Paper prepared for 8th biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Bloomington, Indiana 31 May - 4 June 2000. This paper sets out some initial findings from an on-going study into the management of conflict in tropical fisheries. Drawing on New Institutional Economics and common property resource management theory, it analyses how and why fisheries institutions adapt to changing circumstances and the role of transaction costs in the process of conflict emergence and management. Using evidence from Ghana it examines the formation of fisheries management institutions and the factors which appear to have influenced institutional change. The paper argues that conflict can be the result of rising transaction costs and the inability of natural resource institutions to manage these changes. It also argues that conflict can be both a positive and negative force and should not necessarily be eliminated altogether. The paper is divided into four sections. First, it locates fishing as an economic activity within developing countries and looks at the interactions between local, national and international policy objectives and how these can impact upon the development and exploitation of the resource. In the second section, conflicts are described and why they emerge in natural resources management is discussed. Focusing on the role of institutions it looks at how changes in institutions might affect the management of common property resources. Section three draws on initial findings from field research conducted in Ghana between March and May 2000. In the final section, the paper presents a number of conclusions as to the process of conflict formation and the possibilities for managing it.
CEMARE, University of Portsmouth, UK, 18 pp.