Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


3.1 Levels of analysis of social issues
3.2 Gender
3.3 Age
3.4 Community
3.5 Household
3.6 Production-unit
3.7 Structuring sociological analysis within the process of managing change in fisheries
3.8 Sociological analysis in different institutional and structural contexts

In the previous chapter, some of the contributions which sociologists can make to the process of managing change in the fisheries sector were briefly described and the importance of including the analysis of these areas in the process discussed.

In this chapter some of the key elements and concepts in sociological analysis are presented so that fisheries administrators and managers, and other non-specialist colleagues working with social scientists, will understand better what it is that they are concerned with and how they go about analysing social issues.

Different specialists in sociology and anthropology will inevitably have different approaches to the analysis of particular situations and there are many different ways in which these key elements could be presented. The following framework suggests one approach to presenting these key elements in a structured way which may also assist fisheries managers in fitting the analysis into their work.

3.1 Levels of analysis of social issues

In practical terms, sociological analysis in fisheries can be focused on a few key levels. These levels can be used to provide a basic framework to sociological analysis for fisheries.

Five "levels" of analysis are presented here:

1. Gender
2. Age
3. Community
4. Household
5. Production-unit
These five elements can generally be considered the "building blocks" of most social systems the world over so an understanding of how they are constituted and their significance is fundamental. Clearly, in every single culture there are important differences in the relative importance or emphasis given to each of these elements and, in some cultures, there may well be levels which need to be added to these. For instance, in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa the tribe or clan can constitute a key social level which may need to be included in addition to the community and the household. But the five presented here can be considered of reasonably universal importance and a starting point for almost all sociological analysis.

These levels are not discreet. There are many overlaps between them and understanding the interactions between levels can be critical in sociological analysis. The relationship between these various levels is shown in Figure 3.

FIGURE 3: Levels of analysis of social issues

3.2 Gender

Gender issues are concerned with the complex of social, economic and cultural factors which distinguish men from women. Concern for the widespread gender bias in much development work has grown out of the realisation that, while development agencies the world over were mostly run by men and mostly dealt with men, much of the productive work in many societies was carried out by women and interventions which were considered good by men were not necessarily regarded as good by women. The focus on gender is concerned with both recognising and understanding the differences in roles between the sexes and with taking account of the very considerable differences which exist in gender roles between different societies and cultures. Plans for development in any sector must take account of those differences and not regard the impacts of development, whether in fisheries or other sectors, as "gender-neutral".

In many parts of the world, the social status accorded to women, and their relative lack of influence or participation in decision-making, makes them particularly vulnerable. The fact that most capture fisheries are carried out by men, particular in the commercial sector, means that the concerns of women in fisheries are easily ignored. But any changes in household or community circumstances will inevitably affect women as much as men and therefore full account has to be taken of women's priorities even where their direct involvement in the activities in question may be limited.

Apart from this, many key sub-sectors in fisheries are dominated by women. Much small-scale fishing and collection of other foods found in water may be carried out by women and constitute an important source of household food supply. Marketing and processing in both the artisanal and the industrial sectors in many parts of the world are predominantly carried out by women. In West Africa, the central role played by women in the handling of fish catches extends to the financing of artisanal fishing companies.

The consideration of gender issues is therefore a key element in the analysis of any fisheries system. Any omission of a gender focus in fisheries decision-making can be said to automatically mean that 50% of the required analysis has been simply forgotten. All interventions which have an impact on people's livelihoods or patterns of use of fisheries resources are likely to have significantly different impacts on men and on women respectively. Therefore the preparation of such interventions must take full account of the different outlooks and needs of both gender groups.

Ensuring that managers and administrators have a full understanding of the roles, priorities and needs which are determined by gender is therefore one of the sociologist's basic tasks.

3.2.1 Gender specialists

In many fisheries management activities there will be a justification for a specialist in gender issues who will concentrate entirely on this aspect. A gender specialist is likely to be a sociologist with experience in the analysis and investigation of gender issues and, in particular, how the impacts of changes in technology, resource use and production methods affect men and women differently. In almost any circumstance where relatively wide-ranging impacts are foreseen from a fisheries intervention, gender specific issues are liable to arise and these will generally require special skills in order to be understood.

