mechanisms. It has produced a typology of fisheries conflicts specific to tropical fisheries in the developing world. Finally, it promoted policy recommendations for the reduction of conflict (see Policy messages).
Key findings from the research include:
1. The number of conflicts may not be rising, but the poor are feeling their impact more keenly;
2. Lack of enforcement and bad administration are the two more frequently reported causes of conflict;
3. Conflicts caused by external agents are harder to resolve and more damaging than locally-based conflicts;
4. The capacity of informal fisheries management institutions and the degree of support they receive from the state is key to understanding why conflicts emerge and how they are managed.
The project also refuted some assumptions about what causes conflict: neither the use of marine protected areas in the Caribbean, nor multiple tribal groups operating in a small area in Ghana were causes of conflict.