Conditions important for the success of co-management have repeatedly been identified, but their relative influence has not been quantitatively evaluated. To investigate the implementation of co-management in 11 subsistence fisheries within seven rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, perceptions of the responsible authorities and the fishing communities were surveyed. Of 16 conditions often considered important for the success of co-management, only nine were correlated with perceived success, the most strongly correlated being (1) benefits of co-management must exceed costs of participation, (2) training and empowerment, and (3) existence of a long-term ‘champion’ to drive the process. The perceptions of the authorities concurred with those of the communities with regards to the attainment of conditions, but views on the success of co-management differed significantly owing to disagreements that were specific to three particular fisheries. Both groups agreed that co-management is a viable improvement on top-down authoritarian imposition of regulations. However, it takes time to become effective; perceived success was directly correlated with how long individual programmes had been operating. Failure to devolve power from national government to local institutions, and delays in awarding subsistence permits, remain the major stumbling blocks to full realization of co-management.
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