Genetic concerns in fish stocking: what does the institutional framework say and how is it implemented?

 Legal documents and policies

Stocking activities within the Baltic are affected by legal documents and policies created by authorities and organizations at the international level, EU level and national level. The regulative framework show immense variety in how the issue of genetic variety is addressed, to what extent fish stocking is perceived as potentially contributing to genetic loss and, if so, what measures to apply (for more information see Sandström 2010, Marine Policy).  Thus, fish stocking decisions are made within a complex policy subsystem that involves multiple actors and policy-making institutions, conflicting goals and competing notions of the problem. The lower-level bureaucrats that are making stocking decisions on the regional level must navigate within this complex policy subsystem.

The case of Sweden

A case study of Swedish fish stocking practices showed that current framework opens for interpretations and leaves a lot of acting space for public officials at the regional county administration boards who are responsible for making the actual stocking decisions. Even though all regions are embedded within the same institutional framework, they tend to behave differently. These regional variations can be explained by public officials’ readings of the national regulations, their own beliefs and opinions on the topic and the characteristics of their knowledge networks and comprehensions regarding the validity of current knowledge base (for more information see Sandström 2011 Marine Policy).  

Comparing Sweden and Finland

A comparative analysis of Finland and Sweden showed that the regional divergences, that were typical for the Swedish case, were not found in the Finnish case. The bureaucrats in Finland share policy beliefs and make more equivalent decisions. This finding can be explained by the substantial inter-regional cooperation and by the existence of one central mediator of knowledge in Finland. While the Swedish bureaucrats consult different institutions, in case of ambiguity, the Finnish bureaucrats make decisions based on advice from the same organisation (Sevä, in prep).

Implications for management

The studies refered to above show that current governance system falls short in capacity to incorporate genetic biodiversity in policy and practice. The issue is embedded in uncertainty, both substantial and institutional. Moreover, genetic diversity in general, and genetic concerns in fish stocking in particular, are not prioritized issues on the political and administrative agenda. Formal policy makers can respond to the above described situation in two ways. They can 1) change formal regulations to enhance clarity about how to implement the far-reaching goals about genetic biodiversity in daily practice, or 2) influence the available implementation resources, for example by the formation of so-called boundary organizations, incorporating science and practice in common learning processes enhancing joint image building. Both management approaches have positive as well as negative effects on the subsystem’s adaptability as there is a trade off between the need for more detailed regulations on the one hand and the possibility to accommodate regional contexts in policy making on the other.



CONTRIBUTOR (January 2012)
Annica Sandström, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden

Responsible editor: Annica Sandström, Luleå University of Technology, Sweden 
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