Why marginality persists in a governable fishery—the case of New Zealand

Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Maritime Studies, 2018, 17, (3), pp. 285-293
Issue Date:
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© 2018, The Author(s). This paper examines reproduction of marginality evident in fisheries. Uneven relations are widespread across geography and scale; between distant water fishing nations and coastal developing countries; between fishers on large-scale trawlers and smaller boats; between local elites and peasant operators; and between boat owners and crews working in poor and slave-like conditions. With inequality and social exclusion being such a pervasive phenomenon, we ask why do these relationships persist? Using governability, developed within the interactive governance approach, as an overarching basis for interpreting this issue, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the possibility that marginality is not only a feature of ungovernability but might also occur in a highly governable system. To advance this insight, we apply theoretical tools associated with Marxist-Gramscian political ecology to the case of small-scale fisher exclusion brought on by the implementation of an individual transferable quota system in New Zealand’s commercial fishery. In particular, we identify social and economic relations that give rise to an accentuated capitalist structure whereby the quota-owning sector of the population (e.g., processing companies and Maori tribal organizations) control the ways in which fishers access economic benefits from their labor. Over the years, the quota system has gained acceptance as a resource management strategy, an intervention that is now ideologically hard to break away. The result is the reproduction of fishers’ exclusion, which contributes to a governable fishery, rather than an ungovernable one. This understanding casts a critical note on what we mean by governability, directing our attention to the ethical questions regarding how fisheries are to be governed and the risks that come with its pursuit.
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