The question of how to organize the sustainable exploitation of common-pool resources (CPRs) is an important issue on a global environmental agenda. We argue that the current approach to collective action in CPR management has a number of shortcomings related to (1) the focus on single - use CPRs and (2) the formulation of a priori design principles for successful collective action, which hinders rather than facilitates CPR research and policies. We propose a social constructivist perspective for the study of CPRs, and discuss its implications for research and policy programs. This approach studies the CPR as an entity within a wider external environment, focusing on resource users' motivations for certain action strategies. The outcome of collective management is considered to be the result of interactions between stakeholders and nonhuman entities, which depends on the way social actors ''socially construct'' their everyday reality. A case study of Irish fishermen, who felt alienated from their fishery as a result of the expansion of commercial finfish farms, and who created common property rights to secure access to the fishery, forms the empirical basis for this study.