Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


James Acheson

Second Committee Member

Christopher S. Cronan

Third Committee Member

Edward Laverty


Management of many global marine fisheries have faltered under science-based government-sponsored management regimes. While the result has often been biological stock failures and consequent socio-economic problems, there are instances where enhanced conservation efforts have led to fishery management success. Studies of New England fisheries reveal that the relative success of fishery management can be explained in terms of the interaction between the fishing industry and the government, the relative power of each in the fishery management exchange, the degree to which information and perceptions about the fishery are comparable, the scale and complexity of the fishery to be managed, and the ability of the parties bargaining for fisheries management to reduce transaction costs that impede efforts to develop control rules. In large scale highly complex fisheries where asymmetries in power and information exist, the fishery management bargaining process will be marked by high transaction costs that will not be easily overcome, leading to institutional failure. Where information and perception about the resource is asymmetrical, but where power symmetries exist, it is possible to negotiate effective resource conservation rules, however, transaction costs will remain high thus the bargaining process will be protracted. Where the fishing industry and government have similar understandings of resource status and where symmetrical power with respect to decision-making authority exists, transaction costs can be more readily overcome leading to more effective institutional outcomes. In small scale low complexity fisheries, transaction costs involved as parties negotiate for control rules will be relatively low regardless of symmetries of information and power. Where transaction costs become too high for negotiating parties to overcome, an alternative management mechanism is necessary. One alternative that holds promise would provide parties to the fishery management bargaining process with equitable standing through a devolution of government's management authority. This co-management approach would utilize nearly independent 'nested' entities to transmit the devolved authority to a more local level of the fishery. Linkages between these entities would enable efficient use of information and feedback mechanisms essential to overcoming the dilemma of collective action in our fisheries.