2.1 Society, community and culture
2.2 The cultures of small-scale fishing communities
2.3 Small-scale fishing communities in developing countries
2.4 Fishing livelihoods
2.5 Occupational pride, tenacity and cultural identity
2.6 Cultural and technological adaptations to marine ecosystems
2.7 Intimate and functionally-oriented knowledge of marine ecosystems
2.8 Social organization and the division of labor
2.9 Cultural adaptations to risks and uncertainties
2.10 Community-based fisheries management
2.11 Recommended reading
In this section the cultural characteristics of small-scale fishing communities are explored, especially those having particular relevance for fisheries management. In many cases, fisheries management can be made more effective by capitalizing on these characteristics, whereas it may be confounded by neglecting them.
For most anthropologists the term "social" is conceptualized much as it was defined by Townsley in his report, "Social Issues in Fisheries" (1998: 7):
...the term "social" can be defined as relating to the interaction of human beings with each other, as individuals or as groups.Thus a society implies a collection of individuals or groups who interact with one another on a more or less ongoing basis, and among whom there are established patterns of interaction. The members of a society may or may not be members of the same culture.
Generally speaking a community is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, interact with one another on an ongoing basis, and who have a shared sense of identity, interests, values, governmental institutions, and cultural and historical heritage. To qualify as a community it is not necessary that all members reside in a specific locality all the time, nor that all of them interact with all of the others on an ongoing basis.
Culture is a human invention which human beings are constantly revising and reinventing. Its purpose is to meet various human needs, including finding answers for questions humans are capable of asking-from the most practical and concrete to the most philosophical and cosmic.
On this definition, culture implies much more than merely "high culture," that is, much more than the arts and humanities, music, literature, figurative art, or the cultivated social graces. Rather it refers more broadly to a particular people's shared knowledge, including knowledge about their language, history, mythology, religious beliefs, world view, values, normative behavioral patterns, prevailing means of subsistence, and customary modes of social, economic, political, and religious organization. Much of this knowledge consists of important symbols-the conventions of a culture's language, for instance-as well as other knowledge, such as that concerning material items and how these are obtained or made, and utilized. Moreover if a culture is shared knowledge which is accumulated to help meet human needs and answer certain questions, it can also be conceptualized as a people's ideational design for how to live and how to behave (Keesing 1981: 68-69 and 144). Yet, however much it suggests how its members should live and behave, it by no means determines these things. Indeed, culture is more an artifact of human knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors than vice-versa.
Culture is also learned by its new members (i.e., infants and children) and is transmitted to succeeding generations. A particular culture is a complex system having various interconnected components: its kinship component, for example, as well as its economic, political, and religious components. And because a culture is organized as a system, external influences that bring about changes in one of its components are likely to have ramifications and repercussions in its other components-and sometimes in all of them.
For example, the collapse of a fish stock that has long been the mainstay of a small-scale fishing community's subsistence system will compel targeting new species. That in turn may require learning how to utilize new and unfamiliar fishing methods and technologies. Utilization of the new methods and technologies may then require changes in how the fishing effort is organized, prompting important changes in community social organization and patterns of interpersonal relations. The collapsed fish stock may also have had great symbolic importance in the community's traditions, mythology, religion, and cultural identity, with its collapse leaving those components severely impoverished and not capable of being quickly revitalized. And a new reliance on heretofore underutilized fish stocks may also prompt new beliefs and behaviors concerning the fishing community's rights of access, exploitation, and localized management.
Of course, the collapse of a traditionally-exploited fish stock would be a major event in most small-scale fishing communities, one capable of rapidly bringing about significant culture change. But less dramatic events can also have far-reaching repercussions, affecting such things as community members' self-esteem, patterns of household composition, modes of kinship reckoning, beliefs regarding appropriate gender roles, and preferences regarding other social relations. Therefore when we consider cultural characteristics of small-scale fishing communities that can be enhanced or weakened by external influences, including fisheries-management influences, we must keep in mind the internally interconnected and ramified nature of these characteristics.
Culture is also adaptive and capable of changing with changing circumstances, although it usually changes conservatively, with changes in its ideational design usually lagging behind changes which are prompted by more practical and immediate necessities. Some ongoing change is a normal part of the human condition, whereas culture change that occurs too rapidly can be a source of harmful stress for the members of a culture. This is because a culture is the result of a considerable accumulation of human experience, a product of its members' long-term adaptations to life in the region they occupy, as well as their adaptations to more immediate and contemporary circumstances.
As such, culture should not be contrasted with modernization, as if the former always preceded the latter, or as if these were two different things, because nowadays modernization phenomena are often just as much a part of contemporary cultures as are older, more long-standing traditions. Nor should it be assumed that all the members of a culture think the same about these things. A culture's elderly members, for example, may perceive modernization as threatening and undesirable, while its adolescent and young-adult members may enthusiastically embrace it. Elderly members may regard the recent past as "the good old days," while younger members may regard it as "embarrassing," "underdeveloped," or "backward." Men and women may also have different perceptions of these things. Even persons of the same age and gender may hold radically different opinions about these things. So, any who would attempt to learn about a culture need to remain sensitive to the diversity of opinions that will typically be found within it.
For sure the members of a culture also generally share a common "great tradition," "grand pattern," or "cultural identity." But otherwise they usually share this differentially and to varying degrees. Thus, social groups or communities that share only a part of a culture's larger general pattern are usually referred to as "subcultures" of the larger culture. Moreover, the subcultures that are contained within a larger culture may have much in common with subcultures found within other very distinct cultures.
In today's rapidly changing world new subcultures are arising all the time. Sometimes these blur formerly important cultural distinctions that heretofore distinguished cultures on the basis of differences in history, language, ethnicity, economic organization, and religion. Over the past three decades many cultures have also increasingly stressed comparatively new values regarding the utilization of natural resources, which people living in certain "native," "traditional," and "community-based" cultures often perceive as antithetical and threatening to their interests.
Fishing, as one among many ways of providing for human existence, requires certain human adaptations and behaviors, with these adaptations and behaviors necessitating the development of certain cultural characteristics. These adaptations are rooted in the requirements of exploiting particular marine ecosystems with whatever technologies a people have available at a particular time, and then are ramified through the cultures of their fishing communities. Therefore it is important to underscore that a fishing community's approaches to fishing, the fishing gear it utilizes, and its organization of other fisheries activities is usually the result of considerable experimentation over a long period of time.
Because fishing cultures are rooted in the exploitation of particular marine ecosystems, the production relations and organization of fishing-activities of small-scale fishers living in very different cultures may be very similar, even though they are members of very distinct cultures. There are noteworthy exceptions to this, of course, which are seen in regions where the larger cultural traditions overwhelm this cross-cultural uniformity. For example, women make decisive contributions to fish processing and distribution in most small-scale fishing communities around the world, but in certain cultures they are not permitted to work in the fisheries.
Nevertheless, because the cultures of small-scale fishing communities are usually the result of considerable accumulated adaptive experience, fisheries officials who hope to bring about changes in them should proceed with caution. Indeed, fishing communities may have much to teach fisheries officials about the most appropriate means of utilizing and managing a fishery.
Furthermore, because fishing cultures reflect adaptations to specific marine ecosystems, their management needs usually differ accordingly. In temperate or colder waters, for example, small-scale fishing communities generally exploit only a few species, whereas in tropical waters a greater variety of species are typically exploited. Moreover, small-scale fishers in tropical regions typically utilize a greater variety of fishing gear, and in these regions certain gear that is designed to catch a particular species may lie idle for much of the year when that species is not available. In such cases it might therefore be inappropriate for fisheries officials to appraise that idled gear as an example of "over-capacity."
The nature of the marine ecosystem that is being exploited is therefore an important determinant of many of the cultural characteristics of small-scale fishing communities. Similarly, the persistence of certain marine species is often crucial to the persistence of their cultures. Yet while the cultures of small-scale fishing communities are strongly rooted in adaptations to particular marine ecosystems and the availability of certain marine species, they are seldom rooted there exclusively. This is because they are usually also connected with other cultural systems: the culture of the nation of which they are a part, for example, and, increasingly for many communities, the world's globalizing culture and economy as well. Indeed, a fishing community's interconnections with other external cultural systems can also greatly influence its cultural characteristics (readers are encouraged to explore Annex 10.5 of this report, describing a small-scale fishing community in the Dominican Republic and its local, national, and global-level connections with other cultural systems).
In most of the small-scale fishing communities, especially in developing countries, few people are fishing specialists the whole year round. Seasons when fish are simply unavailable may be one reason, but as Smith (1977 :253) notes in a more general sense, in most coastal communities in developing countries:
...fishing constitutes only one of the possibilities toward which the total focus of a people's subsistence economy may be directed...while such a possibility may occupy a major percentage of the total work effort, or may provide the major source of nutritional benefit, no single subsistence effort exists in complete isolation from the other components of the subsistence economy.Moreover, in most small-scale fishing communities in developing countries an extensive and diverse rather than an intensive and specialized pattern of exploiting marine resources is seen. Generally speaking, in poorer communities where people's homes are located close enough to the sea to provide them access to living marine resources, not only will fishing specialists harvest seafood but other non-fishing specialists will as well-including farmers, artisans, marketers, people engaged in service-oriented occupations, and others (see, for example, Spoehr 1980: 5, discussing coastal villagers in the Philippines).
These diversified and extensive approaches to fishing are usually of fundamental importance for assuring reasonable food supplies and incomes in small-scale fishing communities in developing countries-for both fishing specialists and non-specialists alike. Therefore, fisheries-management practices or policies in developing countries that narrow the range of people who are permitted to harvest fisheries resources may threaten the food security of many community members.
At the local level there is often considerable variability concerning whom the community's fishing specialists actually are. For example, on a given day people who usually work in non-fishing activities may be found fishing to provide food for their households, but then when their catches are particularly good they may sell part of these to generate income. At the same time, while a community's fishing specialists usually fish to supply seafood to commercial markets, there may be days when potential incomes from selling their catches do not justify commercially-inclined fishing effort. At such times their main motivations for fishing may be merely to catch enough fish to feed their families and to barter with their neighbors.
Indeed, in some small-scale fishing communities in developing countries it may be erroneous to assume that there are conceptually distinguishable categories of fishers, such as "subsistence-oriented" versus "commercially-oriented" ones. And where such distinctions cannot be clearly drawn, it would be ill advised to allocate fisheries resources that are predicated upon them. In these situations the best management policy may be one that affords reasonable access to all community members, regardless of their motivations for fishing or the proportion of their time that they typically spend in fishing activities.
