The cascading effects of coastal commonisation and decommonisation


Coastal areas throughout the globe are facing a “quadruple squeeze” from multiple pressures: population increase (and associated resource needs), climate change, environmental change, and the possibility of crossing tipping points or initiating regime shifts (Glavovic et ah, 2015). These pressures ultimately require changes to governance or institutional regimes in order to manage their potentially deleterious effects, while simultaneously grasping any opportunities that arise (Bennett, 2018; Glavovic et ah, 2015; J. Pittman and Armitage, 2016). Ideally, these changes would support the sustainability and wellbeing of coastal ecosystems and communities. However, the paths towards such sustainable social-ecological systems in the coastal zone are not ahvays clear, and they are full of uncertainties, many of w'hich are irreducible at the time of taking crucial decisions to manage our future coasts (Ramesh et ah, 2016).

Some of these decisions ultimately involve defining - from an institutional standpoint - the desired relationships between people and the coast. Common pool resource theory provides a valuable lens for examining these relationships and their potential implications (Nayak and Berkes, 2011; Ostrom, 2005; Ostrom, 1990). Within common pool resource theory, and other fields of economics, there are two key features used to categorise resource types: excludability and subtractability. Excludability is the degree to which users of a resource can keep other users from using the resource (Ostrom et ah, 1999); w'hile subtractability is the degree to which a resource is depleted through use (Ostrom et ah, 1999).

Considering both excludability and subtractability results in a typology of resources (Table 3.1). Private resources are those which are highly subtractable, but also highly excludable (Ostrom, 2005). When an individual owns a resource, they can keep others from using that resources (i.e., it is excludable) and they deplete the resource through their use (i.e., subtractable). Club resources are those that are easy to exclude, but non-subtractable (Ostrom, 2005). For club resources, a certain group or club can access the

Table 3.1 A typology of resources (Ostrom, 2005; Ostrom and Ostrom, 1977)

Easy to Exclude

Difficult to Exclude


Private resources

Common pool resources


Club or toll resources

Public resources

resource, but their use does not deplete it. Public resources are not excludable nor subtractable (Ostrom, 2005). These are accessible by the entire public in different places, and the public’s use or enjoyment of the resource does not deplete it. Finally, common pool resources are those which are difficult to exclude but also highly subtractable (Ostrom, 2005). These are resources that are depleted through use, and it is also difficult to keep others from using the resource. For example, a beach used for public recreation is neither excludable nor subtractable (i.e., it is a public resource). However, a beach mined for sand is a common pool resource, since it is subtractable, but often not excludable.

The purpose of this chapter is to trace how the categorisation of resources changes considering various drivers, and then how these changes cascade through systems to affect the use and institutional characteristics of resources in other places - hereafter referred to as processes of (de)commonisation (Nayak and Berkes, 2011). The chapter aims to accomplish this purpose by exploring the (de)commonisation processes in Small Island States of the Lesser Antilles Island of the Caribbean. It uses sand from beaches and river banks - a resource facing a potential “looming tragedy” at the global scale (Torres et al., 2017) - as an example to illuminate these processes in the local and regional contexts.

Case study and methods

The Lesser Antilles are a group of islands in the Eastern Caribbean (Figure 3.1). These islands support a range of livelihood activities and economic sectors, including fisheries, tourism, and agriculture. Tourism is a major economic activity in the region (CTO, 2018), and different forms of tourism can be found there, including mass tourism, elite tourism, and eco-tourism (Dehoorne et ah, 2010). To a lesser extent, the region also hosts expatriates from the Global North, who migrate to the region for various reasons (OIM, 2014).

This chapter treats the Lesser Antilles as a case study and draws mostly on semi-structured interview data gathered in six Small Island States in the Lesser Antilles (Table 3.2): St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. The data were gathered between July and December 2014 as part of a research project focused on governance across the land-sea interface. Interviews were

Map of Lesser Antilles

Figure 3.1 Map of Lesser Antilles.

Table 3.2 Interviews for each island

St Lucia



St Kitts




Interviews (n)








Participants (n)








conducted with individuals within national governments (e.g. beach management organizations), local communities (e.g., fisheries cooperatives), the private sectors (e.g., hotel owners and operators), and non-governmental organizations (e.g., conservation organizations) with relevance to coastal- marine sustainability. Interviews took place in the respondents’ offices or in places of mutual convenience (e.g., by the beach). They were digitally recorded and later transcribed. In most cases, respondents were interviewed individually; how'ever, some group interviews were conducted, often at the respondents’ request, to enhance scheduling convenience for the respondents. The data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis, and the issues discussed in this chapter were emergent themes in the data. The respondents’ voice was maintained by using direct quotes in the interpretation of findings. The interpretation of interview data was triangulated with media sources and policy documents from the region.

Beaches as public resources

In many islands of the Lesser Antilles, beaches are by law intended to be low subtractable, low excludable public resources. For example, the Queen’s Chain in Saint Lucia - a relic from colonial times - establishes the area from the high-water mark to 165.5 feet landward as public property, which can be enjoyed by anyone. The Queen’s Chain was established in 1704 and was originally intended to protect the interests of the French Monarchy in maintaining ship landing sites and the right to develop towns in the face of expanding plantations. It has since become a means of ensuring - or at least attempting to ensure - public rights to access Saint Lucia’s many beaches for the purposes of recreation in the face of an expanding tourism sector. Other islands have similar institutional arrangements guiding beach access, but they are all slightly different. Antigua and Barbuda, for example, in their Physical Planning Act of 2003 even go so far as to ensuring that the public can access beaches for recreational use through private property by establishing a public right of way across private property for beach access. Nonetheless, many of these institutions are contested and their enforcement can sometimes raise issues, which are discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >