Designating small-scale fishing cooperatives as key actors in rights-based fisheries management represents a viable strategy for reconciling biological conservation with social objectives. Cooperatives are democratically-controlled enterprises designed to pursue the common interests of their members. In small-scale fishing communities, cooperatives provide a way for fishers to pool resources and engage in collective action towards social objectives including obtaining higher prices for fishers, investing in infrastructure, providing loans to members, and a range of community benefits. However, many aspects of the contemporary political and economic context of small-scale fisheries present barriers to the success of fishing cooperatives, such as competition with private sector fish buyers and middlemen and fewer opportunities for government subsidies and loans. Providing fishing cooperatives with exclusive fishing rights can bolster the success of fishing cooperatives by generating a strong incentive for members to actively participate in cooperatives instead of work independently or for individual fish buyers. I present a case study of fishing cooperatives from Yucatán, Mexico that highlights multiple social benefits arising from cooperatives’ participation in rights-based fisheries management. In Yucatán, exclusive 20-year fishing concessions for spiny lobster have underpinned the success of large, successful, and long-lasting fishing cooperatives. These cooperatives have, in turn, promoted important social and conservation outcomes in small-scale fishing communities. They serve as livelihood opportunities and social safety nets for fishing families and enhance the broader well-being of fishing communities. Furthermore, they have played an important role as stewards of fishery conservation for multiple species and encourage fishers’ active participation in management.