The organization of economic relationships may also vary considerably in small-scale fishing communities in developing countries. In communities still near the traditional end of the cultural spectrum, family and kinship ties, as well as community-service obligations, may be paramount in determining a person's key economic relationships. On the other hand, in fishing communities whose economies parallel the commercial practices of developed and modernized countries, individual self-interest and economic maximization may be paramount in determining a person's key economic relationships (see Davis 1991, for example, describing small-scale fishing communities in Newfoundland that underwent the foregoing transition in patterns of economic relationships while otherwise remaining essentially under-developed).
The cultures of small-scale fishing communities in developing countries are also greatly influenced by the extent of their countries' connections with the world's increasingly globalized economy. Thus, as Le Sann (1998: 45 and 47) notes:
The fishing industry is one of the most highly globalized economic sectors. Today, nearly 40 percent of total global fish production is traded on the international market...[and] In fishing, as in many other industries, production, processing and marketing are increasingly controlled by multinational corporations.Yet, as Kurien (1998: 1) observes, the increasing linkage of developing-country economies with the globalizing world economy is hardly anything new. Rather, he says:
During the last half century, through the aegis of free market operations, an export orientation to trade and planned technology transfer from the west, the fish economies of these countries began to get inextricably interlinked with the global economic system.Kurien further observes that small-scale fisheries were often neglected during the "development decades" following the end of World War II, because many were assumed to be incapable of making the transition to the modes of production and distribution that were required by the burgeoning export trade. Thus, he notes (1998: 2):
The new worldwide "commitment" to...globalisation, as far as the fish economies of developing Asia are concerned, is therefore only an extension and deepening of old links.Moreover, as their economies have become increasingly connected with the global economy, many developing countries have experienced unfavorable or deteriorating terms of trade. In essence the prices they have to pay for goods manufactured abroad rise faster than the prices they can command for the goods that they export, and correspondingly their indebtedness often increases. In their small-scale fishing communities the result is often reduced abilities to purchase technologies that are badly needed for development, or which are merely needed for staying in business. Also, as small-scale fishing communities in developing countries decline, they are sometimes displaced by competing fishers coming from elsewhere in the country, or from abroad.
Yet despite all of the foregoing difficulties, small-scale fisheries in developing countries have also demonstrated a remarkable persistence and resilience by continuing to employ large numbers of people and making important contributions to their countries' food supplies.
Small-scale fishing communities are sustained by fishing livelihoods, which require community members' sustained access to fisheries capital. In this regard, the important types of fisheries capital include the following: (a) natural capital, that is, marine ecosystems and the living species they support; (b) physical capital, including fishing vessels, gear, landing sites, and processing and marketing facilities; (c) financial capital for sustaining operations, provisioning various items of physical capital, and supporting other social and economic activities, and sometimes for sustaining or enhancing natural capital as well; and (d) human social and cultural capital, including human skills and information utilized in fisheries activities, as well as broader accumulated knowledge containing guidance for how to go about living in general.
In most small-scale fishing communities there are also usually other alternative livelihoods which are supported by the sorts of capital that are particular to them, and which are likewise integrated in the community's social and cultural fabric. Usually a community's alternative livelihoods support and complement one another, with community members collectively having more security by virtue of there being more alternatives available to them. But it is also possible that some of the alternative livelihoods may compete for the various sorts of capital that support fishing livelihoods. Other demands for water resources, such as those prompted by developing agriculture, tourism, and mariculture, for example, may work hardships on the members of a fishing community.
In various parts of the world today prevailing cultural ideas about the utilization of natural resources are also in a state of rapid change, being constantly mediated and revised as a result of emerging environmental conflicts. On the one hand, some people still continue to press for growth and development, wishing to see their livelihoods enhanced even though the growth they desire cannot be sustained on a long-term basis. On the other, an increasing number of people, groups, and emergent subcultures, which point to various environmental abuses that have happened in the past, now press for a far less intensive utilization of natural resources. And taken to their extremes, both of these positions may radically alter the capital that is potentially available for sustaining the livelihoods of small-scale fishing communities.
Among the members of small-scale fishing communities who fish at sea, there is usually a profound pride in their occupational identity as fishers and a correspondingly high devotion to the fishing way of life. Fishing at sea requires high degrees of independence, self-reliance, autonomy, risk taking, and outdoor work challenging nature, and if these are important cultural characteristics of the fishing occupation they are also necessarily important characteristics of individual fishers. Moreover, where fishers work at sea under particularly dangerous conditions, or where they harvest particularly large or valuable marine species, the fishing occupation may take on an heroic aura in their home communities. Indeed, in many small-scale fishing communities a mystique often surrounds fishing activities.
Among many of its practitioners the fishing occupation often confers not only important markers of self-identity and individual pride, but a "satisfaction bonus" as well, which cannot be measured on economic grounds alone. Hence, among most small-scale fishers who choose to work at sea year after year, fishing is regarded not merely as a means of ensuring their livelihoods, but as an intrinsically rewarding activity in its own right-as a desirable and meaningful way of spending one's life. And this occupational pride and satisfaction is often seen even among people who fish for only a small part of the year, while otherwise spending most of their time in other, non-fishing activities.
The foregoing factors prompt many fishers to tenaciously adhere to the occupation and to continue fishing even after it has become economically unrewarding-which has perplexed economists and fisheries officials alike. Thus, while economic rationality as it is commonly understood may not explain small-scale fishers' tenacity in the face of diminishing returns, existential rationality perhaps does.
Fisheries officials desiring to bring about more effective and appropriate management practices and policies will be well served by understanding the importance of the foregoing cultural characteristics in small-scale fishing communities. Indeed, among the fishing people they work with, they may find that sustaining the fishing way of life is as highly valued, or even more highly valued, than merely ensuring that fishing is a profitable means of ensuring their livelihoods.2
Occupational Pride, Independence, and Willingness to Take Risks
Junger (1997: 48-49) quotes the widow of the skipper of an ill-fated fishing boat from Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA, regarding her husband's feelings about the fishing occupation:
The men don't know anything else once they do it; they love it and it takes over and that's the bottom line...It's something inside of them that nobody can take away and if they're not doing it they're not gonna be happy.And Allison (1988: 234), quotes a woman who for more than 20 years was a skipper on her own fishing boat, trolling for salmon and albacore in southeast Alaska, and off the coasts of Washington and Oregon, USA:
You've heard of the expression...'being called to the sea'? That's exactly what I had...When I get away from the water, any place, I feel like I'm landlocked. I've gotta be near the water...And I think that's my biggest calling right there. I've always had confidence. I've never had a fear of drowning. I've been in some pretty bad storms, too.
Indeed, even when fisheries activities constitute only a minority of the livelihoods represented in a community, the fishing subculture may still have a disproportionately large influence in shaping the community's local culture and cultural identity. Therefore, fisheries officials must remain mindful of how extensively fisheries activities may be ramified a community's various cultural components, and how changes in management practices and policies may have implications in many, if not all of these components.
Many of the cultural characteristics of small-scale fishing communities can be seen as practical and necessary adaptations to the marine ecosystems that are exploited. Indeed, because human beings evolved mainly in terrestrial environments, marine environments pose special challenges for sustaining human life, requiring the development of special social, cultural, economic, and technological adaptations.
Marine-capture fishers have often been likened to terrestrial hunters, but wresting food from a marine ecosystem confronts humans with special challenges that are not often seen in most terrestrial hunting activities. From a fisher's perspective, for example, the marine ecosystem appears mainly as a horizontal and rather featureless surface, while the desired prey contained beneath its surface is usually hidden from view. Moreover, unlike most terrestrial prey, most marine prey cannot be seen or tracked, and therefore must be located by other than visual means. Moreover, to a far greater degree than is typical in most terrestrial environments, marine environments pose significant hazards to the success and safety of the humans working around them. Hence, for humans to sustain fishing activities year after year, special cultural adaptations are required which anticipate and minimize the risks of these hazards.
The particular technologies that small-scale fishers utilize are also closely adapted to the marine ecosystems they exploit and the species they target. And especially in the case of long-resident, traditional small-scale fishing communities, the prevailing fishing technologies which are utilized are often the result of considerable cumulative experience, which is mediated by limitations on what they can afford to acquire from the larger world beyond their community. On this view, "fishing technology" entails not only "hardware" or other material items, but also knowledge about how such items are acquired, utilized, and maintained, and this technical knowledge is an important component of a small-scale fishing community's culture. Indeed, fishing technologies which have long been utilized in highly traditional fishing communities encode the community's accumulated experience in the fisheries in much the same way that an organism's genes encode its evolutionary development and adaptive successes.
The fishing technologies and associated material items that are utilized in small-scale fishing communities are also often important cultural symbols which figure importantly in both fishers' and their communities' cultural identities. Small-scale fishers, for example, often proudly display various items of material culture as important indicators of their skills, daring, and occupational identity, and these items may also be prominently displayed at important events in their community's ritual cycle.
At the same time, while the fishing technologies that are utilized derive from the exploitation of particular marine ecosystems, they also shape and constrain the organization, conduct, and productivity of fishing activities. Fishers who cannot afford to buy outboard motors and who have to rely on sail and oar power, for example, will be at a disadvantage when competing with other fishers who can afford to obtain such items. Similarly, fishers who are unable to buy on-board refrigeration will be compelled to make short-duration fishing expeditions, such as "day tripping," so they can land their catches before they spoil. Unable to range very far and stay out fishing for longer periods of time, their productive potential will be less than that of competitors who can. Similarly, if their home communities also lack refrigeration, there will be similar constraints on the potential productivity of processing, marketing, and distribution activities. Therefore, while fishing technologies derive from adaptations to the particular marine ecosystems that are exploited, they also derive from what fishers can feasibly obtain. At the same time, the technologies that are utilized will importantly shape the organization and dynamics of a fishing community's interconnected cultural components.
The foregoing implies how technological innovations may improve the lot of small-scale fishers. On the other hand, switching from traditionally-employed technologies to new ones has sometimes had disastrous consequences in small-scale fishing communities. Heightened levels of ecosystem degradation and resource depletion have sometimes been seen, while at the same time traditional and well-integrated patterns of social and economic relationships have broken down and not been replaced with new ones. Increasing dependence on more expensive technologies has also driven up production costs in small-scale fishing communities, eventually forcing some participants out of the fisheries. In essence, introducing new fishing technologies which have been developed in other cultures without first assessing their potential impact in the recipient culture is analogous to introducing an exotic species in a marine ecosystem without first assessing its potential impact on the indigenous species already living there.
