Into the Field: Understanding the role of Social Networks in MPA Governance

The cumulative effects of climate change, biodiversity loss and resource exploitation could be devastating to Jamaica’s coastal-marine systems in the near future. For example, the World Resources Institute’s recent global assessment of coral reefs found that Jamaica is highly dependent upon coral reefs that rank globally among the most vulnerable to environmental change. In an attempt to navigate these effects, the Jamaican government signed onto the Caribbean Challenge and in turn initiated the establishment of twelve Special Fishery Conservation Areas (SFCAs) between 2009 and 2012, with more under consideration. SFCAs (locally referred to as fish sanctuaries) are essentially marine no-take zones, and recent efforts to expand the SFCA network build off existing SFCAs that were established well over two decades ago.

Map created by S. Lee, courtesy of CARIBSAVE

Map created by S. Lee, courtesy of CARIBSAVE

Through Memorandum’s of Agreement with local non-governmental organizations and/or fisherfolk co-operatives, the Jamaican government and Division of Fisheries have established co-management arrangements and delegated certain roles and responsibilities (e.g. monitoring) associated with the day-to-day management of the SFCAs. Such hybrid governance arrangements are believed to build resilience and contribute to increased capacity for collective action. However, research has shown that this is not always the case suggesting that there is a need to better understand the conditions which enhance or inhibit the successful management of natural resources.

Local Level Dynamics
On one level, my research is concerned with better understanding local level dynamics and the engagement of resource users in management. Specifically, I am looking to identify and examine patterns of social relations among resource users (i.e. fisherfolk) associated with the Special Fishery Conservation Areas that may facilitate or constrain collective action. While significant strides have been made in regards to identifying attributes that contribute to the collective action and governance of common pool resources, there remains a critical need to better understand the nuances and complexities of the social variables previously identified, particularly in the context of community-based and co-managed marine reserves (i.e. no take zones). Furthermore, the application of a social relational network perspective provides the opportunity to shift the broader discussion from simply if social networks associated with marine reserves (i.e., no take zones) are an attribute to more specifically how social networks enhance or inhibit collective action.

What this looks like:
Over the next several months I will be dividing my time between three different fish sanctuaries and spending time in the communities and with the fisherfolk located in and around those sanctuaries.

An Emerging Network of Special Fishery Conservation Areas
Simultaneously, I am examining the emerging network of fish sanctuaries. To this end, I am specifically interested in understanding: i) how the governance network (composed of state and non state actors) associated with the fish sanctuaries may enhance or inhibit the diffusion of innovative practices, knowledge exchange and collaboration and ii) how the fish sanctuaries are situated in the broader context of coastal-marine management and governance.

What this looks like:
Over the next several months this will involve visits to Kingston to speak with various government agencies and NGOs and to many of the other fish sanctuaries to speak with the community NGOs and/or fisherman cooperatives, managers and wardens.

The next several months will no doubt be busy. My hope is that they are also fruitful, leading to insights that not only inform the scholarly community but also the communities here, so that Jamaicans can continue to rebuild their fisheries, coral reefs and coastal communities.

Galleon Fish Sanctuary

Galleon Fish Sanctuary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *