The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 621–640 | Cite as

From Indifference to Mutual Support – A Comparative Analysis of Legal Pluralism in the Governing of South Asian Fisheries

  • Maarten Bavinck
  • Derek Johnson
  • Oscar Amarasinghe
  • Janet Rubinoff
  • Sarah Southwold
  • Kaleekal T Thomson
Original Article


This article presents findings on the current state of fisheries governance in South Asia from the perspective of legal pluralism. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork in six coastal districts of India and Sri Lanka and focuses on resource health and allocation. We suggest that interactions between state and non-state systems vary, and include indifference, conflict, accommodation and mutual support. None of the studied governance patterns appear to have been able to halt or reverse overfishing, though we identify some positive local innovations. The situation is more promising with regard to resource allocation. Fairness in allocation emerges as a prime concern of most non-state legal systems in South Asian fisheries, and state agencies do tend to become involved in resource allocation if non-state fishery authorities fail to achieve it. We conclude by arguing that addressing resource health and allocation concerns will require increased state and non-state cooperation.


legal pluralism fisheries governance overfishing resource allocation India Sri Lanka 


Cet article se penche sur l′état actuel de la gouvernance des pêches en Asie du Sud, dans la perspective du pluralisme juridique. Il s′appuie sur des recherches ethnographiques effectuées dans six districts côtiers de l′Inde et du Sri Lanka et s′intéresse plus particulièrement à l’état et la distribution des ressources. Nous notons que les interactions entre les systèmes étatiques et non-étatiques varient entre l′indifférence, le conflit, le compromis et le soutien mutuel. Aucun des modes de gouvernance étudiés ne semble être en mesure de stopper ou inverser la tendance à la surpêche, malgré certaines innovations positives constatées au niveau local. La situation est plus encourageante en ce qui concerne la distribution des ressources. Nous notons que l′équité dans la répartition constitue une préoccupation majeure pour la plupart des systèmes juridiques non-étatiques des pêcheries d′Asie du Sud, et que les organismes d′État ont tendance à intervenir lorsque les autorités de la pêche non-étatiques échouent dans leurs efforts redistributifs. Nous concluons que tant la préservation que la distribution des ressources nécessitent une coopération accrue entre les organisations étatiques et non gouvernementales.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maarten Bavinck
    • 1
  • Derek Johnson
    • 2
  • Oscar Amarasinghe
    • 3
  • Janet Rubinoff
    • 4
  • Sarah Southwold
    • 5
  • Kaleekal T Thomson
    • 6
  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.University of RuhunaMataraSri Lanka
  4. 4.York UniversityTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Wageningen University (retired)WageningenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Cochin University of Science and TechnologyCochinIndia

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