For example, almost any fisheries management initiative is liable to affect the flows of benefits within and between fishing communities and the impacts of any changes in benefits will be felt by fishing households and their members. In order to properly assess the impacts at the household level, attention has to be paid to the way resources and benefits are distributed within the household and this will generally require skills in intra-household research which not all sociologists will be able to fulfil. Gender-related issues are often complex and difficult to research. In many societies there are major cultural obstacles which make it difficult for outsiders such as planners or researchers, and particularly male outsiders, to have sufficient contact with women in order to properly assess their needs and priorities and how they might differ from those of men.

In addition, in many countries fisheries departments and fisheries agencies will tend to be predominantly staffed by men and the inclusion of a specialist in gender issues can go some way towards redressing this imbalance and ensuring that the concerns of women are properly aired and discussed during the preparation of plans for fisheries development or management.

3.2.2 Key concepts

Gender roles

This refers to specific duties, modes of behaviour or activities within the household, the community, the production unit or society at large which are determined by gender. For example, in many small-scale fishing societies, capture fisheries using fishing craft and larger types of fishing gear are often considered to be "men's work" while the processing of fish catch and, on occasions, its sale are regarded as "women's work". In such cases, there is a clear, gender-based division of labour in the productive process. Such divisions can take many forms. Migration for work may be seen as a male activity while women stay at home. In some cultures, men may be expected to earn income from their work while women's work primarily provides food for the household.

More generally, there tends to be a distinct gender-based division of roles regarding the maintenance of the family and household. The investigation and understanding of these roles is more complex than looking at roles in production because people's perceptions of these roles are often culturally based and therefore quite difficult for them to analyse themselves. In some traditional rural societies, particularly in Muslim countries, men may continue to say that women do not work, even when it is very obviously not the case, because there is a cultural ideal that women should not work and it may be very difficult for men to actually "see" that women do work.

Alternatively, women's work may not be recognised as "work". In some Southern African communities, during the dry season, men may be practically unemployed and spend most of there time socialising and drinking while women look after vegetable gardens, collect wild produce for food and collect firewood and water. But even in conditions of such stark contrast, men may say that women do not really work because their work does not earn income.

Productive and reproductive labour

The different gender roles outlined above are often closely interlinked with another important concept in gender analysis, the division between "productive" and "reproductive" labour.

"Productive" labour, as the phrase suggests, is labour which produces food or goods for the generation of income or the sustenance of the household. Fishing activities will almost invariably constitute productive labour, as will the processing and sale of fish, farming activities, and any labouring tasks which are remunerated either in cash or kind.

"Reproductive" labour includes those activities which do not "produce" an output which is directly converted into cash or consumption but which nevertheless contribute to the maintenance of the household and family. Time spent in child-rearing is one of the clearest examples of this form of labour but other important activities might be the collection of fuelwood for household use or the fetching of water.

The divisions between productive and reproductive labour are not always clear-cut. Fuelwood collected for the household can also be sold or exchanged for goods as can water.

What is of key importance is that women frequently have a double burden of productive and reproductive labour and sociologists have to ensure that the patterns of women's labour in both areas is well understood and taken into account.

3.3 Age

Just as gender constitutes a fundamental factor determining social behaviour, so age is also important as it has important affects on the needs and priorities of people. In the case of age, the divisions which can be established between different age-groups are not clear or universal; different age groups are categorised in different ways and according to different criteria in societies the world over. But generally every society has a clear age structure with each age group associated with certain types of activity and holding certain responsibilities.

As with gender, age is also an issue which cannot be approached with cultural preconceptions about what the roles and needs of specific age-groups might be. Urban, educated preconceptions regarding the ages at which children should be at school or working, or the specific needs and rights of older people may be completely inappropriate in the face of radically different needs and priorities among poor rural fishing households. Frequently an important role for the sociologist on fisheries teams will be to ensure that the team as a whole is able to "see around" their own preconceptions of this kind.

A good example might be the role of children in fishing in certain less developed countries. Fisheries specialists from an urban setting or from outside of the country might assume that children's fishing activity is not important or can be relegated as "play" because the catch is not sold or at least does not turn up in local markets. But, where children are frequently observed fishing, even if it is with relatively simple gear, it would be the sociologist's responsibility to ensure that the extent and importance of children's fishing is properly investigated. In areas such as rural Bangladesh the contribution of children to overall fishing effort as well as their contributions to household food supply, networks of reciprocal exchange outside the formal market and small rural markets could turn out to be extremely significant. However, most adult fishers and most fisheries officers would generally regard these children's activities as of peripheral importance.

