Diversification within reduced fisheries portfolios signals opportunities for adaptation among a coastal Indigenous community

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Understanding social-ecological mechanisms that promote or erode resilience to potential disturbances can inform future adaptation strategies. Such mechanisms can be illuminated among seafood dependent communities by documenting change in fisheries portfolios, the assemblage of seafoods caught and/or consumed by a population of fishers. Here, we collected expert knowledge to assess changes in an Indigenous community’s fisheries portfolios and key drivers of change using semi-directed interviews, a quantitative survey, and network analysis. We focused on fisheries caught and consumed for food, social and ceremonial purposes. We found that while fisheries portfolios decreased in their diversity of seafood types, they also became increasingly connected, revealing that harvesters are diversifying their catch and the community is eating a greater number of seafood types within increasingly depauperate portfolios. These changes were driven by four key social-ecological mechanisms; 1) industrial commercial activities under a centralized governance regime, 2) intergenerational knowledge loss, 3) adaptive learning to new ecological and economic opportunities, and 4) trade in seafood with other Indigenous communities. Our results reveal that resilience principles of diversity and connectivity can operate simultaneously in opposing directions. Documenting changes in fisheries portfolios and local perceptions of key social-ecological drivers can inform locally relevant adaptation strategies to bolster future resilience.
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