Among the various strategies that fisheries officials rely on to control fishing effort, gear restrictions are perhaps the most unpopular among fishers themselves. From their point of view fishing is already challenging enough, so they usually perceive gear restrictions as a type of mandated inefficiency. Moreover, because the gear they utilize is often the result of considerable adaptive experience, externally-imposed gear restrictions often strike them as maladaptive and culturally inappropriate. Small-scale fishing communities will therefore be well served by fisheries-management practices and policies that recognize that their fishing technologies have arisen from their cumulative experience exploiting particular marine ecosystems. Otherwise, management initiatives that ignore these special adaptations may become prescriptions for disaster (readers are encouraged to explore Annex 10.4 of this report, describing the impact of developments in small-scale fishing communities in India that inadequately considered traditional cultural adaptations).
The cultural adaptations of small-scale fishing communities to the marine ecosystems they exploit are also often evident in other components of their cultures, including components which are more distant from fisheries technologies and fisheries activities. Important religious beliefs, values, symbols, and community rituals, for example, may also reflect the community's reliance on particular marine ecosystems. Therefore, even where most of a fishing community's religious beliefs and practices derive from the larger culture of which it is a part, it may still have unique beliefs and practices that derive from its exploitation of particular marine ecosystems and marine species.
Many small-scale fishing people, for example, express beliefs that they and the marine creatures they exploit have parallel lives or mixed destinies, or that the worlds inhabited by certain marine creatures mirror, or are metaphorical, of the world in which they live. While such beliefs may at first seem merely fanciful, on closer inspection they can often be appraised as having practical importance. Anderson (1994: 141-142), for example, notes how along the Northwest Coast of North America, "all evidence suggests that the fish held in highest regard were the most vulnerable yet important stocks, that they were deliberately and explicitly managed, and that their social construction as revered members of human society was a conservation-related belief." Moreover, he observes, among the Katzie Salish peoples living along the lower Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada:
The sturgeon was held in reverence...According to Katzie belief, the Creator had a son and a daughter. The son became the ancestor of humanity; the daughter became the ancestor of the sturgeons. Sturgeons and humans are therefore siblings (p. 142).Similarly, among the aboriginal Inuit of West Greenland the "fish world" was regarded as a metaphor of human society, and traditional songs are still sung among the contemporary Inuit living in this region which maintain that "fish love freedom," much as people do, and that fish "often engage in social relations with other members of their species." These songs also express beliefs that individual fish have families and family problems, individual histories, and so forth, much as humans do, and that they merit no less regard than the human cultures that depend on them (Kleivan 1984: 887).
In a very different native culture, that of the aborigines in northeastern Arnhem Land, Australia, their physical, economic, and spiritual life is closely interconnected with the sea and particular marine ecosystems. Thus, according to Davis (1984: 231):
From the sea, they believe, their spirit comes at conception and there it must return on their death... (and) exclusive right to inhabit coastal waters in their area and to use the resources contained therein has been theirs since time immemorial...(and) they possess elaborate rules for restricting access to sacred marine sites and for apportioning access to economic resources.Moreover, McDonald, Arragutainaq, and Novalinga (1997), describing native Cree hunting-and-gathering people in Canada, underscore how these people regard the prey they rely upon for subsistence as "non-human persons," with each having individual attributes and "personalities." The lives and destinies of their main prey, the Cree believe, are intertwined with their own. Thus, the authors note that the Cree do not regard these animals as biological resources to be managed and sustained, and do not wish to see their yields increased by adopting new technologies-which, they emphasize, is quite different from prevailing views in most contemporary fisheries-management circles.
Fishing people may also profess beliefs and practices that others may regard as mere "superstitions." Such beliefs may urge avoiding fishing in certain regions, or during certain seasons, or fishing for certain species, not whistling when storm clouds approach, or not crossing oars placed in the bottom of a boat because doing so may bring on the wrath of various supernatural entities. Yet, on closer inspection, many such beliefs and practices can be seen to address practical concerns, even if they are otherwise instituted in the religious-belief system.
Still other religious practices and beliefs may arise from the practical necessities surrounding fishing activities. It is no coincidence, for example, that many of the traditional festivals in fishing communities occur during times of the year when there are few ongoing fishing activities. By scheduling such events when there is time to participate in them, community members are afforded opportunities for much-needed diversion while there is otherwise little work to be done. Moreover, even when the scheduling of certain community festivals corresponds with particular observances in the religious calendar of the larger or national culture, they may still lend emphasis to practical benefits. Thus, in many fishing communities the festivals that are particularly emphasized often take place just prior to the opening of a new fishing season, and commonplace in these are the presentation of newly refurbished fishing boats before a religious specialist, or their display in a religious ceremony or procession. On a practical level the preparations for such rituals compel readying the fishing boats for the coming season. At the same time, the religious content of the festival may also recognize the risks, uncertainties, and dangers that will accompany fishing activities, thereby helping the seafarers to psychologically cope with the adversities they soon will face.
However, not all the cultural practices of a fishing community should be assumed to be rooted in practical concerns. Indeed, where human beings are concerned, tradition and custom, individual preferences, and matters of taste may also have considerable force. In contemporary Portugal, for example, middle- and upper-income urbanites still purchase and consume salt-dried cod, even though modern freezing and refrigeration technologies now make available to them a wide variety of other fresh seafood. To many modern Portuguese, the flesh of salt cod, once properly restored through soaking, has a texture and taste which is far superior to that of fresh cod. Their strong dietary preference for salt cod arose over four centuries, during which time salt cod was "the beef of Europe," with much of it supplied by Portuguese fishers who traveled to the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland (Kurlansky 1997).
Thus, these food preferences in Portugal, a developed country, compel sustaining methods of fish processing and preservation that are more often associated with developing countries. And analogous behavior can be seen in many other societies and cultures around the world, where a high demand for seafood which has been processed by traditional methods is still upheld, even though modern refrigeration and rapid transport now make available a wide variety of fresh seafood at lower prices.
All small-scale fishers develop intimate, detailed, and functionally-oriented knowledge of the marine ecosystems they exploit and the main species they target. When this knowledge has accumulated over long time spans it is often referred to among social scientists as "traditional ecological knowledge," or TEK. But whether acquired through long-term experience or instead acquired relatively recently, all fishers quickly amass knowledge that will help them to exploit particular marine ecosystems.
As such, small-scale fishers can be likened to amateur marine biologists, but with one important difference: whereas modern marine-biological science is broadly concerned with all living organisms that are immersed in or washed by seawater, at the same time being concerned with their forms, origins, growth patterns, reproduction, physiology, genetics, and ecological connections, small-scale fishers are mainly concerned with knowledge that will help them to catch particular marine organisms. This is not to say that they do not speculate more broadly on the nature of the marine organisms that they target, because most do. But for the most part their marine-ecological knowledge has a utilitarian purpose.
Intimate and Functionally Oriented Knowledge of Marine
In an article titled, "Ethnoichthyology of the Cha-Cha,"
Morrill (1967) describes sophisticated marine-ecological knowledge which has
been developed among the Cha-Cha small-scale fishers of the Virgin Islands, a
distinct ethnic group living there. If ichthyology is that branch of zoological
science dealing with fishes, then "ethno-ichthyology" is a particular ethnic
group's "science" in that same regard. Morill's description of Cha-Cha
"ichthyology" underscores the utilitarian purposes of their knowledge. Thus,
while modern ichthyology's classificatory system distinguishes fish species
mainly on the basis of different morphological characteristics, Cha-Cha
"ichthyology" distinguishes them more on the basis of their behavior,
particularly behavior which is pertinent to their capture. Considerable
cumulative experience gained from observing fish behavior and catching various
species is therefore central to their knowledge. At the same time, their
marine-ecological knowledge also suggests the likelihood that certain species
that are caught in certain marine environments may carry ciguatera, a
deadly poison. Thus, the Cha-Cha's marine ecological knowledge addresses
decidedly practical concerns.
As mentioned earlier, most small-scale fishers take an extensive approach to fishing, targeting several different species living in the marine ecosystems they depend upon. And because most small-scale fishers work close to home and cannot easily move to other fisheries should the ecosystems they depend upon collapse, most are concerned with ensuring that the marine ecosystems they depend upon are sustained in good health. In that sense, their marine-ecological knowledge, which reflects both their extensive approaches to fishing as well as their dependency on only one or a few marine ecosystems, holds important potentials for informing modern fisheries-management practices and policies. Indeed, compared with most small-scale fishing communities, modern fisheries-management science has only recently turned its concerns from managing single species to managing whole ecosystems.
In some regions, small-scale fishers' specialized ecological knowledge has also helped them to subsist in a fishery after it has been invaded by technologically more sophisticated fishers. However, this is often only a short-term advantage, which declines over time as their competitors gain experience which enables them to fish more effectively.
Intimate and Functionally Oriented Knowledge of Marine
Cordell (1974) describes impoverished small-scale fishers in
Brazil who exploit a tropical estuarine ecosystem, relying on detailed knowledge
of its complex and ever-changing geographic and hydrographic dynamics. Their
knowledge of this system's daily, monthly, and annual tidal cycles, and how
these affect the productivity of various submerged microenvironments, informs
their decisions concerning where and when to focus their fishing efforts, as
well as the fishing gear to be utilized. This specialized knowledge has
accumulated from their long association with this ecosystem, and, Cordell
argues, is the main factor permitting them to subsist from these fisheries, even
after being invaded by technologically more sophisticated commercial fishers who
did not have this specialized knowledge.
For example, Ohmagari (1999), who worked with the Cree people living around Hudson Bay, describes how their traditional beliefs have long emphasized that to have a good life they had to know how to hunt and fish. In former times it was mainly the men who hunted and the women who fished. But nowadays, while the Cree culture is still rich with ancient traditions and beliefs, hunting and fishing skills are generally transferred mostly to the men, while many Cree women have stopped involvement in fishing activities. At the same time, more women than men seemed successful in completing formal schooling and moved away. Thus, women no longer play active roles in fishing activities and in fishing camps as they did in previous times. Furthermore, Ohmagari notes, traditional knowledge and skills among the Cree are now being transferred in still other new ways. For example, because many women do not want to soil their hands while cleaning fish, many now defer learning how to clean fish until later in life, and some avoid learning it altogether. This amounts to an incomplete transfer of the Cree's TEK, which the older generation of Cree greatly lament, but which the younger Cree seem less concerned about, emphasizing that they are still young and will learn it eventually.
