Formal Law, Informal Social Norms, and Collective Property Rights in Fiji’s Fisheries
Posted: 16 Feb 2012 Last revised: 19 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 15, 2012
Qoliqoli roughly translates from Fijian as “customary fishing grounds”. This article unpacks the complex, dialogic, and interdependent relationship between the formal state laws and the informal social norms that determine the contours of qoliqoli rights and form the de facto institutional environment in which collective ownership functions in practice in Fiji. At the same time, examination of qoliqoli governance on Yanuca island – on its face a quintessential instance of collective ownership of a common pool resource – provides empirical insights regarding the structure and functioning of institutions for collective ownership that are governed internally by informal social norms but simultaneously embedded in a larger formal legal system, and whose degree of property security is an endogenous function of the choices made by members of the collective ownership unit. The Yanuca case study demonstrates how and in what circumstances collective ownership can generate a cooperative equilibrium, but also reveals why a community of resource owners may provide an apparently sub-optimal level of property rights protection against outside encroachers. Research on the two distinct and rarely connected topics of collective common pool resource ownership and the relationship between formal law and informal, non-state normative mechanisms in protecting property rights security are the building blocks for the analysis.
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