Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 285–307

Customary Sea Tenure in Oceania as a Case of Rights-based Fishery Management: Does it Work?


    • Department of Anthropology and Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine ScienceUniversity of California
Special Segment: Rights Based Fisheries

DOI: 10.1007/s11160-005-4868-x

Cite this article as:
Aswani, S. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (2005) 15: 285. doi:10.1007/s11160-005-4868-x


This paper outlines the general characteristics of customary sea tenure (CST) in Oceania and identifies areas in which these characteristics overlap with modern rights-based fisheries management systems such as ITQs and CDQs. It also examines the effectiveness of CST regimes at regulating marine resource use and access by focusing on a particular case from the Solomon Islands. The institutional robustness or vulnerability of CST is assessed by examining various performance criteria for two communities in the Roviana Lagoon, Western Solomons. These criteria include people’s (1) settlement patterns in relation to their property, (2) cultural consensus, (3) cultural attitudes with regard to governance and management, and (4) fishing efforts and yields. The results show that a number of historical processes have shaped CST systems into heterogeneous and dynamic institutions, and that CST regimes can vary even on small geographical scales. Understanding the circumstances in which CST regimes are more likely to be successful has facilitated the design and implementation of co-management fishery prescriptions (MPAs) for protecting particular species and habitats in the region. More generally, the paper proposes that by discerning the effectiveness of local governance institutions at regulating resource use and access – taking into consideration that these are embedded in particular historical and political contexts – we can better predict whether or not an introduced fishery management system will work. This knowledge can also assist in designing hybrid management schemes that cross-fertilize community-based management, modern rights-based fishery management (e.g., ITQs and CDQs), and other government regulations. This integration is particularly relevant when these policies are to be implemented in coastal communities that have or have had traditional rights-based fishery management systems of their own and/or are more socio-culturally homogeneous. Given the long history of failed fishery management, it is now of vital importance to design innovative fishery management prescriptions that integrate natural and social science research more comprehensively.


customary sea tenure (CST)hybrid institutionsinstitutional performanceITQs and CDQsOceaniaSolomon Islands

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© Springer 2006