Crime and punishment in Sian Ka’an fisheries: Community Enforcement Committees as networks of cooperation

Authors: Ana Méndez-Medina*, Duke University, Birgit Schmook, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Xavier Basurto, Duke Marine Lab
Topics: Marine and Coastal Resources, Latin America, Social Geography
Keywords: Natural Protected Areas, Small-scale fisheries, common-pool resources
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Artisanal fisheries in Mexico represent a huge management challenge, because catch levels are not fully recorded, and poaching and violation of closed seasons are part of the daily reality all along the coasts. State control strategies are not effective at the federal level. The enforcement and punishment system has significant implementation gaps and legislation ambiguities. However, lobster cooperatives within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve have found a way to cope with the absence of the state: they implemented a local, fishermen-led system of enforcement and punishment, which has been reinforced by NGOs. Sian Ka'an, located in the Riviera Maya corridor is one of Mexico’s main tourist regions and rich in natural resources, making it a target area for conservation, tourism, extractive interests, NGOs and academics. Fishing has been developed by cooperatives; they obtained exclusive territorial use rights, giving the cooperatives a strong sense of belonging and impetus to defend their territory. Here we explore state regulations of the territory and explain how cooperation occurs among local actors involved in the management of the Reserve. Collective action has been the basis of a successful system, including punishment mechanisms, which compensate for the lack of government enforcement. We focus on Community Enforcement Committees (CEC) as social scenarios where cooperation is a collective action that addresses resource management dilemmas (absence of state agencies and lack of confidence in the legitimacy of official institutions). We see Sian Ka'an as a cooperation network between local actors at different levels (fishing cooperatives, NGO's, state agencies, academia)

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