Limits to the Governability of Transboundary Fisheries: Implications for Small-Scale Fishers in Northern Sri Lanka and Beyond

  • Joeri Scholtens
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 13)


Transboundary fisheries are a worldwide phenomenon that has considerable impact on small-scale fisheries. This chapter explores governability problems of transboundary fisheries in connection with small-scale fishers’ marginality. Insights are derived by studying the practice of transboundary fishing in the Palk Bay, South Asia, where a sizable Indian trawler fleet impedes Sri Lankan small-scale fishers from carrying out their occupation. By analyzing the features of the fisheries systems and the fragmented governance practices, this chapter raises six issues that challenge the overall system’s governability: (1) mismatch between the scale of governance and the scale of the problem; (2) high level of institutional fragmentation with limited cross-linkages; (3) actors’ strategic framing of the nature, causes and solution to the problem; (4) power imbalances between Sri Lankan and Indian fishers; (5) deep politicization that has linked fisheries issues to higher level ethnic and geopolitical conflicts; and (6) path dependency of the trawl sector. I conclude that while co-governance is in theory crucial for transboundary governance to be more responsive to the situation at hand, governability analysis explains why constructive collaborative practices are difficult, if not impossible, to create in practice in this case.


Transboundary fisheries Fisheries conflict Governability Sri Lanka Politicization Power asymmetry Multi-level governance 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Planning and International Development StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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