Environmental adaptation, political coercion, and illegal behavior: Small-scale fishing in the Gulf of California.
KeywordsShrimp industry -- Environmental aspects -- California, Gulf of Mexico.
Shrimp industry -- Political aspects -- California, Gulf of Mexico.
Committee ChairMcGuire, Thomas R.
Park, Thomas K.
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 dissertation examines the shrimp industry in the Gulf of California from a political ecology perspective. The interaction between fishermen and their marine environment is explored, as well as the historical factors that led to vastly different types of fishermen in the communities of Guaymas and Empalme. Some have specialized in the harvesting of shrimp; others are diversified, multiple species fishermen. Some are highly industrialized offshore shrimpers; others are small-scale fishermen, more modest in their technology but more resilient when facing the current crisis in the shrimp industry. The underlaying causes of this crisis are explored by looking at state development policies, the assumptions behind fisheries management, and the configuration of markets. These have all emphasized specialization in the production of shrimp while ignoring the high interannual variability characteristic of shrimp populations. The end result: an overcapitalized, overexpanded industry and a possible overexploitation of shrimp stocks. Rather than addressing the root causes of the crisis, recent policies have instead transferred rights to the offshore fishery from cooperatives to private investors. At the same time there has been a concerted attack against small-scale producers. It is believed that by getting rid of this sector, catch per boat in the offshore sector will increase and overall "efficiency" will be improved. I compare industrialized trawlers and the small-scale sector and argue that the latter is currently producing high quality shrimp at lower monetary and ecological costs. But small-scale fishing is not equated with sustainability. Instead, differences among small-scale fishermen are analyzed. I contend that those who belong to traditional fishing families and have access to collective knowledge about the marine environment that has accumulated through generations, are better able to deal with a highly unpredictable environment and minimize risk. Those who do not have access to this knowledge have specialized in the harvesting of shrimp. I argue that a strategy of diversification is both more profitable in the short-term and sustainable in the long-run. Avoidance strategies among small-scale fishermen in response to externally imposed regulations are also examined. Fishermen are analyzed as individual profit maximizers and as community members who break the rules to serve collective interests. Just as individuals act collectively to deal with an unpredictable environment, they also act collectively to effectively challenge the institutions of rule-making.