New publication: Managing at MSY doesn’t ensure economic well-being for artisanal fishers

I would like to share with you our most recent study published in the journal Fish and Fisheries from a collaboration between the Gulf of California Marine Program and the University of British Columbia the publication “Managing at Maximum Sustainable Yield does not ensure economic well-being for artisanal fishers”

This study shows that in some regions of the Gulf of California, even if fishers used the most efficient and sustainable known practices, they wouldn’t generate enough revenue to maintain a living above poverty levels in the long-term (FIGURE 1).

Our study also found that about two-thirds of the small-scale fisheries in the region present some degree of overexploitation, and that if completely recovered and exploited sustainably, they could generate $240 million USD per year, as compared to the current $141 million USD per year. This would not be enough to provide fishers with enough money for food, education, health and clothing.

FIGURE 1 Comparison between average current Revenues Per Capita (RPC) between 2001 and 2016, potential RPC expected at MSY, and the Economic Well-being Limits (EWL) for rural and urban areas per subregion. Error bars in the current RPC were calculated as one standard error of the average RPC. Error bars in the RPC at MSY were calculated from the r and k 95th confidence intervals of all the species per subregion. Subregions are ordered from lowest to highest number of people directly employed in the Fisheries Sector (PFS)

We aren’t saying that the take-home message of the paper is that the only solution to achieve sustainable fisheries is to have fewer fishers, but we believe that definitely this message needs to be part of the conversation, along with other social problems. These other issues include marginalization of coastal communities and lax or inconsistent enforcement of sustainable practices.

With this research we aim to alert different actor across the fisheries sector about the importance of recognizing the economic ceiling of fisheries, and to develop not only other economic strategies, also social strategies that will allow for the well-being of coastal communities.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Alfredo Giron (jgironna @ ucsd . edu) if you have any questions, comments, or you need the the supplementary materials.

A finfish trade network in Baja California Sur

IMG_4648As part of the “Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development” master’s program at the Stockholm Resilience Center, MAREA tema member Blanca González García-Mon studied the seafood flow from  marine ecosystems through fish buyers and to different market demands. The study mapped a finfish supply chain in Baja California Sur that spans from actors such as fishers in rural fishing communities, to diverse market demands (e.g. local or international markets). An intense period working with the Datamares team followed this study, where the challenge was to design a story and an inforgram able to communicate the complexity of this trading system. As a results, a story has been featured in the Datamares webpage, summarizing some key findings of the study.

Read the dataMares story in English:

In Spanish:


Fisher’s mobility and cross-scale dynamics – Scripps and SRC continue collaborations in Stockholm

Blanca González García-Mon, Emilie Lindkvist, Andrew F. Johnson. Working hard in Uppsala for the final days of Andrew’s visit.

During a few snowy weeks in March MAREA member Andrew Johnson from Scripps came to continue the joint projects with the SRC team. Over three intense weeks we developed our two main papers building on our collective knowledge and skills. In the first paper we explore how changes in fisher’s ability to move across longer distances can potentially lead to sequential exploitation of local fish resources, and the drivers behind fishers’ mobility. In a second paper we will explore how cross-scale interactions between local and regional fish are mediated by fishers mobility and the outcomes for social and ecological indicators. Our workshop also involved Alfredo Gíron-Nava at Scripps for data crunching and SRC team leader Maja Schlüter for overall input to our ideas.

The resulting papers in progress are

  1. Increased mobility and resource heterogeneity drive patterns of fisheries collapse 
  2. Cross-scale interactions between local and regional fisheries: Implications for local fishing communities.
2018-03-20 17.05.19
Discussions on how to represent the agent-based model and the implications of regional and local fisheries for incoming labor.


During Andrew’s visit Emilie organized a 2-day workshop together with Steven Alexander (SESYNC; University of Waterloo) on untangling interactions in social-ecological systems using small-scale fisheries as a case. Together MAREA team members Emilie, Andrew and Blanca we aim to publish a paper on Illuminating interactions, relationships, and dynamics in fisheries: methodological approaches to tackle contemporary sustainability questions in fisheries, as a part of the MAREA project.

