By Kara Pellowe and Salvador Rodriguez-Van Dyck
During our last meeting as a group in Maine, we came up with the idea to share our work with the local fisheries authorities in Baja California Sur, with the intention of informing them about the research we have been doing in the state, and to express our willingness to collaborate on efforts to improve the sustainability of fisheries in Mexico. We invited federal and state government representatives from CONAPESCA, INAPESCA, SEPADA and CONANP, as well as a fisheries researcher from CICIMAR. Our invitation was met with many positive responses, and attendance at the joint meeting was higher than expected.
Amy Hudson Weaver opened the meeting by welcoming the attendees and giving a brief overview of the significance of the meeting to the MAREA group. Dr. Xavier Basurto opened the presentation section with a large-scale view of the MAREA research group, touching on the global and interdisciplinary nature of the team, and explaining our general focus. Our research is centered around the social-ecological systems perspective, in which resource users (e.g., fishers), institutions e.g., (state management agencies, as well as small-scale institutions, like cooperatives), interact with resource units (e.g., fish) and the marine ecosystem, to influence results at the system-scale. Some of the research questions the MAREA group works to answer include:
- How does the organization of fishing activities affect capture?
- How does the organization of fishing activities affect human well-being in fishing communities?
- How does environmental variation affect fisheries?
As a group, we have conducted in-depth studies in 22 fishing communities in Baja California Sur, and we have collected data from 66 fishing communities. Next, Kara and Tim each shared a deeper look at their case studies in Loreto, and Santa Rosalia, respectively.
Kara Pellowe, PhD Candidate at the University of Maine, shared with the group the research she has pursued for her doctoral work. She spoke on her approach to studying the social-ecological system associated with Loreto Bay National Park’s chocolate clam fishery, using an interdisciplinary case study approach. She combined ecological and field studies to understand how ecological and social factors interact to affect the sustainability of the chocolate clam fishery. She found that the fishery social-ecological system is characterized by diverse actors, and that fisheries management affects not only fishers, but the entire community. Kara closed her presentation with a reminder that a deep understanding of social-ecological system dynamics, which enables us to understand both the biological and social aspects of fisheries, requires an interdisciplinary approach.
Dr. Tim Frawley, Stanford University, shared his research investigating the causes and social impacts of the collapse of the squid fishery in Santa Rosalia in 2014. Tim studied fishermen’s observations and thoughts on why the crash occurred. Biophysical trends indicate a clear correlation between the squid fishery collapse and El Niño cycles; changes in water temperature in the Gulf of California appear to have interrupted the migration route of squid across the Gulf between Guaymas and Santa Rosalía, most likely resulting in the observed collapse of the fishery. However, Tim highlighted the importance not only of investigating the biophysical causes of the crash, but also the factors fishers perceived as drivers of the crash. Fishers in Santa Rosalía did not agree on the causes of the crash, but their perspectives resulted in a typology of fishers among those Tim interviewed: pescadores, pilotos, and especialistas. Pescadores are often long-time fishers with a family tradition of fishing, engage in continuous fishing effort, and have their own permits and equipment. On the other end of the spectrum, especialistas are often contracted, have irregular fishing effort, are first generation fishers, and migrate between fishing ports seasonally for contract work. These two divergent types also respond differently to major changes like the loss of the squid fishery. Tim closed by emphasizing the importance of the interactions between fisher and fished species, and the value of research that closely examines those links.
Dr. Mateja Nenadovic closed the meeting by describing the metadata of the MAREA project, including emphasizing that the deep social-ecological knowledge described in the examples given by Kara and Tim, are just two of 22 communities in which the MAREA group has undertaken in-depth studies, and two of 66 for which we have data. Mateja went on to describe the types of ecological, social, economic, and institutional data the group collected in both 2014 and 2019. In 2014 data collected focused on 13 characteristics of governance, the fishing sector, fishing resources, and ecosystem variables. In 2019, the breadth and depth of these data was expanded to include 124 variables. We also have more information about the movement of fish and fishers, via Blanca Gonzalez’ work studying fishing networks throughout BCS. Mateja closed by inviting the scientists and managers in attendance to share their thoughts on the information shared. He also expressed the group’s interest in engaging in productive conversations about what types of information would be useful to BCS-based researchers and managers, and what they would like to learn more about.
A conversation between managers, scientists, and the MAREA group followed. Managers agreed with the information shared during the presentations. The sub-secretary of fisheries in the state said, “We live sometimes in a bubble and we are interested in different views from the outside”. A researcher from INAPESCA added that having this information is important to decision-making, because it would allow them to make decisions without having to rely on “feelings”. Among the group was the president of a federation representing fishermen. He highlighted the need for formal agreements between between research groups like MAREA, and federal and state agencies, as well as others, to make the best of this kind of collaboration. In general, the attendees expressed interest in what was covered, and in particular, emphasized the value of including socioeconomic data in fisheries management.