This doctoral project investigates the characteristics and outcomes of co-managed small-scale fisheries through, first, a systematic review of cases around the world and, second, examining a specific co-managed small-scale fishery located in La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve, Chiapas, Mexico. This protected area shelters an important fish diversity that is the main source of livelihoods for the communities living within the core areas. It also attracts a high plurality of actors with different conservation and development goals, which produces resource-use conflicts. Methodologically, the dissertation is informed by a systematic review protocol, and by the development of focus groups, interviews, diagrammatic representations of mental models and participant observation in the case study site over a fieldwork period of seven months.
This project demonstrates that small-scale fisheries co-management is generally effective in improving the ecological conditions of the fishery and enhancing the fishery's governance. Embracing a diversity of interests in co-management forums is the most important condition explaining positive outcomes. However, reviewed cases studies cannot confirm the effect of co-management in reducing existing power assymetries and improving social equity. The case study reveals that recognition among actors is a key pre-condition for enhancing social equity. However, achiving distributional equity among users requires providing conflict-resolution mechanisms at the local level and that decision-making mechanisms are well known by all participants, especially the most marginalized users.