Economic change, ecological crisis and the human response in a Mexican fishing industry: The alta mar (offshore) shrimping industry of Guaymas, Sonora.
AuthorWood, Anita Hosford.
Committee ChairSheridan, Thomas E.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis is a three year (1992-1995) longitudinal study of the Guaymas, Sonora, offshore shrimping industry in the Gulf of California. In early 1990's two events coalesced to practically paralyze the Mexican offshore shrimp industry. First, shrimp production dropped precipitously, 68% in one season, bankrupting cooperatives and almost all but the wealthiest private boat owners. Secondly, a formerly populist government adopted "structural adjustment" policies as requirements for debt restructuring, and began to privatize public industries. A new fishing law in 1992 opened shrimp fishing to the private sector in an area reserved for the cooperatives since 1982. Lacking governmental support, the cooperatives collapsed and many fishermen were left without work. Using a political ecological approach, I analyze the complex interplay between constraints imposed by a fishery commons in crisis and political economic policy to promote export-led economic growth. The research documents how fishermen responded to the crisis. The majority intensified existing activities in the informal economic sector, consolidated households, and depended more on reciprocity. Some migrated in search of work. But fishermen were not passive victims of domination and macroeconomic policies. Resisting, fishermen sold shrimp illegally offshore and protested through sit-ins, highway blockages and violence. I investigate the mechanisms through which the state and its political party, the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI), manipulated and controlled a local political arena through a cacique. The state also coopted dissident leaders and occasionally resorted to physical violence to repress the movement. Government officials using populist rhetoric and empty promises stalled dissident activities until the private sector was operational and more fishermen were absorbed back into the system. Worldwide, the effects of structural adjustment policies have been reported principally in terms of increased gross national product. This case study documents the hardships which fishermen faced during the transition from cooperative fishing to workers in the private sector. Many lost their jobs, and the majority of working fishermen earn less, and have fewer benefits and job security under the private system than under the cooperative system. Left without a strong organization, fishermen have little recourse for abuses which they sometimes encounter in the private system.