Political ecology of The Bahamian spiny lobster fishery and policy implications of an interdisciplinary framework
Presented by Karlisa Calwood
In recent years, The Bahamian spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery has transitioned to the use of condos (or casitas) as the primary fishing method. This strategy incurs relatively low costs to construct and deploy, resulting in an estimated quantity of over 200,000 condos throughout the Bahama banks. Collectively, these factors, coupled with an increased level of effort in the form of new fishers and more boats, have contributed to increased levels of competition for an already limited resource, further complicating the development of adequate and sustainable management strategies. The potential for human-induced changes to the ecosystem due to this high volume of condos highlights the need for an interdisciplinary investigation of the fishery that takes into account both natural and anthropogenic impacts. This project focuses on an examination of this increased condo usage, and the implications of this use on how the fishers define, perceive, and adhere to access and property rights through a political ecology lens. This case is amenable to a such an analysis due to the heavy interdependence of ecology and human factors throughout the fishery, allowing for an assessment of how the ecological, social, and economic elements all come together to create and define the fishery, including the implications of this convergence on the overall management. Surveys and semi-structured interviews of Bahamian fishers and other stakeholders were conducted over the course of 3 summers, revealing many conflicting views about the fishery, particularly around ownership of the condos and the lobster within them. A further examination of the data highlighted the emergence of several political ecology themes within the fishery, as well as the importance of considering both internal factors, such as social pressures, local norms, and voluntary agreements, and external ones, including demand and market value defined by a global market, when determining how to sustain and successfully manage the fishery.