Local Ecological Knowledge in Community-Based Management as Smart Management Options for Coastal Fisheries: A Review of the Sri Lanka Context

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  • K.H.M. ASHOKA DEEPANANDA Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Science & Technology, University of Ruhuna, Matara - 80000, Sri Lanka
  • UPALI S. AMARASINGHE Department of Zoology and Environmental Management, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya - 11600, Sri Lanka http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0465-6950



Commons, Property rights, Self-governing institutions, Small-scale fisheries, Sustainability, Traditional fishing methods


Even though small-scale fisheries throughout the globe are based on local ecological knowledge (LEK), it is often not involved in the decision-making process. An attempt is made to review the potential of using LEK of traditional coastal fisher communities in Sri Lanka and self-governing institutions in managing fisheries commons sustainably. Fisheries management in Sri Lanka is mainly a top-down system through the state legislation, while many fishing communities still maintain some level of informal or traditional management systems. The traditional community-based fisheries management (CBFM) systems in coastal fisheries of Sri Lanka, which are essentially based on LEK of fisher communities, hold long history from several decades to centuries. In active fisheries, i.e., beach seining and stilt fishing, traditional fishers accurately use LEK for day-to-day fishing activities for predicting harvests before operating the fishing gear. Long-term viability of beach seining, stilt fishing, brush park fishing, kraal fishing and stake net fishing systems in coastal fisheries of Sri Lanka confirms that CBFM systems in coastal fisheries provide better economic and livelihood standards for fisher communities. Empirical studies confirm that the coastal fisher communities manage fisheries commons through self-governing institutions through which the property rights are vested to fisher communities averting the common pool dilemma. This synthesis confirms that fishers’ LEK is an integral part of CBFM systems of coastal fisheries, which strengthen the collective action of the fishers, and is invaluable for sustaining the CBFM systems for the long run. It is clear that CBFM systems governed through robust customary institutions and evoked by traditional authority and LEK of fishers are vital for the sustainability of the coastal fisheries. In conclusion, CBFM systems and LEK can be hailed as smart management options, which can be an alternative to centralized fisheries management in Sri Lanka.


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How to Cite

DEEPANANDA, K. A., & AMARASINGHE, U. S. (2021). Local Ecological Knowledge in Community-Based Management as Smart Management Options for Coastal Fisheries: A Review of the Sri Lanka Context. Journal of the Indian Society of Coastal Agricultural Research, 39(2), 30-48. https://doi.org/10.54894/JISCAR.39.2.2021.110686