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Filmmaking as a source of enhanced knowledge and transformation in conflicts over small-scale fisheries: the case of Colombia

Beatriz Rodriguez-Labajos, University of California, Berkeley, Energy and Resources Group, USA; Universitat Automa de Barcelona, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Spain
Lina M. Saavedra-Díaz, Grupo de Investigación en Sistemas Socioecológicos para el Bienestar Humano, Department of Biology, Universidad del Magdalena, Colombia
Darlin Botto-Barrios, Grupo de Investigación en Sistemas Socioecológicos para el Bienestar Humano, Department of Biology, Universidad del Magdalena, Colombia


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Small-scale fisheries (SSF) harvesting on coastal and inland aquatic ecosystems sustain the livelihood of hundreds of millions around the world. In Colombia, as in many other developing countries, SSF suffer from multiple pressures and conflicts. Yet the research on SSF conflicts is scarce and the typology of these conflicts is poorly systematized and understood. Existing studies lack the necessary interdisciplinary integration to address social-ecological processes involved in SSF. Moreover, scientific research requires building trust with fishers in order to gain an accurate picture of relevant intra-community processes and values.

In face of this situation, we compiled information from nonfiction films about fishing conflicts, with the double aim of underpinning scientific knowledge on conflicts over SSF and analyzing the use of the films to promote transformations in these conflicts. Our empirical evidence relies on the organization of an ad hoc docu-conference where filmmakers, fishers, and the general public engaged in a meaningful discussion on the issues affecting SSF communities in Colombia.

Films represent the range of conflicts over SSF in 31 locations of 16 Colombian departments and provide data about types of actors involved in the conflicts, types of conflicts and their causes, and possible courses of action. We gained insights into fishing conflicts as processes of change that involve drivers and impacts with common patterns in both inland waters, and marine and coastal environments but evolve in diverging responses or calls for action. Beyond the variables emerging in the films, audiovisual content supports stakeholders in their pursuit of knowledge sharing, political mobilization, and social functioning. Films about SSF conflicts expand knowledge and relatedness that propel intellectual processes tending to exacerbate the conflict and/ or stimulate sense of place, enhance governance, and give a boost to alternatives. Research participants (filmmakers, fishers, and the public) discussed advantages and limitations of using films to tackle the SSF crisis in Colombia. We demonstrate the value of films in social-ecological research and provide evidence of how they can support and bring about transformative change.

Key words

Colombia; creative research methods; environmental conflicts; filmmaking; fishing conflicts; small-scale fisheries

Copyright © 2021 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