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In the Gulf of California, global drivers have interacted with local and regional change processes to transform small-scale fisheries and the social-ecological systems in which they are embedded Table 1. Neoliberal reforms have significantly increased the quantity and value of fisheries exports across the Gulf of California. But by allowing private entrepreneurs to access many of the fisheries historically reserved for cooperatives, they have incentivized overcapitalization and overfishing Ibarra et al. In addition, they have fostered a disparate organizational structure that has undermined the traditional practices and social relationships associated with sustainable harvest strategies and effective self-organization.

We suggest that such processes are not unique. Below we synthesize recent literature documenting similar dynamics across other postcolonial states and advance a theoretical model of small-scale fisheries interactions in the age of globalization, linking drivers operating on multiple temporal and geographic scales with social-ecological outcomes and system change. Without property rights, fishermen are increasingly dependent upon patrons, middlemen, or brokers who are able to consolidate permits and equipment, channel global markets, and dictate the terms of exchange, issuing interest-free cash advances in exchange for increased rates of commission and the ability to fix the market price Crona et al.

Fisheries patrons tend to invest in symbolic capital within the larger society rather than within the fishing community itself Van Mulekom et al.

Through accumulation by dispossession Harvey many local elites have subordinated the ideals of neoliberal ideology for personal profit and political gain Schultz at the expense of the livelihoods and well-being of coastal fishing communities. Market regulations and exchange transactions reduce the strength of traditional rules and sanctions, guaranteeing intermediaries a higher level of production and reducing cooperation and collective action to the point where traditional relationships of social control are no longer sustainable Bennett Poor, resource-dependent groups are thought to be the most vulnerable to the uncertainty associated with political shocks and environmental change Adger et al.

As individuals are marginalized, they become disconnected from their environment and from one another Neis et al. Patron-client relationships often generate incentives to extract certain species Kininmonth et al. Gradual social and economic alienation by resource users from fluctuations in the resource base often results in a loss of knowledge concerning how to respond to these fluctuations to secure future sustainable use Crona et al.

Many communities experience out-migration of traditional fishermen, and those that immigrate to take their place lack the environmental knowledge and sense of stewardship that facilitated the regulation of regional resource use Berkes et al. In summary Fig. Varying combinations of coercion, consent, contestation, and compromise describe the spatio-temporal evolution of neoliberal projects in different parts of the world Castree and local manifestations of neoliberalism are always embedded in particular historical and geographic contexts.

Although we suggest that the processes of neoliberal reform and globalization threaten the structure and functioning of marine social-ecological systems, such outcomes are by no means inevitable.

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Indeed, the tensions that generate social differentiation within societies and fisheries systems can lead to new forms of social organization and resistance Campling et al. Across the globe, diverse coalitions of people are increasingly organizing around principles related to territory, ethnicity, decentralization, traditional knowledge, and self-determination to reject the hegemony of neoliberal control Young , Escobar Even under conditions of neoliberal globalization, local places play an important role in structuring the context of politics and political action Martin As such, productive insight can be drawn from geographies where communities have united around the defense of livelihoods and resources threatened by dispossession.

In both regions resource users have leveraged collective access rights to enhance their bargaining power and successfully integrate with global markets. Although patron-client relationships are ubiquitous in areas characterized by high immigration rates, low barriers to entry, and weak norms of trust and reciprocity Basurto et al.

Throughout their respective histories, repeated exposures to natural perturbations, i. Remote fishing grounds, high levels of internal organization, and external support from NGOs and academic organizations have enabled resource users to secure coastal livelihoods without compromising traditional values and social relationships. Building on the successful tradition of coastal ejidos communal farm lands , cooperatives in both regions obtained renewable and exclusive year concessions for the harvest of high-value, benthic species, i.

