“Development Adrift: Problems of Fisheries Access, Economic Sovereignty, and Development in the South Pacific”

Authors: William Feeney*, Macalester College
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Coastal and Marine, Pacific Islands
Keywords: Political Ecology, Fisheries, Resource Access and Management, Development, South Pacific
Session Type: Paper


Discussions of resource use and ownership, of the commons, and development are commonplace in political ecology. Although these issues are thoroughly studied, certain scales of analysis often do not receive much attention. Despite questions of the commons and resource use from the policy and local livelihoods perspective,the role of territory and resources at the state and international level is often ignored. Through this paper I explore issues of resource access and development through the topic of fisheries in the South Pacific, asking, to what extent can small island developing states in the pacific sustainable manage their natural resources while maintaining economic development and protecting economic sovereignty? The island states of the South Pacific lay claim to vast territories of ocean, territories with rich fisheries that they are often unable to exploit profitably themselves. This leads states into working with foreign states and multinational corporations, which may put their economic sovereignty at risk through inequitable fisheries access agreements. Intersecting the topics of political ecology, development studies, and political geography, this paper examines how Small Island Developing States can establish better control over their resources, maintain economic sovereignty, and create empowering resource access agreements. Through analysis of resource access agreements and treaties, fisheries data, and relevant literature, I find that inter-state cooperative resource management agreements allow island states to establish a previously unattainable degree of control over their resources, greatly assisting development.

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