|Participatory Methods in Community-based Coastal Resource Management - Volume 1 - Introductory Papers (IIRR, 1998)|
|Coastal communities living with complexity and crisis in search for control|
There is a tremendous diversity of systems throughout the world determining who "owns" or has "rights to" coastal resources. However, the harvest of fish stocks is often subject to a competitive scramble in an open access system. There are few or no tenurial systems recognized by central governments outside of the national policies. Informal rules for use of the resources are sometimes difficult to determine.
Case study: Mangrove degradation
Mangrove forests have sustained some communities for generations but with increases in population, the threats have mounted. The uses of mangroves by local communities are often so dispersed as to be considered unimportant in the national economy. Much of the "value" of mangroves is in non- market goods and services such as erosion control, nursery for species harvested elsewhere, providing nutrients, subsistence use of wood and food species, etc. Nevertheless, the major pressure on the mangroves has been a result of demands from distant "markets" or users. The open access of most mangrove forests make them easy targets for removal of wood for charcoal production. The demands of urban populations create attractive markets which are difficult for local people to resist in the face of no restrictions on mangrove use. Extensive areas have been turned over to national or international companies to raise shrimp for export markets. This free-for-all system results from the "nationalization" of resources by colonial and subsequently central governments. Local control of mangrove management has been lost but is essential for sustainability.
The uncertainty of rights of access or tenure of coastal resources has often left the poor fishing communities with little choice except to take what they can, when they can. Without assurance that young fish left to grow will return benefits to the one who practices conservation, there is no incentive. However, it has been demonstrated that when people have incentives and reasons to expect that investments in conservation will bring future benefits, they do protect the environment.
Although the coastal zone is currently seen as being seriously impacted and fishing is often considered an occupation of last resort, the potential productivity may be recaptured and provide support for well-being of local people. This productive area can continue to support many communities but control and management are essential.