Folk management and the CAMPO system : private sea ownership in a Mexican lobster cooperative
Many of the world’s fisheries are regulated by state-level management systems built upon the assumption that marine resources are open-access common property resources, thus susceptible to “tragedy of the commons” scenarios, e.g., overfishing. Maritime anthropologists question this basic assumption based on empirical evidence that local fisheries often regulate themselves through a variety of common property regimes. This study, based on fieldwork from May 1994 to July 1994, examines the folk management system of the Vigia Chico lobster cooperative in Punta Allen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The campo system is a well-defined lobster fishing rights system based upon private sea ownership and governed by a set of formal rules created and enforced by local fishers. It was not initiated by the Mexican government, but by local lobster fishers in order to regulate artificial habitats (lobster shelters) introduced by Cuban fishers in the 1960s. In less than a generation, the fishers have divided the cooperative’s common fishing grounds into privately “owned” sea parcels or campos. This relatively quick privatization has created a new social organization of lobster fishing in which access to lobster resources are obtained by either owning campos (property rights) or becoming crew members in fishing groups (access rights). While the campo system appears to be an effective local system of fishing rights, the system is inequitable due to unequal access to campos.