New paper by Pellowe & Leslie: Seasonal variability shapes resilience of small-scale fisheries

By : Kara Pellowe

In the recent paper “Seasonal variability shapes resilience of small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico” by Kara Pellowe and Heather Leslie from the University of Maine, historical landings data is used to look at how ecosystem properties, that contribute to resilience, vary both seasonally and spatially within Baja California Sur.

Their finding of significant spatial and seasonal variability in ecological resilience indicators suggests the importance of small-scale spatial and temporal dynamics in shaping the fisheries of this region, as they shape fishers’ everyday experiences (Fig 1). The paper also highlights the value of finer-scale monitoring and management, particularly for data-poor fisheries.

Fig for MAREA blog post
Fig 1. Biomass of landings (kg), an ecological indicator of resilience, varied across months within an average year. Fishing offices, represented by the different colored lines, exhibited differential seasonal trends in this and other ecological variables tested.
Image for MAREA blog post
Small-scale fishers on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur prepare for a day of fishing.

New publications on novel approaches to calculating fishing effort and studying emergent patterns of self-governance

On the same day in the same journal in the same issue (April 13th in PLoS ONE), the first two MAREA related publications became published.

Publication 1) A spatial method to calculate small-scale fisheries effort in data poor scenarios
The Predicted Fishing Effort (PFE) presented in 500 km2 grid cells (n = 565). The unit of PFE is the number of boats adjusted by the number of people in local coastal populations.

Andrew, Alfredo and Octavio from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography published their paper: A spatial method to calculate small-scale fisheries effort in data poor scenarios. Together with their colleagues they present a spatial method of calculating the effort of small-scale fisheries based on two simple measures that are available, or at least easily estimated, in even the most data-poor fisheries: the number of boats and the local coastal human population.

Comparing results of their method to commercial fishery landings throughout the Gulf indicates that the current number of small-scale fishing boats in the Gulf is approximately double what is required to land theoretical maximum fish biomass. The method is fishery-type independent and can be used to quantitatively evaluate the efficacy of growth in small-scale fisheries. This new method provides an important first step towards estimating the fishing effort of small-scale fleets globally.

Reference: Johnson AF, Moreno-Báez M, Giron-Nava A, Corominas J, Erisman B, Ezcurra E,  Aburto-Oropeza O. (2017). A spatial method to calculate small-scale fisheries effort in data poor scenarios. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174064.

Publication 2) Micro-level explanations for emergent patterns of self-governance arrangements in small-scale fisheries—A modeling approach
The environment of the fishery model. The fishery model consists of fishers, fishbuyers, a fish population, and a fish market. Fishers can be organized in either a PC by a link to a fishbuyer, or in a fishing cooperative (co-op) by links to other fishers (members).

Emilie, Xavier and Maja from Stockholm Resilience Center and Duke University published their first paper of their agent-based model studying Micro-level explanations for emergent patterns of self-governance arrangements in small-scale fisheries—A modeling approach. In their paper they develop an agent-based model of an archetypical small-scale fishery that captures key hypotheses from in-depth fieldwork in Northwest Mexico of fishers’ day-to-day fishing and trading, and how fishers organize in either fishing cooperatives versus in patron-client relationships (PCs; where fishers work independently with a fish buyer).

Model results indicate that high diversity in fishers’ reliability, and low initial trust between members, makes it difficult for fishing cooperatives to establish. PCs cope better with this kind of diversity because, in contrast to co-ops, they have more flexibility in choosing whom to work with. The paper argues that existing levels of trust and diversity among fishers matter for different self-governance arrangements to establish and persist, and should therefore be taken into account when developing better, targeted policies for improved small-scale fisheries governance.

Lindkvist E, Basurto X, Schlüter, M (2017). Micro-level explanations for emergent patterns of self-governance arrangements in small-scale fisheries—A modeling approach. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0175532.

First Workshop–La Paz & Espiritu Santo

The first workshop meeting of the MAREA research group took place in La Paz with Bjorn, Maja, Laura, Amy Hudson, Andrew, Beni, Alfredo, Xavier, Heather, Anastasia, Emilie, Kara, Alan, Raquel, Blanca and Octavio. Three amazing days together thanks to this welcoming and warm group of people, and the impeccable organization and facilitation by Hudson and Heather. With major progress on our research plans, look out for some great publications in the near future!