In a similar vein, Freeman (1999), in his work with the Inuit in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, observes that many young Inuit were disinterested in TEK that was entailed in processing walrus. But eventually, he thinks, a day will come when these young people will realize that their mothers and fathers will not be around much longer, and then they will become more interested. The philosopher Socrates, he notes, observed that the older members of human societies often feel the youth do not measure up, yet when their time comes they usually do.
How then might fisheries officials benefit from better understanding the marine-ecological knowledge of small-scale fishing communities? Over the past decade many social scientists and some fisheries scientists have devoted considerable effort to learning more about small-scale fishers' marine-ecological knowledge, feeling this may hold important keys for bringing about better fisheries management in the future. And for the most part, these efforts have illuminated the existence and richness of such knowledge in various small-scale fishing communities.
Because small-scale fishers usually have considerable knowledge concerning where, when, and how to catch fish, their marine-ecological knowledge has significantly informed stock-assessment efforts in some regions. It has also been decisive in efforts to promote cooperative co-management regimes, with diverse participants in certain fisheries illuminating subtleties of ecological information that fisheries officials and scientists knew little about (e.g., see Akimichi's description of attempts to develop cooperative co-management regimes in Southwestern Japan, appearing in Annex 10.1 of this report).
But otherwise, what is known concerning how to incorporate and apply fishers' marine-ecological knowledge into modern fisheries management remains mostly theoretical and still in the experimental stage. For the most part, small-scale fishers' marine-ecological knowledge is transmitted orally and rarely written down, making it difficult to transfer in a systematic manner to modern fisheries scientists who might wish to formally incorporate it into fisheries-management practices and policies.
Therefore it would be unwise to uncritically assume that small-scale fishers' marine-ecological knowledge will automatically help to bring about wiser and more effective fisheries management, at least not until more is formally known about it. As a report of the FAO (1983: II) reminds us, "Locals have had more incentive to self-regulate a particular fishery than have nomadic roving fleets. However...even locals can over-exploit a stock if there is not adequate social control of the number of local participants." Said otherwise, most small-scale fishers' marine-ecological knowledge is concerned with helping them to catch fish, and far less commonly concerned with constraining fishing effort.
Normative patterns of social organization, social behavior, and social and gender roles greatly influence fisheries activities and other social activities in small-scale fishing communities. Typically there is almost always a division of labor along both gender and age-class lines, with correspondingly different social-role expectations for men, women, children, adults, and the elderly.
Normative gender and age-class roles generally arise from two factors that are interconnected and capable of dynamic change. The first entails the practical requirements of various fishing activities; the second concerns the larger culture of which the fishing community is usually a part, and what it prescribes regarding normative gender and age-class roles. Normative social roles in small-scale fishing communities are therefore mediated by both factors, and are capable of dynamic change, at least within certain limits.
Generally speaking, the social norms in a majority of the world's small-scale fishing communities prescribe that the primary producers be men, especially wherever production activities take place at sea. Women, on the other hand, are usually expected to perform dual roles: first, as the mainstays of their households and children; and second as the mainstays of fish processing, marketing, and distribution. Parallel expectations are typically seen regarding normative roles for male versus female children, and for the elderly. Thus, male children and elderly males are often expected to do work associated with fishing at shore side, working with their male kinsmen, while female children and elderly females are expected to do chores around their homes, working with their female kinsmen.
Yet while the foregoing patterns are normative in a majority of the world's small-scale fishing societies, there are many variations and notable exceptions in different culture regions. In many Asian small-scale fishing societies, for example, women work at sea, whereas in some Muslim societies women are not permitted to work in any fisheries-related activities.
Social norms can also be understood as cultural ideals which are generally subscribed to by the members of a culture, but which they otherwise permit to be flexibly applied as practical necessities require. As ideals rather than rules prescribing social behavior, there is considerable variation in how such norms are interpreted and applied in various human societies. So, for fisheries officials interested in better understanding the cultures of small-scale fishing communities, it will be important to learn not only what the prevailing social norms are, but also to understand how these interact with actual behavior.
Other typical social norms in small-scale fishing communities emphasize the importance of household members mutually supporting one another, even as they pursue distinctly different activities. Especially in many developing countries, for instance, the household may be organized a "household firm," which vertically integrates fisheries production, processing, marketing, and distribution activities. The members of such households are typically expected to work together cooperatively for the mutual benefit of all household members, and may also be expected to work cooperatively and reciprocally with other households, especially those containing their other kinsmen. Moreover, all of a community's households may be expected to work together for the mutual benefit of the entire community, such as by supporting important community rituals and other events.
Social norms are therefore compelled by both immediate practical needs and long-standing traditions and their associated ideologies. They are also compelled at various levels of social organization, ranging from norms prescribing appropriate social behavior between two people to other norms prescribing appropriate relations across a whole community.
Recruitment to fishing crews and other fisheries work groups
Especially in traditional or pre-modern small-scale fishing communities, fishing-crew members and other fisheries-related workers are often recruited more on the basis of their important social ties in the community, rather than on the basis of their particular skills, experience, or labor costs. In such communities fishing crews and workers in other fisheries activities are therefore usually recruited, first, from among household members, and then along ramifications of the fishing community's prevailing kinship system and other important social institutions.
Because high levels of cooperation and coordinated teamwork are essential among crew members who work together at sea, members of kinship groups already having well-established patterns of social relations are usually more likely to work together effectively than are groups of randomly-selected and comparative strangers. Moreover, because small-scale fishers and others working in fisheries activities often experience periods without incomes, they are more likely to find interim support from their close kinsmen than they are from more socially-distant persons. Furthermore, by recruiting working groups along ramifications of household and kinship ties, there is a better chance of keeping incomes within these domains.
Unfortunately, where there is a strong emphasis on recruiting workers from within kinship groups, unnecessarily inflated levels of employment in fisheries activities may also result. Such practices, while promoting widespread participation and full employment, may also result in low incomes among the participants, not to mention undue pressures on fisheries resources.
However, there are also exceptions to the foregoing patterns of work-group recruitment in many traditional or pre-modern small-scale fishing communities. Small-scale fishers in Okinawa, for example, strive to have their close kinsmen work on different boats to minimize the potential loss to their families should a vessel be lost (Glacken 1955). And while shark fishing boat owners living in a small community on Mexico's Pacific coast hire their co-resident sons, they otherwise avoid hiring their other kinsmen living in the community, instead reciprocally hiring the kinsmen of other boat owners with whom they are not related (McGoodwin 1976). In that way, the boat owners assure their kinsmen who do not live with them find employment, and at the same time avoid employer/employee relationships with them.
Different fisheries activities may also require and reinforce different social norms in different contexts in the same small-scale fishing community. For example, while high degrees of cooperation and coordinated teamwork may be required of persons who are engaged in capture fishing at sea, high degrees of competitive individualism may be required of persons who are engaged in marketing activities.
On the other hand, where small-scale fishing communities have made the transition to more modern modes of social and economic organization, the prevailing social norms will likely compel higher degrees of competitive individualism in practically all spheres of social life. Fishing-crew members, for instance, may be recruited more on the basis of their skills, experience, and cost, with their relationships to their employers more like those seen among industrial-wage laborers. Similarly, in communities having a more modern ethos, some household members may choose not to support fisheries activities and instead follow other pursuits, including pursuits that prompt them to leave the community.
In modernized communities there will generally be lower degrees of social cohesion in the community's various social spheres than was seen before its transformation from a tradition-based to a modern community. In the modernized situation, some household members may pursue non-fishing and more individualistic aspirations, the community's "household firms" may interact more competitively, and collectively the households may make fewer contributions to community events. Higher degrees of anomie and disaffection may also be seen among community members, as well as higher degrees of associated problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental disorder, and criminal behavior.
The primary producers are usually men
In most small-scale fishing communities, the primary producers are usually men. This is especially the case regarding fishing activities that take place some distance from the shore. In those situations, the fishers are nearly always adolescent and adult males who are physically able to withstand the rigors of the required seafaring and fishing work.
There are good adaptive reasons for this emphasis on male crew members. For one, fishing is physically demanding work, and because human males are generally somewhat larger, stronger, and have greater upper-body strength than do their female counterparts, on average they are potentially more productive. Another reason is that human societies rely on women's reproductive capabilities for sustaining their populations, and because offshore fishing is potentially very hazardous, that sustainability is less threatened by having mainly men, rather than women, working at sea. Furthermore, because in all human societies women are the primary caretakers of infants and small children, potential productivity would be decreased by having crew members on board who must divide their time between fishing and caring for children. Also, most fishing vessels have severe space limitations and limited supplies of food and water, which argues against having persons on board who cannot devote their full energies to production, or, whom in the case of the very young, can make virtually no contribution to production.
Women in small-scale fishing communities
This is not to say that women cannot, or should not, work aboard fishing vessels. Indeed there are notable exceptions to the foregoing general pattern, particularly in Asia, where whole families live and work together at sea. Also, in many fishing societies even when most of the primary producers are men, some women may still be employed aboard fishing vessels, but even then infants and small children are still rarely seen aboard those vessels.
Yet, even if the primary producers in most small-scale fishing are men, there are still great variations in the degree to which this is socially instituted in fishing communities. Moreover, as will be discussed below, changing gender roles in many fishing cultures now permit, and prompt, many more women to find work aboard fishing vessels than was seen only a couple of decades ago.
Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, in a majority of the world's small-scale fishing communities women are still usually expected to perform dual roles: first, as the mainstays of their households and children; and second as the mainstays of fish processing, marketing, and distribution. Women in fishing families therefore usually also take a part of their husbands' catches for their households' immediate food needs, as well as to barter with close relatives and neighbors to provide for other needs--trading fish for vegetables and other items, for example.
In addition, women are often the principals in still other economic relationships in the community, securing credit from local food vendors, for example, to sustain their families between sales of their husbands' catches. In general, women in small-scale fishing communities are usually involved in more numerous, extensive, and complex social networks than are their male counterparts, especially those males who spend much of their time working away from the community.
The multiple roles which women usually play in small-scale fishing communities underscore their fundamental importance in their communities' social and economic spheres, and in particular their crucial importance in sustaining their communities' overall well being. Because of their prominence in these spheres, in small-scale fishing communities women who are involved in fisheries activities usually enjoy more independence, economic autonomy, and social and economic clout than do their female counterparts who are not involved in fisheries activities. Similarly, they are often more prominent in community affairs than are their female counterparts who are not involved in the fisheries. Moreover, because the women in small-scale fishing communities generally spend more of their time in the community than do their male counterparts who work at sea, they often develop more richly ramified local socioeconomic networks. These networks help them to facilitate seafood marketing and distribution, and in larger communities may entail working relationships with people with whom their husbands and other male kinsmen are not acquainted.
