Ten years of research and efforts to implement co-management in British Columbia fisheries have demonstrated that we lack neither good models nor the political will in communities to design and test local and regional institutions for successful involvement in various aspects of management. The barriers lie rather in the distrust and resistance of management agencies and the lack of broadly organized political support. The nature of the barriers and some of the elements of a successful approach to overcoming them are identified and discussed. The analysis is focused around the barriers encountered by two differently situated fishing communities or regions that have launched conservation initiatives through cooperation between local aboriginal and nonaboriginal fishing groups. In attempting to overcome the political barriers, the communities seek to develop expertise in selective fishing technology for more sustainable harvest, principled multi-stakeholder negotiation, marketing, shared databases, and preliminary ecosystem monitoring. The communities exemplify small- and medium-scale bottom-up approaches to adaptive management. The analysis shows the key and possibly unique contributions of processes at these levels, and suggests how they can be scaled up and linked to processes at other levels. Both types of analysis are largely missing in adaptive management theory, which has tended to focus on larger scale processes and to dismiss the potential of smaller scale ones to transform, expand, and link. This analysis focuses on salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) fisheries of British Columbia, Canada, but the literature suggests that the findings have far broader applicability.