Cowes Harbor Port Authority: Multi-use CPR with Oyster Fishery, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom

Resource System
Estuarine ecosystem
Resource Units
Fish stocks (marine) and oysters

Cowes Harbor is a part of the Medina Estuary at the mouth of the River Medina where it enters The Solent, a 5km wide channel between the northern most point of the Isle of Wight and the English mainland in the United Kingdom. The case study discusses the institutional arrangements conducted by the Cowes Harbor Commission (CHC) over approximately one hundred years of operation (1897 – 1997). Multiple uses take place in the harbor which are overseen by the CHC, including shipping, transportation, shipbuilding, recreational activities, anglers and an oyster fishery but the case study focuses on the collective strategies of the oyster fishermen in influencing the decision-making processes of the CHC beginning in the 1980’s. The commercial fishery for flat oysters in Cowes Harbour was developed in medieval times but peaked near the end of the 19th century and then declined to near extinction when the Cowes Harbour Act of 1897 made the oyster beds an open access fishery which was detrimentally affected by overfishing and pollution. Commercial oyster fishing recommensed in the 1980’s and has become an important source of social and economic value to the ten commercial license holders included in the study.

The case study has subsequently been used in comparative analyses regarding Ostrom's Design Principles (see bibliography).