To ensure the best market conditions for their fish, vessel owners are incentivized to create Fish Producer Organizations (PO), with obvious market advantages for fishers. However, the management of POs is not an easy task. This paper aims to understand how adaptation to environmental and market changes among POs relates to their capacities (or failures) to manage production and market demand. Drawing on an analytical framework developed by the authors, twelve Portuguese POs are compared in terms of context, structure, evidence of crisis and adaptability of response. Results revealed three modes of adaptation amongst POs (anticipatory, maladaptation and reactive adaptation) and identified key reasons explaining different degrees of adaptability in POs: 1) prejudiced market regime and 2) prevalence of the sardine fishery, as contextual conditions; 3) evidence of market crisis; 4) leadership, 5) trust and 6) perception of self-interest; 7) learning, based on shared experience, and 8) collaboration with demand side. Internal adaptation could improve PO contribution to sustainable fisheries management, but it is not a panacea. Official market regime and the internal structure of POs need to change as they sustain overfishing as well as fisher vulnerability and self-interest. The adaptive strategies evident in some of the POs, both intentional and agency-reliant, demonstrate ways to deal with these problems.
- Fish Producer Organizations