In some small-scale fishing communities where the men are gone for long periods of time, matrifocal households may also be seen. These are households organized around the mother-child bond, with household members typically consisting of an adult woman, her children, her mother, and sometimes her sisters and their children as well. This mode of household organization usually arises as an adaptive response to patterns of fishing which take the adult men away from their households and home communities for long periods of time. In those situations, the daily management of households and community affairs falls to the adult women for much of the year. And again, adult women living in matrifocal households usually have considerably more personal autonomy and economic power than do their female counterparts living in the community who do not reside in such households.
In small-scale fishing communities where women also work as primary producers of seafood they usually work in protected waters that are not far from their homes and their children. And in those situations, their production is usually fundamentally important for supplying much of their families' food needs.
In most small-scale fishing communities it is more often women than men who are found working in processing facilities. In these activities they produce vitally-needed cash incomes for their households, sometimes at higher levels and on a steadier and more sustained basis than do their male kinsmen who are engaged in fishing activities. And while this processing work may not be as hazardous as fishing offshore, it often takes place in unhealthy conditions where on-job injuries and job-related medical problems are commonplace.
Women often make important contributions in other fisheries activities as well, such as in marketing and distribution, working with networks of clients, brokers, and others, and making trips to transport fish to distant markets. At the same time, their absences while working in processing, marketing, and distribution activities often work hardships on their other family members, particularly their children. Women also often make still other important contributions in fisheries activities. For example, they may have primary responsibilities for maintaining communications with their husbands while they are away at sea, scheduling maintenance for when the vessel returns, purchasing fishing gear that will need replacing, and alerting prospective buyers about catches that will soon be landed.
Nowadays the most important economic contributions that women make in most small-scale fishing communities remain mainly in fish processing, marketing, and distribution, but as societal conventions regarding appropriate gender and occupational roles rapidly change, women are increasingly making important contributions in primary production as well. These changes in traditional gender roles may make some members of fishing communities feel uncomfortable, and as a result some may strive to prevent women from undertaking these new roles, and in extreme cases some may even strive to dissociate women from their heretofore traditional roles in the fisheries. Ultimately, such retrograde actions can weaken small-scale fishing communities, leaving them less able to remain competitive and progressive in the future. Indeed, in many small-scale fishing communities women's contributions are so essential that without them both fishing activity and everyday community life might come to a virtual standstill.
As gender-role norms and expectations continue to change in various culture regions--especially those regarding women--the traditional patterns heretofore seen in most small-scale fishing communities can be expected to change correspondingly. Now in some developing countries an increasing number of women work as crew members aboard fishing vessels, and in some regions greater numbers of men are seen working in shore-side fisheries activities, which until recently had been sole province of women. But, in general, the women living in most small-scale fishing communities are still expected to serve in a dual capacity, balancing their primary responsibilities in domestic realms with their participation in fisheries activities.
The primary producers are sometimes dissociated socially
Especially among longer-voyage fishers, as well as among those who seasonally occupy fishing camps that are remote from their home communities, a dichotomous pattern of social relations is often seen. This dichotomy entails strong bonds, cooperation, and camaraderie among co-workers at sea, contrasting with conflict, alienation, and superficiality in their interpersonal relations ashore. A variety of severe societal problems often result, including unstable and dysfunctional families, drug, alcohol, and psychological problems, and greater instability and dysfunction in community life in general.
Notes for fisheries officials concerning the social organization of small-scale fishing communities
In small-scale fishing communities the prevailing norms of social organization, social relations, and social behavior, however much they are influenced by the norms of the larger society of which they are usually a part, also incorporate adaptive responses to the requirements of fisheries activities. In other words, many of a fishing community's social norms do not arise arbitrarily and are instead responses to practical necessities. Therefore, fisheries officials who wish to bring about changes in a fishery's management regime must first appreciate the adaptive experience that may be incorporated into the fishing community's social norms, at the same time attempting to anticipate the consequences of the changes they are contemplating.
All small-scale fishing cultures have norms regarding recruitment to fisheries work groups and the division of labor, with the most important distinctions usually being made along gender and age lines. And fisheries officials need to be aware of these norms, understanding that while most permit some flexibility there are also limits to how much they can be changed without prompting undue social, economic, and other problems.
Regarding recruitment to fisheries work groups, for example, where fisheries officials desire to bring about training and certification programs conferring eligibility for participation in fisheries activities, they must first determine what the prevailing norms are regarding recruitment to fisheries work groups. Thus, where prevailing modes of recruitment emphasize selecting workers mainly on the basis of their important local social ties, government-sponsored certification programs may prompt disastrous changes in the community's social life, and indeed may not be feasible. On the other hand, where prevailing modes of recruitment are more congruent with modern modes of recruitment, such programs may be well received, function smoothly, and bring real benefits to a fishing community.
The multiple and very-important roles which women play in small-scale fishing communities also requires that women be integral considerations in programs aiming to change fisheries-management policies and practices. In some cases programs aimed at providing support for women in small-scale fishing communities may do more to enhance the well being of community members than will programs that focus only on enhancing production or increasing the effectiveness of fisheries management.
Fisheries officials would also be well advised not to promote management practices and policies that increase the dissociation of primary producers from their households and communities. On this view, programs encouraging fishers to stay out longer, or which predicate eligibility to fish on the basis of being a more full- rather than part-time fisher may be ill advised, with whatever gains in management effectiveness and productivity more than offset by increased social problems within the community. Generally speaking, where small-scale fishers work mainly as day trippers and are rarely away from their homes for more than a day, their social relationships with their families, households, and communities will be sustained in better health.
Few land-based occupations confront their participants with the risk of losing all of their productive capital, as well as their lives, every time they go to work. Yet these possibilities are commonplace among many small-scale fishers. Indeed, both large- and small-scale approaches to fishing comprise some of the most hazardous and economically risky occupations in the world, and in many developing countries these risks are formidable indeed (see Ben-Yami 2000, for an excellent and comprehensive overview of the risks and dangers confronting small-scale fishers).
Particularly in developing countries, small-scale fishers are seldom equipped with modern lifesaving gear such as life jackets or survival suits, and many do not have access to timely weather advisories or effective communications, nor can they count on rescue services should they run into danger while at sea. Moreover, while serious bodily injuries are commonplace in both large- and small-scale approaches to ocean fishing, in developing countries many small-scale fishers do not have access to adequate medical care should they become injured while fishing.
Not only that, but fishers frequently experience economic reversals due to factors beyond their control. For no apparent reason certain fish species may not be available when or where they usually are, or they may undergo wide fluctuations in their stock levels, and these factors makes their availability difficult to foresee in advance. Moreover, most fish species are not evenly distributed, requiring fishers to locate them first, while unanticipated changes in water conditions, weather, and fish behavior may similarly undermine fishers' success.
In small-scale fishing communities, many of the risks and uncertainties associated with fishing activities are mitigated in straight-forward ways, which can be appraised as cultural adaptations that are simply good common sense: for example, ceasing to fish and staying in port when severe weather is impending. But small-scale fishing communities also have other cultural adaptations to the risks and uncertainties associated with fishing activities which are more complex.
Taking a conservative approach
Successful fishers must take great risks, calculated rather than reckless risks, to be sure, but great risks nevertheless. At the same time, sustaining fishing effort year after year requires that small-scale fishers take a conservative approach to fishing. Some of the more important factors requiring this conservative approach are: first, inability to accurately forecast stock availability and future fish catches; second, inability to accurately forecast future market prices for fish catches; third, inability to accurately forecast future weather and water conditions; fourth, often difficult and inadequate access to medical and life insurance; fifth, often difficult and inadequate access to business insurance which might spread some of the risks and uncertainties among other participants engaged in fishing; and sixth, often difficult and inadequate access to credit for sustaining routine fishing activities.
Maintaining occupational pluralism
Maintaining occupational pluralism in small-scale fishing communities is an important means for minimizing the risks and uncertainties that are associated with fishing activities. Because the sea is an unpredictable provider, most small-scale fishers are required to have other means of livelihood they can turn to when fishing activities are not productive. Typically, most small-scale fishers follow a seasonal round that emphasizes fishing during certain seasons, as well as other, non-fisheries activities at other times. These other non-fishing activities may include animal husbandry, farming, gardening, wage labor, craft production, wood gathering, and hunting. Moreover, all of the foregoing activities (i.e., both fishing and non-fishing activities) follow a seasonal round or cycle. In essence they are analogous to economic-diversification which spreads economic risk by investing one's time in several different productive activities during the year.
When small-scale fishers turn away from the fisheries to pursue other economic activities this reduces fishing mortality and gives stocks time to recover. Thus, not only does maintaining occupational pluralism in fishing communities reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with fishing activities, it often serves conservationist and fisheries-management aims as well.
Share-payment compensation systems
Small-scale fishers also mitigate the economic risks and uncertainties associated with fishing activities by developing compensation systems which differ markedly from those seen among most of their non-fishing counterparts. Because the outcome of most fishing effort is rather uncertain, fishers are almost never compensated on the basis of hours worked. Nor are "count systems" very often seen, which compensate them on the basis of the number or weight of fish landed.
Instead most are compensated on the basis of predetermined shares or fractions of the proceeds from their catches, which are distributed to them after expenses for the fishing effort are first taken out. Indeed, share-payment compensation systems are so commonplace in small-scale fishing cultures that they are practically ubiquitous in developing and developed countries, as well as among fishers having radically different cultural orientations.
Share-payment compensation systems promote cooperative behavior, making fishers co-participants in a common endeavor, at the same time spreading among them the risks and uncertainties of that endeavor. And because they are jointly involved in a common endeavor, important decisions aboard fishing vessels are usually arrived at in a consensual manner.
Even then, because the incomes of fellow crew members are usually far from certain, share-payment compensation systems may also compel fishers to work at or near the limits of what they perceive to be acceptable risk-another factor which makes fishing one of the world's most dangerous occupations. Similarly, share-compensation systems may also compel some fishing crews to violate fisheries regulations, which can have deleterious consequences for fish stocks and also confound their working relationships with fisheries officials.
