Reimagining large-scale open-water fisheries governance through adaptive comanagement in hilsa shad sanctuaries

Almost a half million fishers in Bangladesh are predominantly reliant on the hilsa shad (Tenualosa ilisha) fishery in the Meghna River and estuarine ecosystem. This paper adopts a broadened concept of social-ecological traps to frame the complex dynamics that emerge from social and ecological interactions in this highly natural resource-dependent social-ecological system (SES). We analyze how endogenous self-reinforcing processes in the system and poor initial conditions, particularly debt and lack of livelihood options outside fisheries, keep fishing households in poverty. We identify a policy decision in favor of incentive-based fisheries management as a critical juncture that influenced a trajectory of recovery in hilsa shad stocks in this complex adaptive system.