International non-governmental conservation organizations and the adoption and implementation of community-based management of coastal and marine resources

Kate Crosman, University of Washington, EarthLab, Seattle, WA, United States
Where people who depend on the sea have input into how marine resources are used, fish stocks and habitats are often healthier. Healthier fish stocks and habitat in turn benefit people who depend on the sea, especially in lower-income coastal regions where people rely on fish as an accessible, nutritious food source. Community-based management (CBM) is one way to structure local input into resource management decision-making. In CBM, resource-dependent communities take active part in making and enforcing rules, such as how, where, and when community members are allowed to fish. CBM has been offered as a way to improve developing-world fish stocks and food security for vulnerable global populations, and has been embraced globally by funders, non-governmental organizations, governments and communities. In particular, international non-governmental conservation organizations (INGOs) encourage communities around the world to engage in CBM. However, how INGOs ultimately influence community-level CBM decisions remains poorly understood. This paper uses process tracing and content analysis to test whether INGOs influence the adoption and/or implementation of CBM, including counterfactual cases to explore alternate pathways to adoption/implementation. Data were collected through fieldwork in Fiji, a nation where INGO involvement in CBM is common. Eight iTaukei Fijian villages were purposively selected to vary on INGO involvement and CBM adoption and implementation, but matched on factors known to be predictive of self-organized CBM. Process tracing and content analysis of interviews with local leaders (n=40), INGO representatives (n=6), and formal CBM documentation (n=4) show that INGO activities incentivize the adoption and implementation of CBM by increasing the perceived benefits of adopting and implementing. However, respondents experience adoption as virtually costless, and implementation as costly. Neither INGOs nor the greater system of complex governance consistently and effectively defray implementation costs. Management is undermined where those costs are not mitigated: CBM is adopted but not implemented.