Difficult and inadequate access to medical, life, and business insurance, and to credit for sustaining fishing activities
Even in developed countries, small-scale fishers often experience difficult and inadequate access to medical and life insurance. A major reason is often their economic marginality in the societies in which they live, combined with the prohibitive costs of such services stemming from the high actuarial risks associated with fishing activities. And these difficulties are even more formidable among small-scale fishers in developing countries.
Small-scale fishers often mitigate the risks associated with their difficulties of obtaining medical and life insurance in various ways: by taking a conservative approach to fishing, for example, or by having family members work aboard different vessels, as mentioned earlier. But for most fishers their vulnerability to physical risks remains an irreducible problem.
Regarding the economic risks associated with fishing activity, small-scale fishers also typically experience difficult or even non-existent access to business insurance which might defray some of the economic risks that are associated with their activities. Unlike farmers who are able to purchase crop insurance, most small-scale fishers, including most living in developed countries, have difficulty obtaining analogous services. Again, this is usually a result of their economic marginality combined with the high actuarial risks associated with their fishing activities, which would make the cost of such insurance prohibitively high.
Hence in many small-scale fishing communities more affluent community members, such as food merchants, boat owners, fish brokers, middlemen, and other business persons, often extend economic protections which are analogous to business insurance. Unfortunately, this protection is usually very costly to fishers and typically entails requirements that they sell their catches at predetermined prices and only to certain buyers. Otherwise, business insurance at a reasonable cost which might defray the economic risks of fishing activities remains lacking in most small-scale fishing communities.
Perhaps even more problematic is small-scale fishers' difficult and inadequate access to credit for sustaining routine fishing activities. In many small-scale fishing communities, while various local persons such as those mentioned above may provide such credit, because of the high degrees of risk and uncertainty associated with fishing activities it is generally extended at a high cost. Thus, although credit may be extended along ramifications of the community's social and economic organization, as an extension, for example, of ongoing face-to-face personal relationships in its kinship and other social networks, it may still not be extended on favorable terms because of the high degrees of risk entailed.
Of course, fishers' difficult and inadequate access to credit is even more problematic in developing countries, where fishing outcomes are generally less productive and often more uncertain, and where financial capital is even more scarce. In these countries small-scale fishers' inadequate access to credit may unduly constrain fishing production and even leave valuable stocks under-utilized. From a fisheries-management perspective, undue levels of caution in fishing effort may therefore result, as well as a general loss of potential income and food security in the fishing community.
In some small-scale fishing communities, local fishers may develop cultural institutions apart from their kinship and other social and economic networks that help to facilitate their access to credit. Savings associations may be instituted, for example, which make available loans for sustaining fishing activities. But even then the high risk of fishing activities, combined with the scarcity of capital which practically defines most small- scale fishers, makes accumulating levels of financial capital which might significantly increase fishing productivity very difficult to do, and especially so among small-scale fishers living in developing countries.
Therefore providing small-scale fishers with adequate credit on reasonable terms will usually require that this credit be extended by entities which are external to their communities-at least until the fishers' own financial positions are sufficiently strengthened (readers are encouraged to explore Annex 10.2 of this report, describing how small-scale fishing communities in Nigeria were strengthened by connecting their traditional, community-based credit organizations with a modern lending bank).
Coping with the irreducible
...since man is mortal and conscious of his mortality, there remains a domain of the irreducible, a range of contingencies beyond the reach of technological or organizational solution. Coping with hazards to life and limb, especially in so hostile an environment as the ocean, to a terrestrial species is to cope with the irreducible and, thus, often involves the use of ritual magic (Poggie and Gersuny 1974: 89).While the cultural adaptations discussed above help reduce fishing's risks and uncertainties, irreducible risks still remain which no cultural adaptations can help fishers to avoid. Thus, even while ocean fishing generally recruits individuals who demonstrate higher-than-average propensities for taking personal and economic risks, the risks and uncertainties they still must face remain difficult for them to cope with psychologically.
As a result many fishers develop elaborate sets of magical beliefs, ritualized behaviors, and taboos which facilitate their psychological coping with these irreducible risks. As such, these beliefs and behaviors are important components of their cultures that help to sustain fishing effort.
In most small-scale fishing cultures such beliefs and behaviors are less often seen in comparatively low-risk fishing activities, those taking place in protected inshore waters, for example, whereas they are much more often seen in association with offshore fishing activities. Similarly, day trippers generally manifest lower degrees of these beliefs and behaviors than do fishers whose trips take them to sea for longer than a day. Overall magical beliefs, ritualized behaviors, and taboos are more often associated with risks to personal safety than they are with economic risks (see Burrows and Spiro 1953, Lessa 1966, Malinowski 1954: 31, Poggie and Pollnac 1988, and Poggie, Pollnac, and Gersuny 1976). And still other reasons have been proposed for the ubiquity of such beliefs and behaviors among fishing people. Orbach (1977: 210-211), for example, proposes that they help to alleviate boredom among crew members while they are at sea, while Palmer (1989: 59) proposes that they also help to facilitate cooperation.
Notes for fisheries officials concerning risks and uncertainties in fishing activities
Ocean fishing presents its participants with extreme risks, both physically and economically. Therefore an integral part of a fishery's management policy should aim to reduce these risks to the extent possible. Heretofore, fisheries officials have mainly worked to reduce fishers' economic risks and uncertainties by managing their access to fisheries and sustaining important fish stocks. In the future, however, they should consider taking on a more expanded role.
For instance, fisheries officials should also help to facilitate fishers' access to lifesaving and communications gear, rescue services, and medical and life insurance. At the same time they should bear in mind the importance of maintaining a balanced approach to fishing activities in small-scale fishing communities. Thus, it will usually be ill advised to promote changes in a fishery which may compel less conservative approaches to fishing while not correspondingly developing more effective safety standards.
Fisheries officials who wish to bring about changes in small-scale fishing communities should also first assess the importance of occupational pluralism in these communities. If it seems likely that the changes they are contemplating will decrease a community's occupational pluralism, they should consider whether this may also decrease the community's overall economic security and sustainability (see Kurien 1998, and McGoodwin 1997, regarding the foregoing problems in small-scale fishing communities in developing countries).
Sustaining share-payment compensation systems should also be understood as an important means of reducing the risks and uncertainties accruing to participants in fishing activities. Thus, fisheries officials should approach with caution the promotion of different compensation systems.
Fisheries officials should also help to reduce fishers' economic risks by facilitating their access to business insurance that is analogous to the crop insurance which is available to farmers in many parts of the world. And perhaps more important, they should explore means of increasing fishers' access to credit that might increase their productivity, incomes, and food security.
Finally, fisheries officials should not regard fishers' magical beliefs, ritualized behaviors, and taboos as mere "superstitions," assuming these have little practical relevance for fisheries management. These cultural traits often help fishers to cope with irreducible risks, alleviate boredom, and promote cooperation, and as such may have an important impact on overall fishing effort.
The ways in which fishermen perceive, define, delimit, "own" and defend their rights to inshore fishing grounds--or their "sea tenure"-is one of the most significant "discoveries" to emerge from the last ten years of research in maritime anthropology...[even if] they are nothing new to fishermen (Ruddle and Akimichi 1984: 1).Community-based fisheries management is management by fishing people themselves, and can be distinguished from management that is instituted by government authority. In the literature on fishing communities it also goes by other names, including "folk management," "localized management," "self management," "indigenous management," "traditional management," "traditional sea tenure," "organic management," "grass-roots management," and "bottom-up management." It is mainly the purview of small-scale fishing communities, nearly all of which have important management beliefs and practices that they maintain, even in spite of attempts by external managers to suppress or eliminate them.
Factors compelling community-based management in small-scale fishing cultures
Three main factors compel community-based management in small-scale fishing cultures: first, fishing spaces are usually legally instituted as common-property resources; second, the boundaries of fishing spaces are usually difficult to precisely mark; and third, fishing spaces are usually vulnerable to incursions by competitors coming from outside small-scale fishing communities. As Ruddle and Akimichi (1984: 1) succinctly stated these problems:
...their uncertain, weak or contested tenurial status is one of the principal difficulties encountered by small-scale fishermen in many parts of the world.Most often the members of small-scale fishing communities assert their rights to certain marine resources on the basis of their membership in particular families, kinship groups, or communities which have traditionally utilized those resources. Seldom are their claims recorded in written documents, nor are they often asserted as "ownership" rights in a modern-conventional sense. Instead, they are asserted in terms of the conceptual inseparability of the human cultures utilizing these resources and the resources themselves. Yet, problematically and contradictorily, contemporary political units such as districts, states, and nations have often instituted rights to marine resources on the basis of other criteria, while remaining ignorant of the rights which local peoples have long asserted.
Small-scale fishers usually assert their rights on the basis of internally-developed beliefs and practices which they have instituted for managing the fisheries they utilize. But unfortunately, there may be little awareness about these practices beyond their communities, while the practices themselves may be so enmeshed in a community's local organization, history, folklore, and other aspects of its traditional culture that they may seem practically incomprehensible to fisheries officials who attempt to learn more about them (see Nietschmann 1989: 65, and Johannes and MacFarlane 1984).
The foregoing factors set the stage for conflicts in which small-scale fishing communities often come out the losers. As Cordell (1984: 301) observes:
Matters of sea rights close to the shore involving fisheries are a source of escalating conflicts among ethnic groups, inshore and offshore fleets, central and local governments and competing marine commercial interests of all kinds.Thus, in various coastal fisheries conflicts between small- and larger-scale fishers have been escalating for several decades, and while a few isolated groups of small-scale fishers have made momentary gains, most have been progressively marginalized by these conflicts. And, while collectively both groups have often been responsible for over fishing in certain coastal waters, the most harmful human consequences have usually been seen in the small-scale fishing communities (see Clark 1991, and Karnjanakesorn 1992).
Some of these conflicts have also entailed the destruction of the more "passive" fishing gear which are typically utilized by many small-scale fishers by the more "aggressive" fishing gear which is utilized by larger-scale fishers, especially those engaged in trawling. Bailey (1987: 173), for example, observes that conflicts between fishers utilizing "passive" versus "active" gear are pervasive throughout Southeast Asia and much of the Indonesian archipelago.
Many of the foregoing conflicts between small-scale fishers and other fishers have also been fueled by ambiguous, never-recorded, never-codified, never-resolved, or resurgent claims regarding rights to certain fisheries resources, and these conflicts have spawned a robust and growing literature concerning traditional systems of "sea tenure" (e.g., Cordell, ed. 1989, Dyer and McGoodwin, eds. 1994, Johannes 1977 and 1978, McCay and Acheson, eds. 1987, Ruddle and Akimichi, eds. 1984, and Ruddle and Johannes, eds., 1985). A closely related literature regarding the "common-property problem" has also sprung up in recent years (e.g., Bromley, gen. ed. 1992, Hardin 1968, and McCay and Acheson, eds. 1987).
