Socioeconomic thresholds that affect use of customary fisheries management tools


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Customary forms of resource management, such as taboos, have received considerable attention as a potential basis for conservation initiatives in the Indo-Pacific. Yet little is known about how socioeconomic factors influence the ability of communities to use customary management practices and whether socioeconomic transformations within communities will weaken conservation initiatives with a customary foundation. We used a comparative approach to examine how socioeconomic factors may influence whether communities use customary fisheries management in Papua New Guinea. We examined levels of material wealth (modernization), dependence on marine resources, population, and distance to market in 15 coastal communities. We compared these socioeconomic conditions in 5 communities that used a customary method of closing their fishing ground with 10 communities that did not use this type of management. There were apparent threshold levels of dependence on marine resources, modernization, distance to markets (<16.5 km), and population (>600 people) beyond which communities did not use customary fisheries closures. Nevertheless, economic inequality, rather than mean modernization levels seemed to influence the use of closures. Our results suggest that customary management institutions are not resilient to factors such as population growth and economic modernization. If customary management is to be used as a basis for modern conservation initiatives, cross-scale institutional arrangements such as networks and bridging organizations may be required to help filter the impacts of socioeconomic transformations. Copyright © 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1603-1611
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


Cinner, J. E., Sutton, S. G., & Bond, T. G. (2007). Socioeconomic thresholds that affect use of customary fisheries management tools. Conservation Biology, 21(6), 1603-1611.


  • Coral reefs
  • Customary resource management
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Social thresholds
  • Common property


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