A better understanding of the role of age in determining levels of economic and social participation may be of great importance when it comes to targeting interventions. Frequently, those concerned with fisheries development or management assume that their target group is made up above all of economically-active "adult" males. This assumption needs to be actively questioned by sociologists who have to take responsibility for checking possible impacts or concerns for other segments of the population which may be less "visible" and more difficult to talk to, but which may be of equal relevance in terms of their dependence on fisheries.

3.3.1 Key concepts


One of the features of both the very young and the very old, particularly in poor, rural communities, is their relative vulnerability in conditions of stress or change. This can be caused by a wide range factors - lack of access to resources, susceptibility to disease, or cultural norms which give priority to working people when it comes to the distribution of resources and food. Whatever the dynamics of vulnerability among the young and the old, they are almost always among those most at risk when changes of any kind are introduced and sociological analysis has to establish how consistent those risks are and what the effect of decisions about fisheries resource use are liable to be on these groups. For example, if access to resources is to be restricted as part of a fisheries management plan, leading to a reduction in earnings or livelihood opportunities, it needs to be investigated how these reductions might affect these vulnerable age-groups. Changes in resource access which may be easily absorbed and adapted to by adult workers may have more serious impacts on young people and the aged.

Rates of dependency

The numbers of people dependent on active producers will affect the decisions made by those producers. Particularly among poor rural households, any risk as a result of changes in patterns of resource use will generally be avoided wherever possible. Where the household includes numbers of temporarily dependent people - young children or old parents - the incentive for changing behaviour is further reduced. This can have an important affect on the willingness of fishers to renounce resource use in favour of resource management.

3.4 Community

3.4.1 Definitions of community

The "community" is often the most convenient administrative level at which to implement activities in the field. However, the real meaning of the community in different cultural, social and political contexts is not always fully appreciated. It is often assumed that people living within certain administrative boundaries, or living in close proximity to one another automatically constitute a "community" which has certain common interests, goals and a communal sense of identity.

This is deceptive. People's real sense of community may not be defined by residence at all but may have more to do with common occupation, common socio-economic status, and kinship or ethnic ties. For example, in some parts of South Asia, traditional marine fisherfolk may regard themselves as part of a caste "community" of fishers which includes people living at considerable distances along the coast. On the other hand, they may feel practically no sense of common identity or interest with agricultural communities located a few hundred metres away even though they belong to the same administrative "village".

In other circumstances, horizontal links to a community of fishers of similar social and economic status may have less real significance in terms of common goals and priorities than other, vertical links of patronage and economic or political influence. In small-scale and artisanal fisheries, links between fishers and the dealers who buy their catch or moneylenders who provide finance for fishing operations are frequently of great importance. Attempts by fisheries development agencies to replace these vertical linkages with linkages, such as co-operatives, based on perceived common economic and social interests have often foundered as they have oversimplified existing patronage networks as being inevitably exploitative. Sometimes these ties are highly exploitative but their social and cultural significance also has to be taken into account. These networks often ensure links between the producer and the outside world as well as a form of social security and flexible support for vulnerable fishing households subject to the vagaries of the resource and the seasons which co-operatives may find it very difficult to imitate. At the same time, there may be important ties of kinship and mutual obligation between primary producers and "exploitative" middlemen which are not easily dismantled and replaced by more impersonal formal systems.

Administrators and managers therefore have to understand the often over-lapping "communities" in which fisheries resource users live and the relative priorities accorded to different sets of community allegiance. In fisheries management this is of particular importance as this analysis will define who the key stakeholders are in a particular resource.

The sociologist has to map out these interlocking, and at times conflicting, community and stakeholder groups and clarify how they are defined, what holds them together and their relations to different sets of resources and their use. The internal structure and organisation of different communities also has to be taken into account. Even apparently homogeneous "communities" will have important internal divisions along lines of kinship, occupation or social status which may affect participation, decision-making and other areas of basic importance for development or resource management activities.

3.4.2 Key concepts

Community-level systems

Many of the key elements in the social system analysed by the sociologist operate at the community level. These include systems of tenure over land and water areas, the distribution of access rights to both private and common-property resources, the social organisation and stratification which determines people's relative influence and status in the community and local political institutions. Both at a general level (i.e. what is "normally" the case in that area or society) and in the specific communities under consideration (i.e. what happens in that particular community and which individuals or groups occupy key roles in the social structure), projects or other planned initiatives have to recognise these structures and mechanisms as they will affect the adoption and acceptability of initiatives, the distribution of benefits and levels of participation by local people.

Centres of decision-making

A key element in the analysis of community structure is the identification of centres of decision-making. These may consist of individuals, formal and informal institutions or groups where decisions are made. Clearly, beyond the identification of the centre or "locus" of decision-making, the sphere of influence of each centre of decision-making needs to be defined.

