“Little kings”: community, change and conflict in Icelandic fisheries
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionMaritime Studies. 2017, 16 (10), . 10.1186/s40152-017-0064-6
Scholars of political ecology have long been interested in questions of access, equity, and power in environmental management. This paper explores these domains by examining lived experiences and daily realities in Iceland’s fishing communities, 30 years after the implementation of a national privatized Individual Transferrable Quota (ITQ) fisheries management system. Drawing upon ethnographic data collected over 2 years in the rural coastal communities of Northwest Iceland, we address three questions; 1) How the ITQ system relates to other complex social and environmental factors facing coastal communities today. 2) How attempts to alleviate negative impacts of the ITQ system have led to new rifts in communities and 3) how the decision-making power of a few dominant interest groups in national politics leaves small-boat fishermen and rural communities at a disadvantage. In the words of our study participants, the Icelandic fisheries management scheme has created “little kings” in rural communities, where each little king acts in his own best interest, yet has no recourse to collective power and no platform to influence national politics. In this volatile political situation with cross-scale implications, it is difficult for fishermen, their families, and community members to imagine ways in which power over and access to the fisheries resource can be redistributed.