The Polish Baltic Sea Fisheries Roundtable - Lessons and challenges of establishing bottom­up participation in post­communist Poland
Other conference contribution, 2010

The Polish fishing fleet in the Baltic Sea consists to ca. 70% of small‐scale vessels and is regulated under the European Union‟s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). With about 2000 rules, the CFP is one of the most comprehensive fisheries governance agreements worldwide. However, from all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, Poland has the highest amount of illegal unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) as a recent study by Rossing et al. (2010) suggests. In some years, the estimated Polish IUU for cod reaches 300% of the reported cod landings. This indicates the ineffectiveness of the current fisheries governance system that is especially apparent in Poland for a number of reasons. Despite the transformation from socialist to market oriented society, Poland is still characterized by an authoritarian culture, little experience with deliberative decisionmaking and skepticism and distrust towards EU regulations. Local and regional fishermen‟s organizations hardly exist or are highly fragmented. A unifying voice in policy formation is therefore missing. The so‐called “mazonerias” that managed fisheries as local, co‐operative organizations in the command economy before 1991 have almost completely disappeared. Along with these institutions, the cultural norms of localized collaboration and mutual selfhelp vanished as well. In their places emerged an ideology of pure self‐interested behavior on the part of individual fishermen and minimal legitimacy attributed to coordinating, regulating institutions (Marciniak and Jentoft, 1997) including the scientific advisory system (Stöhr and Chabay, 2010). Against this background this talk presents first findings regarding the establishment and institutionalization of the “Polish Baltic Sea Fisheries Roundtable” (PFRT) as the first attempt to move towards more stakeholder participation in Polish fisheries governance. The PRFT is a forum for Polish Fisheries stakeholders, scientists and administrators to discuss current topics of relevance to the Baltic in order to increase trust between the stakeholders and build social capital. As a cross‐link between the local, national and the EU‐level, the PFRT aims to develop a more coherent and effective Polish voice in the Baltic Sea Regional Advisory Council (BS RAC), to the European Commission and to the Polish government. It started in January 2009 as a joint initiative by a fisherman, an environmentalist, a scientist and our group. The talk highlights the most important steps for the successful initiation of the PRFT in the difficult Polish environment and reflects on the results and challenges that have occurred so far. After 7 conducted meetings the PRFT is on its way to become a well established crosslink between different hierarchical and vertical levels with regular participation of fishermen, environmental NGOs (ENGOs), scientists as well as government and BS RAC representatives. The dialogue among the different stakeholder groups is improving and regarded as useful and relevant by both the stakeholders as well as government officials. However, despite early successes there are also challenges that have not been resolved yet. Among those are the development of consensus‐based PRFT position statements and the participation of PFRT members as advisors in government meetings. From a general perspective, the talk addresses the question of the right development speed for the institutionalization process of participatory instruments such as the PRFT.

Polish Fisheries Roundtable (PFRT)


Stakeholder particpation



Christian Stöhr

Chalmers, Applied Information Technology (Chalmers)

Rebuilding a more harmonic co-existence with nature: new perspectives in small-scale fisheries management, November 15-16, 2010, Uppsala, Sweden

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