While access to marine resources is de jure open in Tonga, this has not led to a decline of resources and an increase in noncooperative strategies. This is partly due to a strong social orientation underlying core values and institutions as well as economic decisions. Food sharing is one institution that strengthens social cohesion and supports sustainable strategies. Yet this social-environmental relationship is increasingly threatened by a tendency to individualize efforts and yields and thus diminish social cohesion. Extracting institutions can trigger increased efforts, and new ideologies focusing on the nuclear family trigger reduced sharing. Contrasting two island villages from Ha'apai illustrates this tendency and its consequences: weakening the social net goes together with more commercially oriented strategies. Responses occur on several levels and entail risks. On the family level, networks expand to become less dependent on marine resources, but risk eroding local social ties. On a political level, community-based management is now proposed. It remains unclear, however, in what direction these changes will lead on the community level. They may (re-) motivate single fishermen to sustain common interests, but these common interests may not be in sustaining fish stocks.

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