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When collaborative planning becomes dysfunctional

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Gunnar Sander
Gunnar Sander


Stakeholder participation is widely recommended in fisheries management as well as in more holistic schemes for integrated ocean management. It is often claimed that participation provide benefits such as better knowledge, less conflicts, higher acceptance and better implementation and enforcement. Such claims need to be tested empirically. A study of two management plans for large ocean areas off the Atlantic coast of Canada, found that no new policies or measures were implemented, despite many years of extensive collaborative planning. Contrary to this, the Norwegian management plan for the Barents Sea resulted in the implementation of a comprehensive set of measures addressing, i.a., ecological impacts of fisheries and conflicts between fisheries and petroleum activities. The Norwegian government developed this plan in a classical top-down manner. There was an inclusive process regarding knowledge production, but participation was limited in policy formulation and implementation. This paper takes a closer look at the principles and conditions of collaborative planning. The cases illustrate the importance of distinguishing between participatory processes giving advice to decision-makers, and attempts to devolve also the decision-making. This is often unclear in guidance on participation. It is suggested that the scale and complexity of this type of ecosystem-based management makes it less suitable for delegated decision-making than the management of local resources such as targeted fish stocks.