Leaders indicated as having key responsibilities within the formal or official structure may have relatively limited influence over a specific range of aspects of community life. Informal or traditional leaders often exert greater influence over a wider range of spheres. Decision-making in most communities, whether in remote rural areas or more developed suburban communities, tends to develop into a complex pattern of overlapping responsibilities determined by economic position, political influence, traditional beliefs and custom, and kinship.

Decisions regarding resource use are likely to be particularly important in fisheries. In many societies, the mechanisms for deciding on the use of common-pool resources, such as waterbodies or marine areas and the fish in them, are constantly changing. The powers of the State to determine how such resources are in use may have not yet displaced traditional systems which empower community-level institutions with control of such resources.

In some parts of southern Africa, formal control of resources over large areas may reside with tribal leaders who may be quite distant from the resources in question. Recognition of these different patterns of control is extremely important if conflicts and confusion over the relative responsibilities of local leaders, distant traditional authorities and formal government agencies are to be resolved.

Particularly in fishing communities, the centres of decision-making for land-based activities and those which take place on the water are sometimes quite different. Fishing activities often distance fishers from the decision-making mechanisms which govern life in their home villages and, at sea or on distant fishing grounds, quite different mechanisms for taking decisions may come into force. Along the coasts of West Africa, many fishermen migrate long distances on a regular basis, crossing international borders and residing for significant periods in foreign communities. Clearly, in such circumstances, fishers may move through the spheres of influence of various centres of decision-making regarding the resources which they exploit.

3.5 Household

Below the community level, the household is likely to be the next key unit in any social analysis, but considerable care has to be taken regarding what constitutes a "household" in different social and cultural contexts. In many urban areas or in some parts of the "developed" world, the household generally corresponds to the nuclear family, sometimes expanded to include some additional generations (grandparents or grandchildren) or some relatively close kin. However, in many rural areas the household can consist of a wide range of combinations of kin or people connected by links of patronage and employment to the core household members or the head of household. Care has to be taken by those making decisions or assumptions regarding household-level impacts or interventions to be clear about what "household" means for each target group. It is the sociologist's responsibility to ensure that the various types of household encountered in a target area have been identified and the factors which determine household composition understood.

Marriage customs and patterns of inheritance will be of key importance in determining forms of household. Where polygamy is widespread, as in many parts of the Sahel and western Africa, households headed by individual wives of one husband may have considerable autonomy over certain aspects of production while husbands contribute to specific elements in the family's livelihood. Wives involved in fish processing in West Africa often have far more developed economic relations with other fishers than with their husbands.

Patterns of inheritance are also significant in determining how households are constituted and how they evolve over time. Where norms of inheritance concentrate ownership of key fisheries technologies in the hands of one offspring at the expense of others, this will determine particular patterns of household composition once children reach a certain age. Children reduced to working for older offspring may have added incentives to move out and found their own households or migrate in search of other work. Patterns of inheritance can even become major determinants of mobility of labour out of fisheries into other sectors.

Inheritance of rights of access to fisheries or tenure over fishing grounds, or their transfer as part of the exchanges of goods and rights accompanying marriage, can influence overall patterns of fisheries exploitation in ways which fisheries managers must be aware of. In some areas of Melanesia, patterns of inter-island or inter-village marriage may lead to such complex patterns of reciprocal rights of access to fishing grounds that nominal tenure over marine areas actually has no real relevance in terms of hypothetical controls of fishing activity. So many different groups may have acquired rights to different fishing areas that, for all practical purposes, fisheries access is open.

In addition, assumptions regarding the sharing of benefits at the household level are particularly dangerous. Intra-household relations, where the significance of age and gender can be of great importance, will often mean that there are major differences in how benefits targeted at the household as a whole affect different members.

Household level analysis is of great importance in understanding how plans will affect people at the grassroots level. However, accurate analysis has to be based on detailed research and, unfortunately, research at the household level is time- and labour-intensive and it is often difficult to assess how significant the results are likely to be at the general level - every household has its peculiarities. However, it is the sociologist's responsibility to clarify the key elements in the social system at the household level which determine general characteristics of households in the area in question and how these are likely to be affected by interventions or changes.

