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Heterogeneity among clam harvesters in northwest Mexico shapes individual adaptive capacity

Kara E Pellowe, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine; Ecology and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program, University of Maine
Heather M Leslie, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine; Ecology and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program, University of Maine; School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine


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Temporal variability driven by environmental shifts, biological processes, and socioeconomic fluctuations is inherent in natural resource-based sectors, including fisheries. In navigating these changes as opportunities for transformation, individual decisions play a key role. Understanding individual adaptive capacity, i.e., the ability to cope under changing or novel circumstances, and considering how this capacity is affected by diverse individuals’ interactions with formal fisheries policy may allow a better understanding of adaptive capacity in a rapidly changing world. In Loreto Bay National Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico, the Mexican chocolate clam is an important source of food and livelihoods and is harvested by a diverse group of fishers. Understanding the diversity of fishers, their decision-making processes, and their adaptive strategies is essential for both anticipating fishery outcomes and predicting the capacity of different types of fishers to adapt to environmental and economic change. We used semistructured interviews with clam harvesters to ask: (1) What types of fishers exist within the chocolate clam fishery? (2) How do they differ in their adaptive strategies? and (3) What are the implications of diverse fisher types on individual adaptive capacity? We find that fishers of chocolate clams in this region operate within both the formal and informal sectors, have varied fishing strategies, and can be characterized into four discrete types. We also find that heterogeneity among fishers affects their individual capacities to adapt to changing conditions and disturbances, and fisheries policy constrains fishers’ access to options by limiting secure access to fishing rights. Maintaining a diverse suite of adaptive strategies is essential for individuals to cope in the face of future disturbance and change. Likewise, maintaining heterogeneity in the fishery, by ensuring that multiple fisher types are equipped to adapt to future change, will strengthen adaptive capacity within the fishery and community.

Key words

adaptive capacity; Baja California Sur; diversification; heterogeneity; Mexico; small-scale fisheries

Copyright © 2019 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