The rapid expansion of the fishing industry in the last century has raised major concerns over the long-term viability of many fish species. International fisheries organizations have failed to prevent the overfishing of many stocks, but succeeded in curtailing harvests for some key fisheries. In Adaptive Governance, D. G. Webster proposes a new perspective to improve our understanding of both success and failure in international resource regimes. She develops a theoretical approach, the vulnerability response framework, which can increase understanding of countries’ positions on the management of international fisheries based on linkages between domestic vulnerabilities and national policy positions. Vulnerability, mainly economic in this context, acts as an indicator for domestic susceptibility to the increasing competition associated with open access and related stock declines. Because of this relationship, vulnerability can also be used to trace the trajectory of nations’ positions on fisheries management as they seek political alternatives to economic problems. Webster tests this framework by using it to predict national positions for eight cases drawn from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). These studies reveal that there is considerable variance in the management measures ICCAT has adopted--both between different species and in dealing with the same species over time--and that much of this variance can be traced to vulnerability response behavior. Little attention has been paid to the ways in which international regimes change over time. Webster’s innovative approach illuminates the pressures for change that are generated by economic competition and overexploitation in Atlantic fisheries. Her work also identifies patterns of adaptive governance, as national responses to such pressures culminate in patterns of change in international management.
About the Author
D. G. Webster is Associate Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College and the author of Adaptive Governance: The Dynamics of Atlantic Fisheries Management (MIT Press).
“Mankind has been winning the battle of technology against fish, with the result that one after another of the world’s fisheries has become seriously stressed by overfishing. This on-going process has been aggravated by new entrants, mainly developing countries, into open-ocean fishing. Remarkably, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has slowed or in the case of two species even reversed this relentless predation. In this informative, detailed study of the management of seven highly migrating species, Webster explains how the evolving interests of the leading fishing states have gradually led to stiffening both the regulations and their enforcement of open water fishing in the Atlantic.”
—Richard Cooper, Department of Economics, Harvard University
"Adaptive Governance is a significant book for students of international regimes, whether they care about fisheries or not, because it provides a new conceptualization of how regulatory policy can vary so much across issues, even within a single multilateral regime."
—Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Winner, 2010 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award given by the International Studies Association.