The definition and reinforcement of boundaries is the first stage in the development of successful management systems for common property resources. The policy makers of the European Union (EU), when formulating the Common Fisheries Policy, opted to make relatively little use of spatial boundaries to regulate access to resources. The EU has sought to create a fisheries exploitation system that ignores sovereign claims to the resource under a property rights regime driven by 'equal access'. The regime is regulated within a common boundary by means of controls of fish catches, limitation of fishing effort and the implementation of conservation techniques. However, as problems of fisheries management in the EU have escalated, the issue of boundaries has come to the fore. This is reflected in the activities of organisations within the industry that are developing strategies to survive the downturn in benefits flow from the fishery at local, regional and national levels. The analysis developed in the paper demonstrates the difficulties of creating a national boundary based on the concept of a 200-mile exclusive zone. At the regional level, while the boundary that relates to Shetland has created benefits for the local fishermen, it is still a weak institution. The strongest boundary is that of the crab fisheries of the western English Channel. Through the collective will of the resource users this boundary comes closest to achieving the theoretical ideal of establishing a congruence between ecosystem and governance. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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