Arctic Geopolitics, Climate Change, and Resilient Fisheries Management

Ocean Yearbook, published online 23.05.2022. DOI: 10.1163/22116001-03601016

This article examines the resilience of fisheries management institutions to the combined challenges inherent in geopolitical and climatic change. Increased emphasis on geopolitical considerations tends to make governments more, not less, inclined to seek practical management arrangements acceptable to all; and as this article argues, solutions that can accommodate underlying geopolitical tensions tend to be particularly resilient. Mechanisms that may explain this relationship include interest aggregation, as when governmental decision-makers worry that a sector dispute may escalate and spill over into issue-areas that are closer to core national interests. A second mechanism is sector-gains protection, as when fisheries officials and scientists are determined to insulate mutually advantageous institutional arrangements against the ups and downs of general political relations. Combined with a third mechanism, associated with the “malignancy” of the management problem, including the extent of free-rider incentives among participants, these mechanisms are also relevant for explaining variation among Arctic fisheries regimes in their resilience to climate change—a second test of the ability of Arctic governance processes to adapt to more demanding circumstances.