3.5.1 Key concepts

Household development cycle

The household is a dynamic unit which changes its components, size and socio-economic standing depending on any number of factors: the age and sex of the heads of household, patterns of migration for work, the birth, growth and departure of children out of the household or the presence of relatives. These patterns of development make up what is referred to as the household development cycle. Some features of this cycle may be unique to each household but some features may be culturally determined or there may be consistent patterns according to social and economic status within a particular society.

For example, in some parts of South Asia, the ideal of a large extended household living in a single compound, and therefore able to mobilise considerable amounts of family labour and provide a relatively stable environment for family members right through their lives, is generally limited to relatively wealthier families. The coherence of poorer families may be far more unstable and subject to important changes as the age and circumstances of different household members change. Typically, a new household might be founded by a young couple on the birth of their first child. The first years of the household may be characterised by relative poverty as the numbers of children increase and the women devote more time to reproductive labour and less time to productive work. Once the household's children begin to contribute to the family's livelihood, the household's circumstances may improve until their children in turn begin to leave and old parents left on their own may suffer a return to relative poverty or even destitution.

Different fishing households in different areas may have very different patterns of development. In many artisanal fisheries, family units provide the basis of fisheries production units and the capabilities and productive capacity of the household may increase steadily as the household expands. By contrast, in some parts of western Africa, fishing units are operated as "companies" where family members may be expected to work to satisfy family obligations but with little prospect of personal gain or independence. This may encourage migration with other fishing units as a means of accumulating personal resources. This in turn has implications for patterns of household development which may be important for fisheries planners and managers to take account of.

Household labour pool

Especially in small-scale fisheries, the household's productive capabilities and options for diversification will be fundamentally conditioned by the availability of household labour. The factors which condition the household labour pool and its composition therefore require careful consideration.

The household development cycle mentioned above is clearly one important factor affecting the household labour pool. Gender roles within the household are also important. For example, the ways in which women are able to contribute to fishing effort will be strongly affected by social and cultural factors concerning women's role and mobility.

Short-term seasonal variations also play an important role in determining how the household uses resources and may result in significant changes in labour patterns. In the freshwater fisheries in some floodplain areas in Asia, fishing activity by full-time fishers may be concentrated at particular points in the floodplain at particular times of the year when water is at its lowest level and fish are highly concentrated. Fishers may need to spend considerable periods in fishing camps in remote floodplain areas during peak fishing periods, either leaving their families in home villages or, in some cases, taking them with them. The relations between fishers and the fishing rights owners who organise fishing camps may be of considerable importance in ensuring that families "left behind" are cared for and provided with support while male heads of household are absent.

Household centre of decision-making

Who makes decisions about different areas of household concern varies from one culture to another. In many areas of southern Africa, heads of clan or lineage groups may be more important in certain decision-making processes than the immediate household members. This is frequently the case regarding decisions which are perceived to affect the prestige or overall standing of the group, such as marriage arrangements or the use of certain resources. Even within households, there are frequently clear divisions between female and male decision-making areas and distinct roles may be demarcated for relatives such as uncles and aunts in making decisions or providing advice on certain topics.

Seasonal fishing migrations following resource movements or changes may cause important shifts in the locus of decision-making within the household. Migration of male members may mean that households become de facto female-headed for important periods. Where decision-making, both at the household and community level, is traditionally the reserve of males, this can place female-headed households at a considerable disadvantage for considerable periods of the year or mean that male kin from outside the immediate household are given temporary decision-making roles for some periods.

Sociological analysis can help determine if there are distinct features of these household level decision-making processes which are likely to affect interventions planned regarding the use of fisheries resources.

3.6 Production-unit

In fisheries as in many other activities, production frequently brings together groups of people not necessarily related or linked in other ways, such as by kinship or community. The production unit may therefore may be the focus for a whole new set of social, cultural and economic dynamics which need to be part of any sociological analysis. This is particularly important as many decisions taken by fisheries administrators and managers will have immediate impacts above all for the producers who interact directly with the resource. It would also be an error to regard these production-units as purely of economic or technical significance. There are often important social or cultural reasons why particular groups of people combine to engage in a productive activity and the sort of relationships these people have with one another may significantly influence their productive behaviour.

In many circumstances, particularly in small-scale and artisanal fisheries, the members of a production unit will be largely synonymous with the household and a relatively large proportion of small-scale production units will consist of owner-operators and their immediate kin. However, even in small-scale operations, a core of related operators will often be joined by more distant relatives or casual labour at different stages in the productive cycle. This is particularly so when the interpretation of the production-unit is expanded to include all those activities which are necessary in the exploitation of the resource, including processing, transport and sale of fish, which will often involve individuals and groups with no kin relations with the primary producers.

