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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Developing cooperative management systems for common property resources : resolving cross-cultural conflict in a west coast fishery Griggs, Julian Roger


Conventional approaches to resource management frequently invest authority in the hands of a technical management agency, with the result that the roles of manager and user are often cast in opposition as guardian and villain respectively. This thesis addresses cross-cultural contexts where this problem is exacerbated by the difficulties of communication and where management efforts are often frustrated by conflict. The objectives of the thesis are (i) to analyse the relationship between systems of property rights and systems of resource management, and (ii) to assess the potential for traditional communal property systems to provide a foundation for the cooperative management of local renewable resources held in common. Preliminary chapters set out the theoretical context for this work, tracing the linkage between conventional approaches to resource management and the prevailing western understanding of common property, particularly Hardin's (1968) 'tragedy paradigm'. An analysis of the theoretical challenges to this line of thinking leads to the identification of an alternative, cooperative approach to resource management that builds oh a refined definition of common property and which draws on empirical examples of traditional management systems from around the world. A case-study of the clam fishery on the West coast of Vancouver Island is introduced as an illustrative example of a resource management conflict in a complex setting, beset by a number of problems including a chronic lack of communication and pervasive uncertainty. Using Rein and Schön's concept of 'frames', the dispute is defined in terms of the conflicting perceptions of the many stakeholder groups and from this viewpoint, the present conflict is shown to reflect the characteristic weaknesses of the conventional approach. A solution to this conflict is sought through the the adaptation of the traditional resource use system of the aboriginal inhabitants of the area. By adapting the key characteristics of the traditional system to match the more complex demands of the many stakeholder groups, a set of founding principles is established and a skeleton framework for cooperative management is proposed. It is concluded that the conflict would best be resolved through a process of mediated negotiation that seeks to reduce frame conflict and encourage the growth of cooperation. A number of recommendations are offered that suggest how this process might evolve. On the basis of the findings of the case study, it is concluded that traditional communal property systems can provide a sound foundation for the cooperative management of common property resources but that on the West coast, a number of substantive changes must first come about. In particular there is a need to develop amongst the stakeholder groups a more refined definition of common property and a more refined understanding of its linkage to management systems. There is also an urgent need to close the widening gap between the rapidly changing legal realities of Native rights and the outstanding aboriginal land question on the one hand, and the political and social reality in which many of the stakeholders operate on the other. Finally, it is concluded that cooperative management systems of this type may well be appropriate in many similar resource management and international development contexts but that one principal barrier remains. If western society is unable to overcome the cultural inertia that prevents us from seeing beyond a simple choice of the strictly traditional on the one hand, or the strictly modern on the other, such promising opportunities will be lost. It is argued that this 'traditional/modern' dichotomy must be overcome if more creative and innovative approaches to the management of local renewable resources are to come to fruition.

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