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2.1 Definitions
2.2 Sociological analysis in fisheries
2.3 Risks associated with omission of sociological analysis
2.4 The limits of sociological analysis

2.1 Definitions

Among the many problems facing non-social scientists attempting to come to terms with social issues is the difficulty often encountered in understanding what it is that sociologists, or whoever is brought in to look at "social issues", are really dealing with. This is reflected in the fact that the role of social scientists in fisheries project teams, and what it is that their professional background prepares them to do, is often unclear and confused. "Socio-economists" are assigned extension work, sociologists are hired as "socio-economists" although they may know next to nothing about economics, and anthropologists find themselves working as public relations officers responsible for resolving disputes between projects and communities.

This is not made any simpler by the fact that it is often quite difficult to define precisely where one discipline of the social sciences ends and another begins. Clearly there are overlaps between sociology, anthropology, economics, psychology, and politics. However, each of the various social science disciplines has a main focus and fisheries administrators need to have a definition of that focus clear in their minds when deciding which types of specialist are likely to be required as members of their team.

Here, a series of definitions relating specifically to addressing social issues, in development in general and fisheries development in particular, are offered to help non-specialists orient themselves.

2.1.1 Social issues

For those involved in designing management programmes or interventions, in fisheries as in other fields, the term "social" can be defined as relating to the interaction of human beings with each other, as individuals or as groups. Interactions between humans can clearly take many forms and it is these forms of interaction which, in the broadest sense, are the focus for the various social sciences. Economics is one form of interaction between people, and is therefore regarded as one of the "social" sciences. Psychology and politics are also concerned with social interaction at the individual and institutional levels. Social interaction can take many forms and can be looked at from many perspectives and the term "social issues" can be used to refer to this range of issues which are related to human interaction in the most general sense.

So, properly speaking, the term "social issues" should refer to those factors which are related to the social sphere in a very general sense and include everything from psychology to politics and anthropology. However, in practice , when administrators or project workers talk about social factors or issues in their work they are generally referring to what should be called, more specifically, sociological and anthropological issues. Economics is generally regarded as of such importance that it tends to be treated as a separate area of investigation even though it is a "social" science.

Therefore, in this paper, "social issues" is taken to refer to this more limited part of the social sphere, those which are the focus of sociological and anthropological analysis.

2.1.2 Sociology

If the "social" sphere is concerned with all forms of relations between individuals and groups, sociology is concerned more specifically with the collective behaviour of people. This means understanding the ways "society", as a grouping of individuals, has developed, the way it is organised, how the various groups within a society interact, the norms of behaviour which they observe and how groups and group behaviour affect the individuals which make up those groups.

Clearly the scope of sociology is potentially very broad and the areas of overlap with other social science disciplines are numerous. However the core focus of sociology tends to be on the functioning of the collective in some form.

In addition to this general "sociological" perspective, sociologists are increasingly concerned with specific facets of the life of the group. The study of institutions and their development is a field of sociology which is of particular relevance in fisheries management and planning. The sociology of gender, looking at gender-based social roles and inequalities, is also of key importance in any strategic planning activity. Both these specialisations are increasingly recognised as of particular relevance to those concerned with fisheries development and management.

In this paper, it is this sociological analysis which is the principal focus. It includes elements of anthropological analysis and economic concerns and refers to connections with other important "social" factors but does not attempt to explain everything within the "social" sphere which is potentially much broader.

2.1.3 Anthropology

The branch of anthropology which is of concern here, social or sociocultural anthropology, focuses on the ways in which language, culture and customs develop in human society, all areas which are clearly of concern to the sociologist as well but are looked at in more detail by the anthropologist. The anthropologist is also interested in the links between the culture, customs and beliefs of a particular society and the way this shapes, and is shaped by, the individual's perception of reality.

Partly because other branches of anthropology, such as physical anthropology, have been concerned with the racial and ethnic characteristics of humans, social and sociocultural anthropology has traditionally tended to focus on particular ethnic and cultural groups. Anthropologists have frequently studied groups living in relative isolation from contact with the "outside" world and, particularly, from the modern, developed world as this isolation provides the opportunity to understand better the internal mechanisms driving the development of culture and social mechanisms and institutions. However, increasingly, anthropological studies are looking at the culture of the "modern" world and its complexities as well.

From the point of view of the managing processes of change, perhaps the most important contribution of anthropology as a discipline is its attention to historical factors, the process of change within society and the ways in which these reflect people's perceptions and understanding of the world around them.

