We document the 40-year quest for coherent fisheries governance in the Faroe Islands. The centrality of commercial fisheries to the Faroese economy means that getting fisheries policy right is at the core of social and economic coherence in this small close-knit nation. But the lessons learned here have pertinence to all commercial fisheries. The primary lesson is that fisheries management is a conceit—a chimera. Fisheries policy is about stewardship and the continual balancing of contending visions regarding the purpose of a nation’s fisheries. Policy is inherently contentious over long periods because the polity is always undergoing demographic transition. Most importantly, policy is difficult because participants are never sure what they want until they learn about what is possible for them to have. Compounding this problem is the realization that the participants are themselves changed by a process that John Dewey identified as “trying and undergoing.” Humans adopt policies (trying) and then are themselves changed by the playing out of the implications of those policies (undergoing). All public policy is a continual saga of trying and undergoing—which leads to a new and adapted trying. This adaptive process is not management but governance.