Institutional arrangements have been compared in three stretches under different management regimes, namely: (i) open access (River Ganges from Kanpur to Farakka); (ii) private contractor (River Yamuna from Yamuna Nagar to Panipat; (iii) fishermen co-operative (River Ghagra from Ghagra Barrage to Faizabad). The ownership of riverine stretches of Ganges River system is with Departments of Fisheries, Forests, Revenue and the Village Panchayats under Governments of riparian states. The ownership of more than one department in some stretches resulted in more than one lessee for fishing and conflicts among local fishers and degradation of fish stocks. The open access regime has no institutional arrangements, while for cooperative and individual/private regime, the river was leased out for 3–7 years. The lease was generally renewed for fishermen co-operatives, but for private contractors it was not certain due to bidding through open auction system and higher base price. The annual fishing efforts were at maximum and probability of irrational exploitation was high under private regime due to fishing practices adopted and limited lease period. Equity issues were better in co-operative and open access. CPUE was the highest under open access, while the costs were lowest for fisher co-operatives. Fish prices were better for fish co-operatives due to better bargaining power and collective fish disposal. The annual net returns were the maximum for fishers under open access, but net returns per kg of fish produced and output – input ratios were the highest for fishers of co-operatives. This indicated the highest working efficiency and equitable distribution of benefits under co-operative regime. The study concluded that involvement of actual fisher institutions in riverine fisheries may be encouraged for better fisheries management. A need was also felt for periodic evaluation of these institutional arrangements towards their performance and natural resources use.

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