Arlinghaus – how humans get in the way, and what to do about them

Arlinghaus, R. (2006). “Overcoming human obstacles to conservation of recreational fishery resources, with emphasis on central Europe.” Environmental Conservation 33(1): 46-59.

While this article is focused on recreational fishing in Europe EAF, it makes several points applicable to ecosystem management globally. Perhaps the main point is that the importance of human attitudes and behavior in fisheries management is usually overlooked or undervalued. Here again, as Michael Orbach and others have noted, is a call that EBM is about managing people. These human behaviors lead to many “outside the box” obstacles, that can have damming consequences for resource protection. Arlinghaus does a good job here of explaining where these obstacles arise (they are often ignored or outside the scope of EBM analyses) and potential solutions (the solutions often mirror the EBM playbook).

Hilborn et al. 2005 is used here as a launching point. They note the importance of access, decision making, and spatial scale in influencing management success. Imbedded in Hilborn’s ideas is the concept of simple decision making structures. Arlinghaus notes that in European Recreational Fisheries Management (RFM), small bodies (sometimes fewer than 10 people) are responsible for management decisions of a locally controlled resource. However, Arlinghaus also notes several human-based obstacles that prevent good management above and beyond the three influences identified by Hilborn and friends. Interestingly, several of the proposed solutions to these obstacles precisely mirror EBM “talking points” (e.g., adaptive management, precautionary approach, strong stakeholder involvement)

Of particular note here is that European RFM is largely privately controlled and de-centralized from (or co-managed with) government. So it has aspects that mirror cooperative fisheries that have been set up elsewhere (e.g., the Pacific coast of Mexico). This combination of private property rights and de-centralized management has interesting implications for efficient management. In a different context, Geerat Vermeij (UC Davis) has noted that de-centralized control is a common feature of almost all highly adaptable and successful organisms (as well as sub-organismal systems, such as the immune system). We have applied this concept to our analysis of security policy (see, Sagarin and Taylor, eds. Natural Security, in press, UC Press), taking a dim view of the highly centralized Department of Homeland Security (note how responsive FEMA, which got sucked into this morass, was during Hurricane Katrina). Likewise, Google, according to recent article in Fortune (Lashinsky, A., Chaos by design. The inside story of disorder, disarray, and uncertainty at Google. And why it’s all part of the plan. (They hope.) in Fortune. 2006) is organized this way as well.

So, will what works for millions of organisms and millions of citizens and millions of stockholders in Google work for fish management? Certainly it raises questions about the need for a massive new ocean bureaucracy, but may increase the urgency of pulling NOAA out of the plodding Commerce department in the US. To some extent the Northwest Straits Initiative in Washington State, which was formed as a rejection to Federal efforts to set up a National Marine Sanctuary in the area, follows this de-centralized, small-group model. What Arlinghaus provides here is a clear statement of both the potential benefits and the practical limitations of strong local control. His proposed solutions tend to favor continued local control, but with a role for advice and technical support from a more centralized source that has the ability (and/or the resources) to understand the larger picture.

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