• Fisheries;
  • institutions;
  • natural resource management;
  • sub-Saharan Africa


The world's fisheries are under severe pressure. Yet, according to the marine trophic index, the health and stability of marine ecosystems vary greatly across countries. The argument developed and tested in this article holds that some of the sources of this variation can potentially be derived from differences in the character of two fundamental relationships in society – a horizontal one between resource users and a vertical relationship between the government and the resource users. The empirical analysis focuses on sub-Saharan Africa and finds that levels of ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity and levels of democracy in the year that each country declared its exclusive economic zone have a close relationship with ensuing marine exploitation patterns.