Regarding the foregoing issues, Ruddle (1993) focuses on severe problems among traditional community-based small-scale fishers when their long-asserted traditional tenure claims regarding certain fisheries have been overwhelmed by modern-industrial fishing enterprises. He states:
In the Asia-Pacific region, as throughout the world, traditional community-based marine resource management systems are increasingly affected by external factors that cause stresses and often lead to radical change in systems, including their demise (p. 1).Ruddle goes on to discuss a particularly grievous contemporary conflict in the tuna-bait fisheries in the South Pacific:
In the South Pacific perhaps the single most important and widespread inshore fisheries problem involving traditional community-based fisheries management systems occurs where tenured waters are also used by industrial fisheries to obtain live bait for the pole-and-line tuna industry. Since tuna is undoubtedly the most important renewable natural resource in the region, and an essential source of export earnings, this has become a high level policy issue (p. 18).Similarly, traditional small-scale fishers in the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, have recently been pressing their rights to fisheries based upon traditions, customs, and laws which have long been asserted amongst themselves, but which otherwise contradict rights conferred by national and international law with respect to certain marine ecosystems and the resources within them. Overall the various legal regimes-community, national, and international--and their corresponding policies are often contradictory, disconnected, incomparable, unclear, or inadequate for facilitating the harmonious use and management of coastal marine resources in this region (Tom'Tavala 1990).
These incongruities between management policies at various levels are problematic for many small-scale fishing communities around the world. And they will not be easily resolved in the near future, for in essence they entail conflicts between radically different cultures and subcultures. Hence, while many small-scale fishing communities now press their claims on the basis of how the world used to be, they are opposed by others who press their claims on the basis of how the world is now, and how they would like it to be in the future.
So it was no exaggeration when Ruddle and Akimichi stated that small-scale fishers' uncertain, weak or contested tenurial status is one of the principal difficulties they face. It is also what most compels them to institute community-based management.
Community-based management strategies
The most common community-based fisheries-management strategies employed by small-scale fishers are these: limiting access to fishing spaces, including limiting access by extra-legal means; political activism and violent actions; information management; etiquette; observance of ritual behaviors and taboos; and biological control that is analogous to modern fisheries management strategies which are rooted in biological and conservationist concerns.
Limiting access to fishing spaces
Without a doubt, the most common community-based management strategies employed by small-scale fishers entail attempts to prevent or frustrate the entry of "outsiders" in the fishing spaces or territories they rely upon, rather than attempts to control fishing effort. The main idea is to reduce competitive pressures in certain spaces or territories by asserting prior rights in much the same manner as asserting a property right.
In practically all small-scale fishing communities the community members who are involved in fishing develop proprietary interests in the marine ecosystems they exploit, asserting that they have certain prior rights of access to these. Such assertions often extend as well to the localized marketing systems through which their catches are distributed. Moreover, the members of small-scale fishing communities will usually assert these claims regardless of whether they are formally recognized by higher authority, and often in spite of laws or regulations explicitly denying them.
The foregoing claims are generally easier for small-scale fishing communities to assert and enforce in inshore and coastal fisheries, while being progressively more difficult to assert and enforce when they pertain to fisheries that are situated further from the communities, or further from the shore. Especially in shallow inshore waters, certain fishing spaces may be fairly easy to delineate or mark, and in many small-scale fishing communities these may be owned in much the same manner as land. In these cases, the proprietors may be individuals, families or kinship groups, or all the residents of a particular community. Where ownership of such spaces has legal recognition by higher government authorities, they can often be bought and sold, as well as passed down to the owners' heirs or other successors.
Unfortunately, formal recognition and support from higher governmental authority for small-scale fishing communities' claims of ownership of certain fishing spaces is not commonplace. Instead what is more commonplace is that such spaces are instituted as common-property by higher government authority, leaving the members of small-scale fishing communities to assert what they feel to be their rights however they can.
Acheson (1988), for example, describes community-based lobster fishers in Maine, United States, who for several generations have maintained sustainable levels of community fishing effort by defining access rights within their communities. Their localized practices include discouraging the entry of outsiders by making threats, and, at times, destroying their fishing gear. Similarly, Andersen (1979 and 1982) and Martin (1979), describe small-scale fishers living in small, semi-isolated communities along the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, whose "clannishness" tends to keeps outsiders away. And Johannes (1978) describes pre-modern and contemporary native fishers in various parts of Oceania who have developed community-based fisheries-ownership institutions that prevent incursions by outsiders. Lofgren (1982) similarly describes small-scale fishing communities in Sweden, whose fisheries are partly closed to incursions by outsiders. And Rockwood (1973) describes insular small-scale oyster-fishing communities in Florida, United States, who utilize kinship ties to define possible participants in the fisheries they exploit, while employing various means of excluding outsiders. Similarly, Suttles (1974) describes rural fishers in Washington, United States, who prevent outsiders from entering the fisheries they exploit.
In a few cultures keeping "outsiders" out of small-scale fisheries has been guaranteed by government sanction, resulting in a significant reduction of conflict. Japan, for example, from feudal to present-day times, provides several excellent cases in point, as do the pre-colonial Philippines and most of Oceania prior to European colonization (see Ruddle and Akimichi 1984, and Zengoryen 1984, regarding Japan and Okinawa; Blair and Robertson 1905, regarding the Philippines; and Johannes 1978, regarding Oceania).
Limiting access by extra-legal means
One of the most problematic ways local fishers assert their claims to fisheries resources is by resorting to extra-legal or illegal means. This most often occurs in common-property, open-access fisheries and is particularly commonplace among small-scale fishers. Some of the extra-legal methods employed may be comparatively benign, such as social ostracism, verbal abuse, providing misleading information, and failure to render aid to boats that have broken down. But others may include attacks on people, the destruction or theft of competitors' fishing gear, burning competitors' boats, and other forms of sabotage. Indeed, extra-legal strategies can be arrayed on a continuum, with subtle intimidation and verbal abuse at one end, various sorts of sabotage and assaults on individuals somewhere in the middle, and more broadly organized and armed conflict at the furthest extreme.
Small-scale fishers' assertions of their rights of access are illegal when they contradict a formally instituted legal regime that gives a government agency the prerogative of prescribing rights of access. Yet, quite characteristic of small-scale fishing cultures, many do just this. As Andersen (1982: 24) observes:
...the development of public, legally enacted management schemes often does not stop the exercise of indigenous strategies for self-regulation, not even when the new legal managerial regimes render the indigenous strategies illegal.At times the extra-legal methods employed by small-scale fishers may duplicate or parallel the government's rules and policies, in which case they will have little impact on the operation of the formally-instituted management regime. But at other times they may directly oppose the legally instituted regime and greatly confound and complicate its smooth operation, giving rise to bitter conflicts between fishers and fisheries officials.
Fisheries officials must therefore anticipate the likelihood that small-scale fishers will develop extra-legal means for controlling entry into the fisheries they depend upon. However much they may regard such behavior as illegal, this will not make it go away, nor will it help to establish more effective management policies. Indeed, they may even discover that some extra-legal community-based approaches are worthy of being capitalized upon.
Effective Extra-legal Community-based
One of the best known and most thoroughly described examples
of extra-legal community-based management is found in Acheson's descriptions of
the Maine lobster fishery in the United States (e.g., 1972, 1975, 1987, and
1988). Maine lobstermen, he notes, have long resisted government attempts to
manage their fisheries by striving to restrict access themselves. Without legal
sanction for doing so the members of various lobster-fishing communities
prescribe which community members have rights to fish in waters surrounding
their communities. At the same time, they prevent outsiders from utilizing these
fisheries. Theoretically, anybody wishing to fish in these fisheries can do so
if they buy the necessary licenses and abide by the various state and federal
laws. But in practice access to these fisheries by non-permitted community
members and "outsiders" is actively discouraged by the local fishers, who may
subject interlopers to verbal or physical abuse, release of their catches, and
destruction of their gear. Perhaps most important, Acheson presents convincing
data showing that these long-standing, extra-legal, community-based management
practices have sustained lobster stocks at healthy levels while providing
adequate returns to local harvesters for several generations.
The foregoing comprise some of the important ways that small-scale fishers strive to reduce competition. However, increasingly these days, and generally quite unlike their more individualistic and apolitical predecessors living only a generation or two ago, small-scale fishers are resorting to political activism, and in some cases to violent actions as well. Some have organized themselves and petitioned to secure subsidies from their governments to help defray the costs of fuel and fishing gear; others have promoted the formation of cooperatives which might enhance their bargaining power in fish markets; and still others have worked to see their rights of access and territorial claims made explicit in legal systems.
A good example of successful political activism concerns traditional and ethnically distinct gill-net and drift-net fishers in North Yemen's Red Sea fisheries, who, after suffering gear destruction and resource declines when trawlers entered their traditional fishing grounds, organized politically, threatened violent actions, and eventually got their central government to withdraw permission for the trawlers to operate there (Thomson 1980: 3). In the Niger Delta, on the other hand, violent clashes between different tribal groups occupying seasonal fishing camps led to an understanding among the conflicting groups that the camps and their areas of fishing operations would have to be kept well apart. And along Spain's Costa Brava, after tourism development threatened small-scale fishers' use of traditional beach-landing sites, they organized politically and eventually won government recognition of their exclusive rights to access these sites, as well as recognition for other important rights (Pi-Sunyer 1976).
Unfortunately, in the currently volatile era, which is characterized by unprecedented high rates of social, economic, and political change, an increasing number of small-scale fishers have also striven to secure their fishing rights by resorting to violent actions against competing fishers. In some regions, for example, small-scale fishers have been moved to violent action after suffering severe conflicts as trawling and purse-seining fleets increasingly entered their traditional fishing grounds. Their strident protests have involved not only legal political protests, but also rioting and violent acts against trawl fishers. And in a few regions such actions have been decisive in bringing about government decrees banning coastal trawling, while also proclaiming that small-scale fishers will be the priority group in future fisheries-development programs (Thomson 1980; and Bailey 1986). But even then, small-scale fishers' gains have often turned out to be only temporary, especially in certain developing countries which continue to experience rapid social, economic, and political change.
