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Flexibility in Resource-Based Employment: Fishing

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 8th, 2012

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Photo: Swiv via flickr CC
From “Sticking to their trade: Why fishermen keep fishing despite dwindling catches” by Sturle Hauge Simonsen:

A new report, recently published by PLoS ONE, challenges previously held notions about poverty and adaptation by investigating why fishermen in developing countries stick with their trade.

“We found that half of fishermen questioned would not be tempted to seek out a new livelihood — even if their catch declined by 50 per cent. But the reasons they cling on to their jobs are influenced by much more than simple profitability,” says lead author and centre researcher Tim Daw.

Fisheries are challenged by the combined effects of overfishing, climate change, deteriorating ecosystems and conservation policies. Understanding how fishermen respond to these changes is critical to managing fisheries. The research project is the largest of its kind and was undertaken as a joint project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia.

Researchers surveyed almost 600 fishers across Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar about how they would respond to hypothetical catch declines. They then investigated how social and economic conditions, such as local culture and socioeconomic development, influenced whether fishermen were willing to give up their trade.

“Surprisingly, fishermen in the more vibrant and developed economies were less likely to give up their trade — despite having more economically fruitful opportunities open to them,” says co-author Dr Joshua Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for coral reef Studies in Australia.

[…]

“One of the unexpected findings was that fishermen in a poor country like Madagascar would leave the fishery sooner than those in wealthier countries such as Seychelles. The reason seems to be that they already have diversified livelihoods, while fishermen in wealthier countries may be locked into this occupation,” says Tim McClanahan from the Wildlife Conservation Society.  “This is contrary to many arguments about the impacts of management and climate change on poor people, so will surprise many people working in this field and on resource and disaster management policies”.

The findings add to a growing raft of literature which identifies multiple interlocking and dynamic factors which affect people’s capacity to deal with environmental change. It is hoped they will help identify points of intervention for conservation policies that aim to reduce fishing effort. They could also help communities become more adaptive to change.

“It also highlights the importance of understanding resource-based livelihoods, such as fishing and farming, in the context of the wider economy and society,” Tim Daw concludes.

Read the full article by Sturle Hauge Simonsen for the Stockholm Resilience Centre or go to the report.

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