The fishing of vendace (Coregonus albula), in the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia, is a good illustration of the presumption that institutional arrangements which are too inflexible to cope with changing ecological conditions are unlikely to prosper. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the development of a better understanding of governance in a relatively small and clearly defined, but complex common-pool resource system. It also aims at providing insights into how different governance strategies affect individual users’ incentives, as well as the adaptive capacity in such systems. Since the beginning of the 1960s, the trawl fishery for vendace has been top-down regulated by the State. At the beginning of the 1990s, catches started to decrease dramatically. This happened despite extensive state regulation and despite the fact that the resource is fairly non-migratory and concentrated in a limited area. In the thesis, the institutional framework that contributed to this crisis is analysed in terms of provision of incentives and the capability to adapt to changing ecological circumstances. It was found that despite deliberate state regulation, the existing governance system worsened the resource crisis. In response to the poor performance of the fishery, a co-management system, with sharing of power and responsibilities between the National Board of Fisheries and the trawl fishermen, was implemented. An extensive survey among trawl fishermen showed that, after three years of co-management, a change in individual behaviour has occurred. The fishermen had, to some extent, redirected their individual catch-maximising strategies towards long-term collective rationality. With regulations implemented through bottom-up, instead of top-down processes, the legitimacy for regulations had also increased considerably. The management system became more adaptive and created users who had the capability to react to changes in the ecosystem. As a result, catches have increased extensively since co-management was implemented. In the thesis, it is demonstrated how and with what mechanisms this change, from top-down to bottom-up approaches in management, has affected the incentives for individual fishermen and, how this has affected collective action and, thus, the long-term ecological survival of the vendace resource. It is concluded that, managing fisheries with unexpected changes and complexity in linked social-ecological systems requires actors (both fishermen and authorities), who learn from failures and, when necessary, initiate and achieve institutional change. The creation of social- ecological resilience can be looked upon as a process – a socially generated collective good – which is likely to result in better governance systems. In this context, the role of institutions in building adaptive capacity and supporting collective rationality is important.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2004. , 219 p.