Formal Law, Informal Social Norms, and Collective Property Rights in Fiji’s Fisheries

Posted: 16 Feb 2012 Last revised: 19 Feb 2012

Terra Lawson-Remer

The New School Graduate Program in International Affairs; United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER); New York University

Date Written: February 15, 2012

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Lawson-Remer, Terra, Formal Law, Informal Social Norms, and Collective Property Rights in Fiji’s Fisheries (February 15, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2005956

Terra Lawson-Remer (Contact Author)

The New School Graduate Program in International Affairs ( email )

66 W. 12th Street
New York, NY 10011
United States

United Nations - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER) ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

New York University ( email )

New York, NY
United States

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