The analysis of certain specific features of human societies which are strongly influenced by culture, such as marriage institutions, kinship and inheritance are generally better understood by anthropologists who may also have better skills in making comparatives analysis between different cultural, ethnic and tribal groups.

For the purposes of this paper and for convenience, anthropological analysis will be treated as part of sociological analysis. However, where there are specific features of fisheries systems which are liable to require anthropological skills, these will be separated out from sociological analysis as a whole.

2.1.4 Socio-economics

The prefix "socio-" is found attached to many fields, often to indicate a perfectly valid orientation of a specific discipline towards its relation with social groups and their composition and functioning. Socio-economics is a particularly common combination encountered in the field of planning and development work.

To some extent, socio-economics has been brought into existence by the demands of planners attempting to combine the coverage of the social sphere into one role within the project or planning team. At least until very recently, no formal discipline referred to as socio-economics has existed outside of development agencies and perhaps some government departments.

On some levels, the desire to fit together the roles of the sociologist with that of an economist can be understood. The interactions between the two fields are clearly profound and complex. Sociologists must include economic factors in their analysis of development issues, and economists clearly need to take sociological factors into equal account.

However the differences in the perspectives and skills involved in the two fields need to be recognised. Obviously there may be specialists who are particularly concerned with the ways in which sociological mechanisms and economic factors interact, but this would be a specific specialisation.

The term socio-economics therefore needs to be handled with some care. It does not really indicate a particular disciplinary focus and, in most cases, the work carried out by "socio-economists" would be better divided between sociologists and economists carrying out their respective analyses though clearly working closely together. In this paper, the focus is on the work carried out by sociologists and anthropologists rather than economists, although the many important areas of overlap, where the disciplines may need to closely co-operate, are also discussed.

2.2 Sociological analysis in fisheries

As discussed in Chapter 1, experience in fisheries, as in other fields of human activity, has illustrated the crucial importance of understanding the sociological factors at play in order to manage change in the use of fisheries resources. There are several ways in which the sociologist and anthropologist can assist the work of managing fisheries.

2.2.1 Understanding and analysis of context, mechanisms and institutions

Any planning or management activity should clearly be based on a detailed understanding of existing circumstances in the area or field which is being planned for. The sociologist has a key roll in providing this basis for planning and management by ensuring that the sociological context of the fisheries system in question is fully understood. This is a crucial complement to the understanding of the biological, economic and technical aspects of the resource as these sociological aspects can play as important a role in determining the ways in which people use the resource.

Sociologists can assist in establishing the priorities and needs of people and institutions concerned with the resource. Subsequent plans can then attempt to identify those uses of the fisheries resources available which correspond to those priorities and needs. Likewise, the appropriateness of technological solutions or investment options for the exploitation of resources can be assessed with reference to people's ability make use of technology.

The role of the sociologist in the analysis of existing conditions within the fisheries system can include:

1. identification of the motivations and priorities of resource users
2. social institutions and their influence on resource use
3. analysis of institutions concerned with resource
4. analysis of leadership and decision-making
5. flows of resources within the community
6. roles of women, children and old people in the fisheries system
7. Place of different fisheries activities in communities and household livelihood strategies
8. modes of participation among difference groups of resource users
9. understand existing knowledge of resources among target groups
10. analyse of distribution of poverty and vulnerability among resource users
11. needs analysis in stakeholder communities
2.2.2 Designing appropriate interventions

The sociologist also has contributions to make during the more detailed design of those inventions and the formulation of plans, whether for fisheries development or management.

Among the key functions which sociologists can perform at this stage are:

1. identifying appropriate inputs - technologies, management measures
2. designing appropriate mechanisms for implementation of interventions
3. identifying or designing appropriate institutions for involvement in and management of interventions
4. forms of intervention which allow for and facilitate full participation by concerned resource users
5. identifying target groups and beneficiaries
6. designing mechanisms to incorporate gender concerns
7. designing mechanisms to incorporate age concerns
8 designing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating social and economic impacts on different social groups.
2.2.3 Predicting social impacts

