This article shows how social capital impacts fisheries management at the local level in Chilika Lake, located in the state of Orissa in India. In Chilika, the different fishing groups established norms and "rules of the game" including, but not limited to, spatial limits that determine who can fish and in what areas, temporal restrictions about when and for how long people may fish, gear constraints about what harvesting gear may be used by each group, and physical controls on size and other characteristics of fish that may be harvested. A survey of the members of fishing groups has shown that the bonding social capital is strong within the Chilika fishing groups. Bonding and bridging social capital keeps the fishers together in times of resource scarcity, checks violations of community rules and sanctions, and strengthens the community fisheries management. In contrast, linking social capital in Chilika appears to be weak, as is evident from the lack of trust in external agencies, seeking the help of formal institutions for legal support, and increasing conflicts. Trust and cooperation among fishers is crucial in helping to build the social capital. A social capital perspective on fisheries governance suggests that there should be a rethinking of priorities and funding mechanisms, from "top-down" fisheries management towards "co-management" with a focus on engendering rights and responsibilities for fishers and their communities.
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