In larger-scale, more commercial fishing operations, there is a greater likelihood that members of individual production units will not necessarily be tied together by kinship links or ties of community.

This generally justifies a specific focus on the production-unit as part of sociological analysis as the processes taking place within the production-unit - the decisions made, the different social, cultural and economic priorities expressed - may have a significant influence on the ways in which benefits from the production process are distributed. On occasions, particularly in marine fisheries, where production may take place far from the community and the household, decisions and priorities "at sea" may actually be quite different from those expressed at home or onshore. Such differences need to be identified as they may be important in explaining apparently contradictory activity by producers.

3.6.1 Key concepts

Production-unit centres of decision-making

Decision-making processes in production-units are often relatively complex with a variety of roles and responsibilities interacting. Owners of craft and gear obviously have a key role in making decisions about assets which they own, but fishing captains and crew members will often have considerable autonomy in certain circumstances. Fish buyers are often key figures in determining choices about resource exploitation and fishing patterns, especially where they are also at the centres of webs of patronage and credit for fishing operations.

Sociological analysis needs to inform decision-makers of possible differences in decision-making mechanisms between different types of production unit using the resources in question. This can ensure that consultation within the decision-making process includes key figures who might otherwise be regarded as peripheral.

The labour pool for production-units

The production-unit is often not stable but will change its composition according to shifts in circumstances. Fish stocks may change seasonally, requiring changes in fishing location, size and type of craft and gear, and the numbers of people engaged in fishing operations. Different types of fisheries may also require specific skills drawing in new members to the production process. The availability of labour and skills enabling operations to shift and adapt to changes are of key importance in determining patterns of resource use

Often the availability of skills and manpower and, therefore, the capability of production-units to change their activities and adapt, will be determined as much by social and cultural ties as by simple availability. In some cultures in South Asia the types of production undertaken by different social groups is sometimes proscribed by caste or ethnic group. It may be very difficult for small caste groups engaged in a specific type of fishery to draw on the additional manpower required for new activities if it is not immediately available within their own social group.

3.7 Structuring sociological analysis within the process of managing change in fisheries

The five levels of analysis discussed above can be used to provide a framework for most sociological analysis in the context of fisheries. Different sociologists are liable to have their own approaches to this analysis but it is clearly important that the results of their work be presented to non-sociologists in a clear and readily applicable fashion.

To do this, the five levels of analysis (with the addition of other levels where these are felt by the sociologist to be important) can become the basis for a matrix where the key issues being analysed in any circumstances are clarified in a systematic way. The use of this matrix can ensure both that the sociological analysis carried out is thorough in its coverage of key issues and that non-sociologists can understand what is being done by the sociologist and why.

An example of how this can be presented is given in Table 1.

The five key levels of analysis are presented along the top of the matrix. These might be adjusted depending on circumstances and culture. The important point would be to clarify, in any given situation, which levels of social organisation are relevant and need to be considered in order to understand the social issues at stake.

In the left hand column, a variable set of issues identified as being of key importance can be inserted, each of which should be analysed at each of the five levels presented. These issues could be as general or as specific as appropriate. In the matrix presented in Table 1, a series of relatively general sets of issues are presented which are liable to be of concern in fisheries. As the process of sociological analysis proceeds, these need to be refined and made more detailed and specific.

For example, once the key institutions and decision-making mechanisms concerned with the use of a particular fisheries resource have been identified, each institution might need to be analysed in terms of their respective gender compositions, the role that age plays in determining their membership, and their roles in making decisions at the community, household and production-unit level.

As another example, different beliefs regarding fish and the use of aquatic resources might initially be identified at a general level, looking at those beliefs which affect specific gender and age groups, then those which are important at the levels of the community, the household and the production-unit. Following this initial analysis, specific "key" beliefs, which seem to be of particular importance might be analysed in more detail with specific reference to the ways in which they affect the various social groupings defined in the matrix.

The sociological analysis set out in the matrix could therefore be adapted to keep pace with the inevitable change in focus within any dynamic decision-making process, starting at a more general level and steadily becoming more particular and more focused on specific issues and problems as the process develops.

