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Fishing strategy diversification and fishers' ecological dependency

Johanna Yletyinen, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Jonas Hentati-Sundberg, Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Marine Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Thorsten Blenckner, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Örjan Bodin, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden


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Sustainable fisheries management plays a critical role in supporting healthy marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of millions of people. An emerging view on fisheries management emphasizes the need to manage fisheries as complex social-ecological systems. Yet, our understanding of the outcomes of fisheries management from a social-ecological perspective is limited in comparison to that provided by either the biophysical or the social perspective alone. In the Baltic Sea, management interventions focused on ecosystem recovery contributed to unintended changes from 1996 to 2009 in the fishing strategy diversity practiced by Swedish fishers. We evaluate how the changes in strategy diversification affected the capacity of Swedish fishers to adapt to future ecosystem changes. To do this, we constructed and analyzed social-ecological fisheries networks. Our analysis confirmed the previously reported development of a narrower combination of fishing strategies among large-scale fishers, parallel with a diversification in small-scale fishers’ strategies. However, the results demonstrated that switching fishing strategies has, in fact, increased in magnitude, and the fishers were more equally distributed in different fishing strategies in 2009 than in 1996. Further, we detected a development toward lower ecological dependency between fishing strategies within the community, although the strategies remained connected through ecological interactions. In conclusion, our analysis of the social-ecological interdependencies suggests that the previously reported changes in the fishing strategy diversity increased the adaptability of the Swedish Baltic Sea fishers to changing ecological conditions. On the other hand, the changes may have made the Baltic Sea more vulnerable to poor management. This empirical study emphasizes the importance of a social-ecological approach on fisheries research and management. Our results show that appreciating the complexity and changing nature of fisher behavior is crucial when assessing fisheries management outcomes, and when designing policies that aim to maintain adaptability in the uncertain and dynamic fish industry.

Key words

adaptability; Baltic Sea; fishing strategies; métiers; motifs; social-ecological systems; social-ecological networks

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087