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Mexican Fishery Sustainability Assessed

30 April 2015

US - Researchers have put social-ecological systems theory into practice in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, allowing them to assess the sustainability credentials of fisheries there.

The result is a map of regional strengths and weaknesses that can help guide fishers, conservationists, and other decision makers as they consider steps to preserve the peninsula's vital coastal marine ecosystems.

Those ecosystems are vital to sustaining fisheries that provide food and income, and it is important that any management plans consider the both natural and human values of the ecosystem.

Heather Leslie and colleagues gathered data on 13 social and ecological variables for each of 12 regions around Baja California Sur. They developed a profile of sustainability potential for each region including factors like governance systems and actors (the social) and resource units and resource systems (the ecological).

What became clear is that each region's profile is quite different, suggesting that the most effective policies for achieving sustainability will be ones tailored to each area.

One example of this is in Magdalena Bay region, where fisheries are diverse and productive. However, the area is also crowded with fishers who use many different kinds of gear and do not necessarily follow the same locally developed rules. While the ecological foundation for sustainability looks good there, the social dimensions are less promising.

"Depending on which type of data one musters regarding the potential for sustainable fisheries, Magdalena Bay could be scored as either well-endowed or quite weak," wrote the research team.

Meanwhile in Todos Santos area, local fishery management institutions are quite strong. There is considerable cooperation and compliance among fishers, based on the social science surveys the authors conducted, but the ocean is less productive than Magdalena Bay.

In Magdalena Bay, the most productive strategy might be to cultivate stronger local institutions, but in Todos Santos, maintaining local institutional strength and bolstering capacity in the water might make more sense.

The fine-grained diversity of regional strengths and weaknesses apparent in the maps is borne out statistically, as there were few correlations between strengths in different social or ecological factors. 

This could indicate a fundamental difficulty for regions to be strong across the board.

"Does something like this represent fundamental trade-offs?" Ms Leslie asked.

"What we found suggests that. There is no place that does well in every dimension." 

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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