Through processes of exclusion, negotiations to resolve stakeholder differences, and legitimacy derived from participation in scientific management and the cocreation of regulatory standards, these cooperatives have productively engaged with available governance and market mechanisms, integrating them with existing social norms and rules-in-use to defend access rights and capture resource revenues Defeo and Castilla , McCay et al.

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In Mexico Weaver et al. As anthropologist James B. When global actors limit the accountability and control of local communities, policies that reduce social cohesion, reinforce existing power dynamics, and perpetuate economic inequality will likely lead to adverse human and environmental impacts Durham Though our analysis concerns small-scale fisheries privatization and global market integration, similar patterns and processes have been identified amongst scholars examining the impacts of sustainable development projects Weaver et al.


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With the field of social-ecological systems becoming increasingly influential across international policy arenas it is important to challenge many of its normative assumptions about human behavior and systems organization Cote and Nightingale , Fabyini et al. In practice, decision-making processes and practices are not products of consensus and homogeneity, but rather are shaped by the tensions between classes, economies, and political systems.

Although researchers have made considerable progress expanding the scope of their analyses Armitage and Johnson , Young et al. By examining the links between global, regional, and local change processes and merging diverse literatures, we hope to advance common pool resource theory and increase the relevance of its findings. Though the magnitude and direction of these linkages is likely to vary across geographies and study systems, by generalizing our findings we hope to provide a theoretical model that can be dissected, tested, and improved by a diverse audience of scholars and practitioners.

Following the global financial crisis of , challenges to the neoliberal world order have intensified as opposition movements have grown in number, strength, and diversity. While acknowledging the limitations and dangers of populist discourses rooted in nationalist appeal, we support the need for alternative approaches to the management and governance of small-scale fisheries. Given that small-scale fisheries are now globally integrated, policy makers, resource managers, and fisheries practioners must address the existence of international trade networks and the social structures that have developed alongside them.

Effective national fisheries policies may have to be codeveloped with well-designed poverty and development projects in accordance with human rights protocols Allison et al. Though patron-client relationships are expected to be less conducive to conservation behaviors Johnson , the emergence of such relationships is expected to increase across the Gulf of California alongside coastal development and urbanization Basurto et.


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Rather than focusing on the protection of flagship species, international conservation organizations working in the region should address the social issues dictating how coastal communities interact with the marine environment Cisernos-Montemayor and Vincent Likewise, the scientific research community can play an important role in assessing the linkages between environmental sustainability and socioeconomic context, aggregating the expertise required to inform responses by businesses, government, nonprofits, and communities Kittinger et al.

If fishers in the Gulf of California are to be deputized as the stewards of their target resources, their active participation in management decisions and in research and monitoring activities is critically important.

Economic Development A Regional Institutional and Historical Approach A Regional Institutional and H

As the spatial scale of resource use increases alongside the heterogeneity of resources and resource users Berkes et al. Recognizing and accounting for regional heterogeneity in ecosystem structure and social organization may help to identify those strategies best suited for specific social-ecological contexts. As effective as community-based management systems may be at local scales, it is likely that they will only last as long as the system remains buffered from external pressures Cudney-Bueno and Basurto Though social and environmental change is inevitable as small-scale fisheries are integrated with global markets, multilevel governance structures can be designed to harness the benefits and ensure their equitable distribution Crona et al.

Although top-down control measures have a decidedly mixed track-record, it appears evident that the nation-state has a critical role to play in the management of small-scale fisheries through supporting the development and persistence of strong, local institutions.

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Resource managers who seek to promote sustainable use and avoid the tragedy of the commons must recognize the importance of granting secure access and tenure rights to small-scale fishermen actively engaged in extractive behavior, while encouraging the diversification of their activities and marketing options.

The authors would like to thank Julia Mason and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript in addition to CG and LG for ongoing research and logistical support. Acheson, J. The Maine lobster market: between market and hierarchy. Adams, W. People, parks and poverty: political ecology and biodiversity conservation. Conservation and Society 5 2 Adger, W. Paavola, and S.

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