It will therefore help if fisheries officials recognize that political activism and even violent actions on the part of small-scale fishing communities are usually motivated by their need for protection of their rights of access to certain fishing spaces. Most small-scale fishers are inherently apolitical and only compelled to engage in political activism when their livelihoods are threatened. Thus, where small-scale fishers have resorted to violent actions, fisheries officials should strive to understand why, and where practical to remove the conditions that compelled them to do so. They should also promote the education of fishing people regarding their rights of political participation, affording them better opportunities for achieving their goals through peaceful and lawful political action. As Le Sann (1998: 83) emphasizes:
...It is absolutely vital to restore the role of fishworkers and their communities in resource management, and that their access rights and rights to participate in their own development are upheld...only by organization can power be restored to fishworkers and only thus can be created the conditions necessary for the rational management of fish stocks and the marine environment.Information management and maintaining skill differences
Small-scale fishers also strive to reduce competition in the fisheries they depend upon by managing information and maintaining skill differences. This usually entails maintaining secrecy about productive fishing spots, including withholding information about when fish may be available, deliberately misinforming potential competitors about the foregoing, and a reluctance to share knowledge concerning skills and fishing methods that confer success in fishing effort.
It may be that these actions help to prevent the entry of competitors in a fishery and even reduce overall fishing effort, but in most cases their impact is minimal. Indeed, these propositions have been subjected to testing and careful scrutiny by various social scientists, with their results remaining contradictory or inconclusive (e.g., Andersen 1972, Cordell 1974, Forman 1967, Gatewood 1987, Orth 1987, Pálsson 1988, and Thorlindsson 1988).
What is more certain is that small-scale fishers tend to hoard information and skills in direct proportion to how vulnerable they feel the resources they depend upon are. Therefore, fisheries officials may interpret the extent of such community-based actions as diagnostic of how threatened local fishers feel themselves to be. Otherwise, they may not wish to capitalize on these community-based management strategies by incorporating them into fisheries management practices, not only because of their uncertain effects, but also because of the social-equity issues that may be raised by doing so.
In some small-scale fishing communities various customs entailing "etiquette" or "respect" may help to reduce competition in fishing activities. Taking turns at fishing spots, permitting access on a first-come first-served basis, holding drawings to determine who may fish at certain sites, and voluntarily spacing out fishing efforts are common examples.
As a strategy for management in small-scale fishing communities, etiquette systems work best in culturally homogeneous small-scale fishing communities, that is in communities whose members share a common ethnicity and cultural background, and whose approaches to fishing and individual wealth levels are more or less uniform. Otherwise, etiquette systems tend to break down when dissimilar and unrelated groups of fishers enter a fishery. They are also mainly effective when small-scale fishers perceive that the resources they utilize are abundant and not being threatened by competing fishers coming from outside the community-an uncommon situation in most small-scale fishing communities today. Still, where these institutions exist they merit fisheries officials' attention, as they may constitute important means of community-based management that can be fruitfully incorporated into formal fisheries policies.
Observance of ritual behaviors and taboos
Certain community-based traditions, customs, religious practices, ritual behaviors, and taboos may also influence fishing effort and fishing mortality in small-scale fishing communities. For example, religious imperatives that prohibit working on certain days may compel a cessation of fishing effort and a correspondingly significant reduction of fishing mortality. Moreover, some cultures have developed long-standing deterrents to using certain marine life as human food, or have prohibited its consumption at certain times. Some of these taboos may have arisen out of concern for the potential toxicity of certain marine life at certain times, while others may have originated among inland-dwelling people who distrusted seafood as a food source, and who then foisted their taboos on less-powerful neighbors living along the seashore. Furthermore, in some cultures certain age classes or genders may be prevented from consuming certain marine foods in order to reserve them for other people who do not have to observe the taboos.
Whatever the reasons for their institution, the foregoing taboos may have important impacts on fish stocks, and therefore relevance for fisheries management. Indeed, some communities may have instituted certain practices long ago in order to conserve certain stocks, and now, even though the reasons for instituting these practices have been long since forgotten their beneficial effects may still persist.
Therefore, fisheries officials should take care not to dismiss a small-scale fishing community's rituals and taboos as worthless or unfounded. Not only would doing so be perceived as insulting by many community members, it would also neglect to consider that these practices may actually be the result of considerable experience and experimentation in the fisheries, and that they may have beneficial effects which are not immediately apparent. Indeed, they may have inadvertent conservation benefits, even when the community members that are adhering to them say they are doing so for other reasons.
Some small-scale fishers have community-based management strategies which seem analogous to modern fisheries-management strategies that are rooted in biological and conservationist concerns. These include ceasing to fish when stocks are unduly pressured, not fishing when important stocks are spawning, permitting some of a stock to escape, not taking all of a stock that could be captured, imposing total catch limits, limiting the number of traps or nets that can be deployed, refusing to adopt certain fishing gear, returning fry and smaller specimens to the water, holding excess catches in enclosures until needed, discouraging undue zeal on the part of fellow fishers, and undertaking projects to enhance marine ecosystems.
Community-based practices which are akin to modern fisheries-management strategies that are rooted in biological and conservationist concerns are most often seen among small-scale fishers who are able to limit access to their fisheries, and who are not experiencing declining yields and chaotic competition. Therefore they are more often seen in semi-isolated, more traditional, pre-industrial small-scale fishing communities which have not yet been linked with wider marketing spheres, and which fish mainly to satisfy seafood needs in the region immediately surrounding them. Of course, the foregoing situation does not describe very many small-scale fisheries these days.
While various practices may have a conservationist benefit, it should not be automatically assumed that they are instituted among small-scale fishers for that reason. Indeed, while practically all small-scale fishers have definite ideas and strong opinions regarding conservation, this does not mean they always put these into practice on a community-wide basis. Indeed, while small-scale fishers may say that certain practices are motivated in the interests of biological control, other reasons may actually be more compelling: for example, avoiding conflict with neighboring fishers, promoting alternate subsistence activities, or keeping prices up by not flooding fish markets.
Unfortunately, many social-scientific studies of small-scale fishing communities, especially many of the earlier ones, promoted an unrealistic, romantic, and "Rousseauesque" view of fishing practices in small-scale fishing communities, describing practices as motivated by conservation when in fact they were not. A measure of skepticism should therefore be reserved regarding allegedly conservationist ideologies and practices in small-scale fishing communities, even when these communities have enjoyed sustained fishing yields over long periods of time. It may be that they were able to sustain these yields because they did not have access to more effective fishing technologies, or because their population numbers and corresponding demands for seafood were low, or because they were isolated from larger marketing spheres, rather than their concerns for conservation per se.
Fisheries officials should therefore be careful not to impute conservationist purposes to small-scale fishers' practices just because they seem to be analogous to modern fisheries-management strategies, remaining mindful that they may have been motivated for other reasons. On the one hand, such practices may offer possibilities for being capitalized upon by incorporating them into a fishery's management policy. But otherwise, fisheries officials would be well advised not to incorporate them into policy until they understand the fishing community's overall pattern of resource exploitation, its dependence on various markets, and its interconnections with other communities.
The following publications may greatly enrich fisheries officials' understanding of the cultures of small-scale fishing communities and various problems facing them:
Acheson, James M. 1981. "Anthropology of fishing." Annual Review of Anthropology 10: 275-316.
Acheson, James M. 1988. The lobster gangs of Maine. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England.
Andersen, Raoul, and Cato Wadel, eds. 1972. North Atlantic fishermen: anthropological essays on modern fishing. St. John's, Newfoundland: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Newfoundland Social and Economic Papers no. 5.
Berkes, Fikret, ed. 1989. Common property resources: ecology and community-based sustainable development. New York: Columbia University Press.
Casteel, Richard W., and George I. Quimby, eds. 1975. Maritime adaptations of the Pacific. The Hague: Mouton.
Cordell, John. 1989. A sea of small boats. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Report 26.
Durrenberger, E. Paul. 1992. It's all politics: South Alabama's seafood industry. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
Dyer, Christopher L., and James R. McGoodwin, eds. 1984. Folk management in the world's fisheries: lessons for modern fisheries management. Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.
Ennis, Frances, and Helen Woodrow, eds. 1996. Strong as the ocean: women's work in the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries. St. John's, Newfoundland: Harrish Press.
Felt, Lawrence F., and Peter R. Sinclair, eds. 1995. Living on the edge: the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. St. John's, Newfoundland: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Social and Economic Papers no. 21.
Johannes, R. E. 1978. "Traditional marine conservation methods in Oceania, and their demise. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 9: 349-64.
Johannes, R. E. 1981. Words of the lagoon: fishing and marine lore in the Palau District of Micronesia. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
Kurien, John. 1998. "Small-scale fisheries in the context of globalisation." Working Paper No. 289, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala, India.
Le Sann, Alain. 1998. A livelihood from fishing: globalization and sustainable fisheries policies. London: Intermediate Technology Publication.
Maiolo, John R., and Michael K. Orbach, eds. 1982. Modernization and marine fisheries policy. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ann Arbor Science Publishers.
McCay, Bonnie J., and James M. Acheson, eds. 1987. The question of the commons: the culture and ecology of communal resources. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.
McGoodwin, James R. 1990. Crisis in the world's fisheries: people, problems, and policies. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
McGrath, Carmelita, Barbara Neis, and Marilyn Porter, eds. 1995. Their lives and times: women in Newfoundland and Labrador: a collage. St. John's, Newfoundland: Killick Press.
Nadel-Klein, Jane, and Dona Lee Davis, eds. 1988. To work and to weep: women in fishing economies. St. John's, Newfoundland: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Social and Economic Papers no. 18.
Poggie, John J., and Richard B. Pollnac, eds. 1991. Small-scale fishery development: sociocultural perspectives. Kingston, Rhode Island: International Center for Marine Resource Development, University of Rhode Island.
Pollnac, Richard B. 1976. "Continuity and change in marine fishing communities. Kingston, Rhode Island: International Center for Marine Resources Development, University of Rhode Island. Working Paper no. 10.
Pollnac, Richard B. 1988. "Social and cultural characteristics of fishing peoples." Marine Behavior and Physiology 14: 23-39.
Ruddle, Kenneth, and Tomoya Akimichi, eds. 1984. Maritime institutions in the Western Pacific. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology. Senri Ethnological Studies no. 17.
Smith, M. Estellie, ed. 1977. Those who live from the sea: a study in maritime anthropology. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Company.
Spoehr, Alexander, ed. 1980. Maritime adaptations: essays on contemporary fishing communities. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Thompson, Paul Richard. 1983. Living the fishing. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.