Once intended or possible fisheries interventions have been more clearly defined, the sociologist's main concern will be the identification of potential impacts deriving from planned interventions and how these are likely to be distributed among and affect different social groups. Here the sociologist's contributions can include:
1. identifying and analysing impacts on particular target groups
2. identifying impacts on vulnerable groups within the community such as women, children, old people, refugees or the very poor
3. identifying and analysing the impacts of interventions on poverty
4. risks generated by social context - conflicts, lack of co-operation or participation by stakeholders
5. identifying analysing impacts on institutions and decision-making mechanisms.
2.2.4 Monitoring and evaluation
1. Identifying appropriate indicators for social impacts
2. Identifying and designing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating social impacts
3. Developing mechanisms for participatory, monitoring and evaluation.
2.2.5 Compensation and mitigation

With the increasing importance of fisheries management as a focus of fisheries interventions, as opposed to the development of production, there is often a need within fisheries interventions for appropriate means of compensating stakeholders in the resource for the loss of access to fisheries. Here sociologists have a major contribution to make by determining what constitutes "appropriate" in the specific social and cultural contexts encountered. This can include:

1. design of measures to mitigate negative impacts
2. design of compensation packages
3. design of forums and institutions to support impacted groups

2.3 Risks associated with omission of sociological analysis

At the most basic level, the inclusion of proper sociological analysis as part of the process of managing fisheries will ensure that a whole range of social impacts are taken into account which might otherwise have been missed. These social impacts can often jeopardise the success or sustainability of fisheries interventions. Technologies which seem to fit the requirements of the resource and to offer new possibilities to fishers may be inappropriate because they require forms of organisation of the workforce which are incompatible with social norms or work traditions. Efforts to promote management of resources can fail because they attempt to make use of institutional mechanisms which seem relevant to resource management but are actually more concerned with other aspects of the social and cultural life of the community.

2.3.1 Assumptions about resource users

The omission of a sociological analysis can result in many assumptions regarding the motivations, interest and priorities of resource users finding their way into management plans and project design in fisheries. It will often be assumed that the "subjects" of management or planned interventions will have the same understanding of those interventions as managers or planners themselves. But the differences in viewpoint between those actively engaged in exploiting the resource and making a living from it are often profoundly different from those concerned with planning for the development or sustainability of a resource. If the assumptions of the planner are accepted without reference to resource-users themselves, there is a high probability that they will reflect the priorities and cultural background of administrators themselves rather than those of target groups.

Sociologists are trained above all to see conditions through the eyes of others and this can be a key skill in the design of measures or interventions which will affect the lives and livelihoods of others.

2.3.2 Stakeholder participation

Any project or intervention planned by external agencies depends, for its success, on the participation of stakeholders. This can take place in many different ways ranging from simple consultations regarding interventions which have already been decided elsewhere to full stakeholder ownership of the entire process. Sociologists and anthropologists can play a key role in looking at the process of participation and determining the best ways in which participation can be ensured. Failure to do this can carry a variety of risks. Too much of an emphasis on stakeholder participation, or a purely rhetorical commitment to participation on the part of administrators and managers, can lead to false expectations and disillusion when they are not realised. However, where the environment is right and the opportunities and mechanisms for stakeholder participation exist, sociologists can push for greater participation by stakeholders and so ensure greater sustainability for the project as a whole.

In management programmes this can be absolutely essential. Where people are being asked to renounce current resource use for relatively uncertain future benefits, a prolonged process of analysis and consultation is often required beforehand in order to reach a consensus on management action.

Often, an important role for the sociologist here will be in identifying the discreet social and cultural groups who need to be "represented" during such consultations. In management activities, it only takes one group of resource users to be "missed out" and so feel that their interests are not being taken into consideration for the entire process to falter.

2.4 The limits of sociological analysis

The inclusion of sociological analysis in analysis of fisheries systems as a whole is increasingly recognised as being of crucial importance. However, the limits of such analysis, particularly within the context of processes of management and planning as they are often encountered within institutional and political frameworks, also need to be recognised.

2.4.1 Complications as a result of sociological analysis

Sociological analysis attempts to identify and understand the various factors generated by the social setting which affect the ways in which people behave. For those involved in managing fisheries, the concern is obviously to understand how the various mechanisms at work in a particular society - for example ways in which people behave which are considered "normal" (norms), social institutions such as marriage or the ways in which people aggregate to carry out certain activities - affect their interaction with fisheries resources and, conversely, how changes in the fisheries resource will affect those social mechanisms.

