Stock Shifts, Value Chains and Institutional Resilience: Fisher Compliance in the Barents Sea

ISvein Vigeland Rottem and Ida Folkestad Soltvedt (eds), Arctic Governance: Energy, Living Marine Resources and Shipping. Volume 2. London, I.B. Tauris, 2018, pp. 85-112.

This chapter examines what two periods of drastically declining conditions for managing fisheries in the Barents Sea, in the 1990s and early 2000s, can tell us about resilience in institutional complexes. Institutional resilience is the capacity of a governance system to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances in order to retain high levels of effectiveness. Such rapid changes in circumstances are increasingly common in international fisheries management in part due to climatic changes that affect the abundance and spatial distribution of many commercial fish stocks. I first outline the institutions that are especially important for managing these fisheries, then review the shifts that enabled large-scale quota overfishing: a spatial shift in the availability of cod induced by changing environmental conditions, making more fish available in a high-seas area known as the Loophole, and a change in value-chain strategies in the Russian fishing industry implying more landings in foreign ports. Subsequent sections describe the set of unilateral, bilateral and ultimately multilateral measures developed in response, bringing out how those measures have involved deliberate mobilization of a rising number of institutions with keen attention to their interplay. Such interplay management, I argue, has been key to the resilience of this particular governance system to the shocks incurred by stock- and value-chain shifts.