Co-governance of Small-Scale Shellfisheries in Latin America: Institutional Adaptability to External Drivers of Change

  • Mauricio Castrejón
  • Omar Defeo
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 13)


The resilience of small-scale shellfisheries in Latin America is increasingly threatened by climatic and human drivers acting simultaneously at multiple temporal and spatial scales. Co-governance is emerging as a potential solution to enhance the capability of governing systems to respond to the social-ecological impacts of external drivers of change. Although there is an increasing understanding of the factors that determine the success and failures of diverse co-governance arrangements in Latin America, there is still a poor understanding about how this mode of governance responds to different crises, and how these responses are shaped by past experiences and by the features of the governing system and the system-to-be-governed. In this chapter, we evaluate how institutions learn, self-organize and respond to diverse climatic and human drivers in seven co-governance arrangements, and identify the factors that enable or inhibit building institutional adaptability. Our analysis shows that the combined impact of different drivers produced social-ecological impacts on local fishing communities’ wellbeing. In this context, institutions and actors displayed coping and adaptive responses to prevent or mitigate the damage on fishery resources and fishers’ livelihoods. These varied according to the magnitude, extent, periodicity and intensity of press and pulse perturbations, and were shaped by past crises, social-ecological memory and the particular social features of fishing communities in which institutions are embedded. In most cases, after severe crises, small-scale fishers took collaborative actions for re-organizing their cooperatives and their harvesting and trading strategies in order to prevent future crises and enter into more sustainable pathways. In conclusion, the same factors that promote (or preclude) high governability are also those that enable (or inhibit) building institutional adaptability and resilience.


Co-management Adaptability Social–ecological systems Small-scale Drivers Latin America 



We thank Svein Jentoft and Ratana Chuenpagdee for their comments on an extended version of this chapter. We are also grateful to Cristiana Seixas and Ian Perry for their helpful suggestions and comments. MC acknowledges the financial support provided by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) and the World Wildlife Fund’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program. OD is grateful for the financial support provided by The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation and DINARA’s UTF and GEF projects.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary PhD ProgramDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Facultad de CienciasUNDECIMARMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.DINARAMontevideoUruguay

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