The inclusion of this sociological focus results in a notable complication of the process of determining how to manage change in fisheries. Sociological analysis has to be relatively comprehensive because it expands over a wide range of fields and variables which can all have a significant influence on people's interaction with a resource or group of resources. As indicated in the discussion of fisheries systems above, this analysis cannot limit itself only to those people who use fishing technology to exploit fisheries resources. A much broader range of human activities connected to the resource has to be considered in order to be comprehensive. Besides those who catch and produce fish, there are those who process it, market it and all those whose livelihood depends on services to the sector. In addition, fish has value primarily as food for people and the nutritional aspects of fisheries are part of the human element in the system. The numbers of people who depend in some way on fish as food may go far beyond those immediately engaged in the fisheries to include a vast number of local and distant consumers. Any of these people could be affected by changes in the state of resource and the technology available for their exploitation.

2.4.2 Conflict generation and resolution

The processes in which fisheries managers and administrators intervene can often generate conflict. This can range from the conflicts caused by perceived advantages acquired by one group over another as a result of the use of new technology to conflicts over access to increasingly rare aquatic resources. These conflicts can be the direct result of uninformed project intervention or they can be the result of other factors which may only be catalysed by changes introduced by external interventions in the sector.

Often, it falls to sociologists and anthropologists working with fisheries teams to "deal" with such conflict as they are perceived as having a better understanding of its causes. At least where proper analysis has been carried out beforehand, sociologists should indeed have a better grasp of the dynamics of conflicts which focus on fisheries resources and their use. But this understanding alone will not necessarily assist in the resolution of such conflicts.


In a recent project concerned with National Park management in an East African country, plans to introduce community wildlife management in areas immediately surrounding the park, giving local communities significant control over the wildlife resources in their areas, generated considerable conflict. While most local people living in the adjacent area supported the idea, a wide constituency of other stakeholders were opposed to it. Local conservationists perceived it as a threat to the park as local people had, in the past, been involved in poaching within the park. Hunters from nearby towns regarded access to wildlife in the areas outside the park as a right and viewed the concept of control by local villagers with great suspicion. The resolution of this impasse was eventually entrusted to an anthropologist with long-standing local experience and knowledge of the area. His experience was crucial in being able to lobby all the concerned stakeholders and eventually ensure the establishment of mechanisms to resolve disputes and overcome the widespread suspicions created by the introduction of a new form of wildlife management for that area

Sociologists may be able to help by identifying key political or traditional opinion-leaders who may need to be involved in resolving such conflicts. However it would be misleading to assume that their skills necessarily include the placating of irate stakeholders as a result of misguided planning interventions. In most circumstances, sociologists' and anthropologists' best contributions can be made in preventing or at least predicting such conflicts. Resolving them generally has to be an activity led by the concerned stakeholders themselves and their leaders and institutions.

This does not preclude a role for outsiders, including sociologists or anthropologists involved in fisheries teams, as intermediaries in such conflicts. The experience related in Box 1, which is not specifically related to fisheries, describes how the experience and local knowledge of an anthropologist or sociologist in particular circumstances can be of key importance in resolving such disputes.

2.4.3 Managing change for people

People, both as individuals and groups, are extremely complex subjects for any kind of analysis. In economic analysis, at least some of the variables taken into consideration are quantifiable and relatively predictable, although just how predictable is subject to considerable dispute.

By contrast, many of the subjects of sociological analysis are very difficult to even identify and impossible to quantify or predict in any way. Factors such as the motivation of individual fishermen to take risks or people's perception of the marine environment are the result of different combinations of highly dynamic elements. The culture in which people live, its historical development and the outside influences to which it has been subject may play an important role in determining how people view risk and what elements enter into taking decisions about fisheries. Current and past economic conditions can clearly play an important role as well. The social and political structure of the community at any particular moment may also influence which risks are taken and who takes them.

At another level, each individual's family and its background, the age of their children, what they know, believe and what they think is important, their access to information (which includes both their formal and informal schooling and what they saw on the television last night), the prices they receive for different types of fish and what they have to pay for the various items they consume every day such as food, fuel, clothes, cigarettes are all likely to contribute to the decisions which they take about resource use.

The complexity of the various interactions which constitute the sociological element in any system makes proper analysis a daunting task and one which can rarely be carried out satisfactorily in the context of a "normal" planning process. The kind of research required to truly be able to understand conditions from the point of view of other people living in a different culture requires more time than is generally available during Managing change procedures. This means that sociological analysis during planning for projects or programmes usually has to rely heavily on secondary sources and on relatively limited primary collection of data.

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