Azara Blog: Surprise, fishing communities do better if they manage their resources

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Date published: 2007/11/30

The BBC says:

Marine reserves, co-managed by local communities, can help alleviate the impact of poverty, a study suggests.

Research into four successful schemes showed that getting villagers involved in protection projects reduced harmful overfishing and protected incomes.

Average incomes of people who had established no-fish zones were more than double those who did not have protected areas, the authors found.

The researchers produced the report for the Nature Conservancy, a US group.

They said the case studies provided a global blueprint for fishing villages.

Their report, Nature's Investment Bank, examined four marine protection areas in Fiji, Indonesia, Philippines and the Solomon Islands, to assess what constituted a successful scheme.

"The key finding is that local communities have to be involved in the management of the fisheries," said co-author Craig Leisher, a policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy.

"It lowers the enforcement costs dramatically, and it ensures locals benefit financially."
...
The report - co-funded by the Nature Conservancy, WWF Indonesia, the Australian government and Holland's Vrije University - was based on more than 1,100 interviews with locals and opinion formers.

Mr Leisher said the researchers had deliberately chosen areas where the introduction of conservation schemes had been successful.

This is a typically bad BBC report. It reads just like a press release from the special interest pressure group, here the Nature Conservancy. Not surprisingly, the press release says that this non-independent study just happens to "prove" that the policies supported by the special interest pressure group are jolly good. Would the BBC publish an equivalent press release from Shell Oil, saying how jolly good oil exploration had proven to be for Indonesia (or wherever)? Of course not. But the BBC journalists are academic middle class (and anti-commercial), so gladly publish press releases from the academic middle class (and not, generally, from big corporations, fortunately, unless they happen to fit in with some specific academic middle class view, such as on climate change).

And since the "researchers had deliberately chosen areas where the introduction of conservation schemes had been successful" one can only conclude that the study has been extremely biased, so has to be ignored. After all, how do we know what factors differentiated the "successful" ones from the "unsuccessful" ones if only the "successful" ones were looked at. And it was also based on interviews, a far from perfect way to determine what the situation actually is.

On the other hand, it's pretty trivial that the political message behind this press release has some merit. Surprise, people do better if they can manage their own resources. It's called the benefit of having a resource (or property) owning class.

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