A social relational approach to the conservation and management of fisheries: the rural communities of the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, BCS, Mexico

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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This dissertation uses a social relational approach to investigate the conditions under which resource users from seven rural coastal communities cooperate to access fish resources within and outside the limits of the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico. I use social network analysis methods to quantify the extent to which socially diverse and geographically distant individuals share information on the state/location of fish resources and fisheries regulations. The main findings are as follows: 1)Information sharing is widespread within communities and, to a lesser extent, among communities, despite the over-exploited condition of fish resources. 2)Information sharing is embedded in kinship, friendship, and acquaintance relations, which ensure the social integration of fishery resource users across social categories (e.g., locality and occupation) and geographically distant localities. However, these categories reflected different degrees of social stratification. 3)Occupation, years of fishing experience, and years of residence account for the importance of resource users in the network of information sharing. However, these three variables do not always predict the most important resource users within each community. 4)The social networks of information sharing have manifest (access to fishery resources) and latent (social integration) functions. These networks also have logically related functions: the internal function (F1) is social and emotional support; the external function (F2) or role is social integration; and the total function (F3 = F1 + F2) is achieving group tasks (i.e., accessing fishery resources). From a local perspective (perceived by network members) social networks are valuable (F4) but from a global perspective (perceived by management authorities) they may be regarded as dysfunctional (i.e., the cause of overfishing). I argue that the inherent social and emotional condition of individuals on which social networks of information sharing are based, is a powerful resource often neglected by the most influential theories and participatory policies for conservation and management of fishery resources. Thus, effectively tapping into these social networks for conservation and sustainable management of fishery resources in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park may require managers with long-term commitments to their conservation areas and socially and emotionally engaged managers.
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