Fisheries have long been managed through public–private partnerships based on collaboration between government and user-groups. The alleged benefits of involving the latter—as representatives of civil society—are a management system that is more flexible and legitimate than one based exclusively on top–down command and control. A question that is rarely addressed is whether civil society is up to the task. Are voluntary associations fit—‘technically’ and ‘democratically’—to take on management responsibilities? Assessing the pros and cons of involving civil society in fisheries governance requires a closer look at the role of user-groups in public policy-making. This paper attempts to do that by examining certain aspects of the Norwegian system of fisheries management, focusing—in particular—on the role of its most prominent civil society player: the Norwegian Fishers’ Association. The association has long been a privileged partner, virtually monopolizing the attention and goodwill of government. How has this been justified, and does it still serve its original purpose? As the fishery has changed, so—we contend—has the association: from something akin to a public interest group into what is essentially a ‘trade union’ pursuing the economic interests of its most powerful members. How and why did this change—in goals and priorities—come about, and is it tenable that this particular partnership continues? What lessons, if any, can be drawn from the Norwegian case about the pros and cons of user involvement, interactive governance and the role of civil society in fisheries management?
Marine Policy – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2007
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