Local management systems are generally regarded as traditional systems developed over generations. However, in the Brazilian Amazon, as in many other regions, community or collective management is a response to more recent changes in the exploitation of local fisheries and other common-pool resources. Greeted with optimism initially as a potentially effective way of reconciling social and conservation objectives in rural development, experience with community management over the last decade has shown that achieving this potential can be elusive. This paper examines the process of forming community agreements for the floodplain lake fisheries of the Lower Amazon through the analysis of 77 written fishing documents produced from 1981 to 1997. We examine approaches to resource management revealed in the accords, the institutional arrangements for implementing them, and evaluate the performance of these accords over this 15-year period. The paper focuses on the strengths and limitations of this institution in its social and ecological characteristics, institutional robustness, and evolving relations with parallel changes in formal government management policy for regional fisheries.

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