Participation in Fisheries Governance

Volume 4 of the series Reviews: Methods and Technologies in Fish Biology and Fisheries pp 103-118

Fisheries Governance, Social Justice and Participatory Decision-Making

  • Hans-Kristian HernesAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Tromsø
  • , Svein JentoftAffiliated withDepartment of Social Science and Marketing, The Norwegian College of Fishery Science, University of Tromsø
  • , Knut H. MikalsenAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Tromsø

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Controversies over distribution of access rights are a distinctive feature of fisheries management. Who should be the beneficiaries and what are the relevant criteria for awarding such benefits? We find it rather surprising that principled fisheries management debates on social justice are so rare. We are equally perplexed that so little attention is paid to issues of justice within social science fisheries research. In this article we try to remedy this, first by outlining some of the arguments in the justice literature to demonstrate their relevance for fisheries governance. Second, the establishment of a particular allocative mechanism — the so-called quota ladders - in Norwegian fisheries is used as an example of how different conceptions of justice can be applied in concrete management settings. We argue that much would be gained if a principled debate among involved stakeholders occurred prior to the actual allocation process; that is if stakeholders would agree on some general rules with regard to what constitute socially just distribution of access rights. In fact, we believe that the issue of participatory decision-making through devolvement of authority and responsibility to stakeholder groups, which is now on the agenda in many countries, would be much easier to realise if a social contract for just fisheries were established at the root.