Shared waters—shared problems: The role of self-governance in managing common pool resources

Studio Apertura

​Seafood production governance, primarily and traditionally a governmental activity, is increasingly designed and performed by private actors, such as business organizations and/or Non-Governmental Organization. This is often seen as complementary to public regulation in handling collective problems, but there are few studies within the aquaculture sector which investigate the extent and potential of such arrangements. The aim of this paper is to study self-regulation among groups of fish farmers as a means to solve collective challenges in the commons and to derive lessons for future cooperative arrangements.

Using data from the Norwegian salmon industry, we investigate the extent of private self-regulated collaborations, the motivation for collaboration, and the self-reported obstacles. We further elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of such arrangements, both regarding day-to-day operations and in times of crisis. The findings show that private self-regulation plays an important role in increasing available resources in addressing common challenges and coordinating the production to limit negative externalities. However, such arrangements cannot work in isolation and need to be aligned with the role and functioning of public authorities. In fact, the looming shadow of the state is an important prerequisite for the successful role of such arrangements.