Small-scale fisheries are important for preventing poverty, sustaining local economies, and rural livelihoods, but tend to be negatively impacted by traditional forms of management and overexploitation among other factors. Marine Areas for Responsible Fishing (Áreas Marinas de Pesca Responsable, AMPR) have emerged as a new model for the co-management of small-scale fisheries in Costa Rica, one that involves collaboration between fishers, government agencies, and NGOs. The primary objective of this paper is to elucidate some of the key variables that influence collective action among small-scale fishers in Tárcoles, a community in the Gulf of Nicoya. We examined collective action for the formation of a local marketing cooperative and participation in management through the AMPR. We apply the social-ecological framework as a diagnostic and organizational tool in the analysis of several types of qualitative data, including interviews with key informants, informal interviews, legal documents, and gray literature. Findings illustrate the importance of socio-economic community attributes (e.g., group size, homogeneity, previous cooperation), as well as that of social (e.g., equity) and ecological (e.g., improved stocks) outcomes perceived as favorable by actors. In addition, our work demonstrates the importance of certain kinds of external NGOs for facilitating and sustaining collective action.
Keywords: Co-management; Collective action; Common-pool resources; Fisheries management; Marine protected areas; Small-scale fisheries; Social-ecological systems.