Cross-border Great Lakes Fishery Management

Achieving Transboundary Governance Capacity Through a Non-binding Agreement


  • Marc Gaden School of Natural Resources and Environment | University of Michigan


Governance, Transboundary cooperation, Collaboration, Fishery management


Fishery management authority on the Great Lakes is spread amongst eight states, the Province
of Ontario, and Native American tribes. These jurisdictions are inherently in conflict over their
fishery management, as they have differing management philosophies, needs, constituent
pressures, and political dynamics. To avoid a tragedy of the commons, some degree of transboundary
governance must occur. To work within this paradigm, the jurisdictions cooperate through “lake
committees,” which are action arms of A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes
Fisheries, a non-binding, consensus-based agreement. This paper presents the lake committees
and the Joint Strategic Plan as a set of institutional arrangements for transboundary governance;
it analyzes the plan according to the four indicators presented in the framework paper in this
special issue: functional intensity, stability and resilience, legitimacy, and compliance. The plan’s
transboundary governance capacity ranks high on all four institutional indicators: it fosters deep
ongoing interactions, it is robust, it is legitimate in the eyes of a strong “epistemic community”
of fishery management professionals, and it contains effective compliance mechanisms. The plan
fares less well in terms of coordinating fishery management with other Great Lakes policy goals
(such as water quality improvement and habitat protection), though integration is improving.


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How to Cite

Gaden, M. . (2016). Cross-border Great Lakes Fishery Management: Achieving Transboundary Governance Capacity Through a Non-binding Agreement. International Journal of Water Governance, 4, 53–72. Retrieved from

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