This proposal of research work to be carried out stems from my long period of association with Dr Maarten Bavinck of MARE, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and our work on marine small scale fisheries in South Asia, including the recently concluded IDPAD-funded project (5.2.110 on "Cooperation in a context of a Crisis: Public-Private partnerships in the management of small scale fisheries in South Asia". While in the Netherlands, it is intended to work on topics of common interest to both of us:

  1. To write a joint article on "public-private management of marine small scale fisheries in South Asia" (based on the results from the above-mentioned IDPAD project).
  2. Writing a paper on "the role of fisheries cooperatives in Fisheries management: the case of Fisheries Cooperatives in southern Sri Lanka".
  3. Working on a paper on "Poverty in Sri Lankan fisheries". This is part of a Norwegian-funded research project with the acronym POVFISH.

Component 1: Public-private management of marine small-scale fisheries in South Asia

A research project, based on the premise that, economic activities such as fisheries are affected by more than one legal - or managerial - system (F. von Benda-Beckmann 2002) was undertaken in the year 2003 under "Indo-Dutch Programme for Alternatives in Development" (IDPAD), involving seven coastal districts in South Asia. The study was titled "Cooperation in a context of a Crisis: Public-Private partnerships in the management of small scale fisheries in South Asia". The study was completed in the year 2006. One of the expected outcomes of the project was to write a joint article on "public-private management of marine small-scale fisheries in South Asia", which has not been initiated yet. It is intended to initiate discussions to reach this aim, with the participation of three of the principal researchers of the project; Dr Maarten Bavinck of University of Amsterdam, Dr Sarah Southwold of University of Wageningen and myself.


Component 2: Role of community institutions in the management of small-scale fisheries: the case of fisheries cooperatives in the south of Sri Lanka

Collective action, cooperation or community institutions, it suggests, is the key to many of the problems in fisheries. Management, however, instead of providing solutions, has been an important part of the fisheries problem (Pinkerton 1987, Symes 1996, Kooiman et al. 2005). The reasons for this state of affairs are complex - just as complex, in fact, as the managerial situation is on the ground. One important aspect hereof, that is frequently misunderstood, is the fact that government is not the only party involved in fisheries management. Many other agents - including fisher organizations, market firms, and NGOs- undertake management activity, and demonstrate remarkable power in doing so.

In Sri Lanka, cooperatives were organised jointly by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Cooperatives, but they are been operated completely by the community taking into account community interests in fisheries. Both the government and the community are interested in sustainable exploitation of fisheries and many regulations have been introduced by the government under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act of 1996 to prevent the use of non-sustainable fishing practices. Yet, the use of harmful and environmentally-unsafe gear is on the rise and neither the state legal system nor the community legal system, appear to have been successful in dealing with management issues. The important questions in this regard are, i. Are fisheries cooperatives, which merge state and non-state legal systems related to fisheries, effective in harmonizing and supporting both these legal systems? Have they been successful in dealing with major fishing problems and treating issues related to resource allocation and resource sustainability? etc.

Component 3: Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Livelihoods in Small-scale Fisheries (PovFish)

I have become involved in a research project (2008-2010) initiated by the University of Tromsø, Norway, with Professor Svein Jentoft as the principal coordinator, titled "Unravelling the Vicious Circle: Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Livelihoods in Small-scale Fisheries (POVFISH). The Sri Lankan study is entitled: Role of community networks, in coping with vulnerability, powerlessness and resource crisis: the case of small scale fisheries in the Hambantota District. It's intellectual starting point is the following. Small scale fishers are confronted with a host of risks and uncertainties, enjoy low bargaining power in their dealings vis-à-vis outsiders, and are facing a resource crisis, which make them a very vulnerable group. The poverty in fisheries is often attributed to high vulnerability of fishers to shocks and their inadequate capacity to cope with these shocks (poor resilience), making their livelihoods non-sustainable. Fishers adopt a number of strategies individually and collectively to cope with such risks and uncertainties. Fishers' capacity to cope with and recover from shocks would determine whether they would / would not succeed in guaranteeing sustainable livelihhods. One way of increasing fishers' capacity for resilence is to build up social capital. The present study aims at understanding how fishers use diverse individual and group strategie to cope with shocks, bargining power vis-à-vis merchants and ‘outsiders', and to deal with resource crisis (degrading resources). Available information on Hambantota points to a high degree of vulnerability of fishers to shocks and weak capacity to manage them, due to inadequacies in various forms of capital, social capital being an important one. Emphasis will thus be placed on group strategies such as skinship networks, freindship, community groups, associations, etc. The study will describe existing socail networks, try to understand the role of such networks in improving fishers' capacity to cope with shocks, increasing their bargaining power, providing them with access to other forms of capital.The final aim is to understand the relation between strong community networks (social capital), poverty in fisheries and resource status.