Making the transition to co-management governance arrangements in Hawai‘i: A framework for understanding transaction and transformation costs

Adam L. Ayers, John N. Kittinger, Mark T. Imperial, Mehana B. Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Co-management has shown great promise in achieving social and ecological goals worldwide. Despite its potential, significant challenges are faced during governance transformations shifting from traditional approaches to fisheries management to co-management systems. Several factors make Hawai‘i an excellent opportunity to study the barriers associated with implementing co-management systems. Hawai‘i implements many of the same types of regulatory and fisheries programs found elsewhere in the U.S., yet it also possesses a unique legacy of customary management systems. In addition, a legal pathway has existed for nearly two decades that allows communities to partner with the State of Hawai‘i to co-manage nearshore coral reef fisheries. Despite the presence of this enabling legislation, extensive community interest in this approach across the archipelago, and significant NGO/Foundation support, co-management implementation remains limited. This study uses a mixed methods approach that relies on semi-structured interviews and archival data sources to conduct an institutional analysis of transaction and transformation costs. These costs serve as barriers to co-management implementation. The study identifies several social and organizational barriers preventing co-management implementation including: governmental structure and operations; planning and administrative processes; organized opposition from special interests; and consensus building processes. The institutional analysis further reveals a wide range of transaction and transformation costs associated with this governance transformation that prevent adoption of co-management. We conclude by identifying some actions that can help reduce these implementation barriers to co-management transitions and prevent conservation stalemates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-421
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-management
  • Common pool resources
  • Community-based management
  • Coral reefs
  • Fisheries management
  • Governance
  • Institutional analysis
  • Transaction costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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