Around the world, many coastal communities and small-scale fishers have proven effective as stewards of their local marine environments and resources. Given these considerable successes, this chapter assesses opportunities to increase the focus in ocean conservation practice and policy on initiatives at the local level of coastal communities and small-scale fishers. The chapter reviews the historical evolution of ocean conservation, with a focus on fundamental shifts to more holistic approaches of ecosystem-based and integrated management, and to a greater focus on participatory governance. These major shifts reinforce the role in ocean conservation of local-level coastal communities and small-scale fishers.
The need for effective multi-level governance arrangements is becoming increasingly urgent because of complex functional interdependencies between biophysical and socioeconomic systems. We argue that social capital plays an important role in such systems. To explore the relationship between social capital and participation in resource governance arenas, we analyzed various small-scale fisheries governance regimes from the Gulf of California, Mexico.