Governance and Society

Forget management, think governance: New study looks at Faroese fisheries policies

Image credits: Maria Olsen

Hans Ellefsen, Assistant Professor of the University of the Faroe Islands, and Daniel Bromley, Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, have had a scientific report published on contemporary Faroese fisheries policies. 

The article — titled ‘The quest for fisheries governance: Lessons from the Faroe Islands’ — recently appeared in the journal Elementa: Science of Anthropocene. In it Ellefsen and Bromley investigate the socially essential fisheries policies of the Faroe Islands over the last 40 years or so, since after the extension of the island nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 nautical miles back in 1977.

“We document the 40-year quest for coherent fisheries governance in the Faroe Islands,” the authors note. 

“The centrality of commercial fisheries to the Faroese economy,” they add, “means that getting fisheries policy right is at the core of social and economic coherence in this small close-knit nation. But the lessons learned here have pertinence to all commercial fisheries.”

“The primary lesson is that fisheries management is a conceit — a chimera,” the abstract reads. “Fisheries policy is about stewardship and the continual balancing of contending visions regarding the purpose of a nation’s fisheries.”

“Policy is inherently contentious over long periods because the polity is always undergoing demographic transition,” the authors further point out. “Most importantly, policy is difficult because participants are never sure what they want until they learn about what is possible for them to have.”

Compounding this problem is the realization that the participants are themselves changed by a process that John Dewey identified as “trying and undergoing.” Humans adopt policies (trying) and then are themselves changed by the playing out of the implications of those policies (undergoing).

“All public policy is a continual saga of trying and undergoing — which leads to a new and adapted trying,” Ellefsen and Bromley assert. “This adaptive process is not management but governance.”

The study can be found here.

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