TABLE 1: Framework for analysis of social issues in fisheries









page 35
pages 36-41

page 35
pages 36-41

page 35
pages 36-41

page 36
pages 36-41

page 36
pages 36-41


page 42

page 43

pages 43-50

pages 43-50

pages 43-50


page 51
pages 55-57

page 52
pages 55-57

page 53
pages 55-57

page 54
pages 55-57

page 55
pages 55-57


page 58

page 58

page 59

page 59
page 60

page 59


page 63
pages 66-68

page 63
pages 66-68

page 64
pages 66-68

page 65
pages 66-68

page 66
pages 66-68


page 69
pages 71-74

page 70
pages 71-74

page 70
pages 71-74

page 70
pages 71-74

page 71
pages 71-74


page 75
page 78-79

page 75
pages 78-79

page 76
pages 78-79

page 76
pages 78-79

page 77
pages 78-79

Obviously, even at the general level, it is impossible to come up with a "definitive" list of key issues. Every set of circumstances, every culture and every type of activity concerned with fisheries, whether development planning, management or conservation, will require a different focus and will raise different issues. But the issues presented in the matrix are of widespread significance and can provide a guide, particularly for non-social scientists, to key areas of concern.

In the subsequent chapters, the sets of issues presented in the framework are discussed in more detail and some consideration given to how they might be manifested in different fisheries interventions.

In the framework, the reader is referred to those places in the subsequent text where sets of issues, for example the gender aspects of economic issues, are discussed in greater detail. The discussion is not intended to be exhaustive but to familiarise the reader with the processes on which sociological analysis concentrates. In addition to the gender, age, community household and production-unit aspects of each of these sets of issues, more general points are also discussed.

Clearly, the framework for sociological analysis presented here is only one element in the complex combination of research, analysis, interaction with stakeholders, planning and eventual intervention which are expected of fisheries agencies. The ways in which this analysis can be combined with other key functions will vary according to the precise nature of the activities being undertaken and the political and institutional context in which they are set.

3.8 Sociological analysis in different institutional and structural contexts

The sociological analysis of fisheries systems is liable to take place within an increasingly wide variety of political and institutional circumstances. Widespread processes of structural adjustment have often lead to radical re-dimensioning within the government agencies and institutions generally given responsibility for the development and management of productive sectors such as fisheries. Often this has occurred without an effective reassessment of the functions and responsibilities of these agencies in line with their new resources. At the same time, perceptions of who should take responsibility for decisions and resource allocation have also often been profoundly reconsidered with the shifting of many functions steadily downward from previously all-powerful centralised institutions towards more decentralised, locally-based bodies.

As a result, a range of different structural contexts may be encountered within which sociologists looking at fisheries issues are likely to have to operate. At present, three important features can be described which are liable to be of particular importance in determining the relative role which sociological analysis is likely to play and the importance of the sociologist within the overall development process: the sectoral planning framework, the integrated area development and decentralised or community-based planning.

3.8.1 Sectoral planning

Where institutions and agencies concerned with the development and management of fisheries are organised along sectoral lines, the sociological analysis of fisheries systems can normally be viewed as one among a series of technical studies required in order to the assist planners, policy makers, development administrators and fisheries managers to develop the most appropriate plans possible for the sector. The issue from the point of view of incorporating sociological analysis into the process has been primarily one of ensuring that the various technical disciplines concerned with fisheries have had the proper opportunity to interact so that the interconnections between various sub-sectoral concerns can be properly described and explained and this knowledge used to design appropriate interventions.

The limitations of this sectoral approach have become increasingly obvious over time. Institutional divisions along sectoral lines have been largely dictated by the norms of academic study and disciplinary divisions within Western scientific traditions and the organisational and administrative demands of large bureaucracies and institutions. However, the demarcations between, for example, fisheries, forestry and agriculture do not necessarily bear any relation or relevance to conditions on the ground where all activities tend to be interrelated and activities in one sector can often profoundly influence activities in other sectors.

This kind of sectorally organised structure, until recently typical of many government bureaucracies, has generally been a reflection of modes of planning and intervention which emphasised the roles of external "experts", often based far from the "subjects" of their interventions, and frequently making plans with relatively limited reference to the perceptions or opinions of those directly affected by these plans and interventions.

Within this sort of framework, the role of sociological analysis has often been precisely to "inform" the planning process regarding the perceptions, priorities and social organisation of "target" populations. In past sectoral planning approaches, sociological analysis has been concentrated on determining the effects of interventions already decided upon or in the process of being introduced. The problems frequently arising from these sort of "interventionist" approaches to sectoral development have lead to an increasing appreciation of the need to carry out more thorough and in-depth sociological analysis prior to the introduction of changes in fisheries systems and, possibly, prior to decisions regarding what sort of changes need to introduced. The inclusion of a proper understanding of social priorities among affected populations and their perceptions of needs and problems has been increasingly incorporated into sectoral organisations.

