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Microeconomic relationships between and among fishers and traders influence the ability to respond to social-ecological changes in a small-scale fishery

Stuart Kininmonth, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo
Beatrice Crona, Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere, Royal Swedish Academy of Science; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Örjan Bodin, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Ismael Vaccaro, Department of Anthropology and McGill School of Environment, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Lauren J. Chapman, Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Colin A. Chapman, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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Understanding the cross-scale nature of how natural resource trading links to local extraction patterns remains a topic of great relevance to stewardship and sustainable use of ecological systems. Microeconomic influences on a society’s pattern of small-scale natural resources utilization can exacerbate resource overuse, especially under increased population pressure. In many rural communities that are based on a limited diversity of resource industries, quantifying the response of extractors and traders to market and environmental fluctuations is critical to understanding management constraints. We examine the fishing practices of a small lake in Uganda, East Africa, from the dual perspectives of the traders and the fishers using a Bayesian Belief Network approach based on detailed interview surveys. Fishers in this small lake target Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), two fish species of high commercial and food security significance in East Africa. We combined data on financial, social, and ecological systems to understand how aspects of trading quantitatively relate to fish extraction patterns in Lake Nabugabo Uganda. Importantly, we find that the patron-client type relationships generate incentives to extract specific fish, whereas “freelancer” independent fishers are able to create responsive and flexible extraction practices that match market and environmental fluctuations. Management of fishing administered by local Beach Management Units will likely have a higher probability of success when in synchrony with trading relationships and ecological dynamics. We use this study in Uganda to reflect on methodological challenges and opportunities of combining multiple types of data sets for cross-scale analysis of social-ecological system dynamics.

Key words

Bayesian Belief Networks; fisheries; freelancer; Nile perch; Nile tilapia; patron client; Uganda

Copyright © 2017 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