Social and economic factors influencing the emergence of collective action in a traditional fishery of Oman : an empirical assessment of three coastal fishing towns in south Al-Batinah
Overexploitation of many fish stocks underlines the need for more effort directed towards stock management so that the sustainability of resources is assured. To avert the tragic consequences of overfishing in coastal waters, a growing body of theoretical and empirical research provides evidence in support of cooperation among resource users to manage their commons. This study aimed to investigate the factors that contribute to the emergence and evolution of collective action in fishermen's communities to manage their coastal fish resources in South Al-Batinah, Sultanate of Oman. The study emphasises the importance of a collective action approach to fish resource management with examples from three fishing towns.In order to understand why fishermen choose to participate (or not to participate) in local collective action to manage fish resources, the researcher focuses on six main sets of issues that influence fishermen's decisions: economic factors; awareness of resource exploitation problems; institutional rules in use; social identity, group size and heterogeneity among resource users. Social and demographic factors as well as vessel configuration were also considered.Data collection for the study was carried out using three methods: questionnaire, semi-structured interview and observations of fishermen's activities. Statistical reports and other research papers carried out in Oman were also reviewed. The study found that there is a management institution that governs the fishing activities of the fishermen in the study area. Fishermen in the area inherited an indigenous management institution, which was established hundreds of years ago. It was also found that fishermen were very aware of the resource exploitation problems. High awareness of the resource exploitation problems coupled with high interdependence among users might induce them to work collectively to mitigate harm to their long-term welfare.The results of testing a number of hypotheses indicated that among the reasons which may influence collective action, are high economic dependence on the fishery,individuals' social identity as fishermen, awareness of the resources exploitation problems, risk aversion and heterogeneity (differences in objectives and interests).The study findings indicated that individuals using common resources are faced by various "assurance" and "chicken" problems. In both the PD game and the Assurance game, the preferred outcome is mutual cooperation. Whereas the predicted outcome of the former is defection, the latter suggests the possibility that the preferred outcome (i.e., cooperation) will occur, because individuals' decisions in the commons are influenced by a complex set of factors, rather than strictly materialistic self-interest. The analysis presented in this study examined several of those factors for their influence on individual behaviour. The findings of this study strongly suggest that the presence of local management institutions to coordinate the fishermen's activities in the study area is the key factor in avoiding the worst outcome (universal defection). The game structure has been changed from a Prisoner's dilemma to a Privileged game or a game of Chicken where the benefits from cooperation are maximized. It is the role of the institutions to determine how the cost of providing the public goods might be shared among participants.