However, the institutional structure of sectorally organised bureaucracies poses limits on the effectiveness of sociological analysis. Decisions frequently continue to be made based on sectoral priorities as perceived by their respective bureaucracies which are often highly centralised and find it difficult to respond to the demands of communities on the ground. Sociological analysis often leads to the identification of sets of issues which do not respect sectoral demarcations and, therefore, sociologists or anthropologists specifically associated with fisheries agencies can often find themselves discussing issues which their sectoral institutions are not in a position to respond to effectively.

Within this kind of structure, sociological analysis is more likely to have the following characteristics:

· based on extractive research
· making use of formal surveys
· attempting to achieve generalisation of social factors to facilitate proscriptive planning
· reliance on quantitative statistics
· one of a range of disciplinary research topics deployed by sectoral managers
· leading to outside determination of key issues and interventions and their announcement to those affected.
3.8.2 Integrated area development

The spread of more integrated development approaches, often associated with regional or area based planning, has greatly increased both the demand and the potential for effective incorporation of sociological analysis into the development process. Where projects, programmes or multi-disciplinary development agencies are equipped to respond to a range of sectoral concerns, the role of the sociologist or anthropologist in initiating a dialogue with potential target populations or beneficiary communities is given far greater importance. The establishment of avenues of communication with communities, the identification of discreet target groups within those communities and detailed analysis of issues and concerns for different communities and groups can all be initiated through the process of sociological analysis with the knowledge that there is a possibility of responding to the range of issues raised.

Integrated development usually entails the movement of the centre for decision-making in planning and resource allocation in development closer to the specific populations concerned. In these circumstances, the process of sociological analysis can move beyond the relatively extractive research of social issues, which generally dominates in sectoral approaches, towards a more participative approach to research and analysis.

The role of sociologists in integrated development teams will often shift from that of "researcher" to that of "facilitator", ensuring that the processes and channels of communication between development agencies and their client populations are established in terms which are appropriate to the local culture and to the communication capabilities of local people. While more "traditional" analysis of the social context will often be necessary as well, this facilitating role, helping other non-social scientists involved in the process frame their interactions with local people in appropriate terms, will often be of greater importance in the context of integrated development.

Within this kind of structure, sociological analysis is likely to have the following characteristics:

· based on collaborative research, involving local people
· making use of both formal surveys and informal diagnostic techniques such as RRA and PRA
· some generalisation of social factors but over a limited area
· more identification of diversity and specific sets of circumstances and better appreciation of processes
· combination of quantitative data and qualitative information
· research agenda determined in close co-operation with other disciplines
· focused on designing interventions in the area and facilitating longer-term processes of change generally agreed upon by local representatives.
3.8.3 Decentralised and community-based planning

The role of the sociologist generally becomes more central to the planning process as the centre of decision-making moves closer to the "subjects" of those decisions - in the case of fisheries, towards the communities and social groups involved in the exploitation of fisheries resources or dependent on the fisheries system. If integrated area development means that sociologists have a potentially wider role both in analysing the social context of development and in formulating the social and institutional framework within which local people can play a greater role, further decentralisation requires an even broader role for sociological analysis and its developments.

It has been increasingly recognised that, when development initiatives originate from the communities or groups directly concerned, or are at least controlled and directed by them rather than by external agents, development tends to be more appropriate, more equitable and more sustainable. The processes of participatory planning which enable this to take place are clearly encouraged by decentralisation of administrative responsibility as they require far greater flexibility on the part of agencies and institutions servicing this form of development.

In these circumstances, the focus of attention of development agencies will often be less towards the creation of pre-conceived packages or blueprints for development but more on the creation of an interface with "local" people which permits the ready passage of information and the empowerment of the subjects of development to initiate and define development in their own terms. The analysis of modes of communication and cultural perceptions carried out by the sociologist will clearly be of overriding importance in these circumstances.

Within this kind of structure, sociological analysis is likely to have the following characteristics:

· based on participatory learning and action, led by local people assisted and catalysed by outside agencies

· initiated using participatory learning techniques such as PRA and developing quantitative data sets where relevant

· complex understanding of range of diversity, interactions and processes over limited area

· combination of quantitative data and qualitative information

· research agenda determined by local people supported by specialists from various disciplines on demand

· focused on the stimulation and facilitation of long-term processes of change

· leading to the creation of locally-led consensus around particular decisions, activities, actions or institutions.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page