Recognizing traditional fishery management systems

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Every effort should be made to amalgamate scientifically acquired forms of knowledge with traditional, locally acquired knowledge systems. This approach will enable the development of locally appropriate fisheries management regimes, fishing technology and practices designed to meet the objectives of a reformed, low impact fishing industry while, at the same time, safeguarding the rights of traditionally dependent fishing communities to basic food and livelihoods -- all within environmental limits.

The Uanano Indians of the Uapes River Basin in the northwest portion of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest practice an important strategy of river management. By reserving the natural vegetation of riparian forest for fisheries maintenance rather than deforesting the margin for agriculture as is common elsewhere. This strategy demonstrates an unusual awareness of the interdependence of terrestrial and aquatic systems only recently documented by Western scientists and not yet fully recognized by economic developers. It is an example of rational ecosystem management with long-term economic benefits.

Studies of Río Negro (Venezuela) subsistence farming and fishing activities are used to estimate the human carrying capacity for the region and the likely pattern of human land-use during prehistory. Ceramic evidence suggests human presence in the region more than 3000 years ago. Traditional farming is labour intensive and relatively unproductive. Nevertheless, farmers achieve an energy return of 15.2:1, and produce 2600 kcal per work hour. Fish are the major protein source, but fish catch per unit of effort and fish yield per hectare of floodplain are very low; fishermen are probably exploiting local fish resources very close to their limit. The low human population density would suggest that the Río Negro forest has been relatively undisturbed. Nevertheless, charcoal is widespread and abundant in forest soils. This charcoal is probably from anthropogenic or natural wildfires. These results suggest a much more complex history for Amazonia than previously thought.

To survive as hunters on arctic and subarctic coasts, Inuit have required expert knowledge of the demanding and dynamic sea-ice environment. This particular environment occurs through four of the six seasons of the Inuit year, namely ukia (late autumn), ukiu (winter), upingoaksak (early spring), and upingoa (spring). Aspects of contemporary Inuit use and knowledge of the sea-ice environment found in Alaska, Canada and Greenland appear to be very valuable for the management of this region.

The Cree Amerindians of subarctic Canada live as a group of hunter-gatherers. The social systems of the Cree and the ecological systems they have depended upon have survived for a long time. Cree Indians of Fort George, James Bay, northern Canada, maintain a large and successful subsistence fishery. Methods used in the fishery, seasons and locations of catch, and yield levels were studied, together with the population biology of two sea-run Coregonus species, cisco and whitefish, that dominate the catch. The fishery is characterized by a high degree of order, social regulation of the fishing effort and the gillnet mesh size, and practices that were identified as adaptations to the subarctic ecosystem. Fishing methods used permit the Cree to control the magnitude of the harvest and the species and size composition of the catch. There is evidence that fishers can alter the scarcity-abundance patterns of the fish stocks, and have a biologically measurable effect on the populations.

The Pearl River Delta (China) offers humans a variety of land-use alternatives. A complex ecosystem which has been in existence in the delta for centuries has greatly contributed to the region's agricultural productivity. The principal components are mulberry trees, silkworms, pond fish, and humans, interrelated in a harmonious and mutually beneficial way. The system is not only highly efficient and soundly balanced ecologically, but provides much higher economic returns than do other agrarian practices in the delta.

Aquatic resources, mainly fish and aquatic plants, play an important role as a source of food in the traditional villages in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. Therefore, the villagers have traditionally developed various practices which lead to sustainable utilization of aquatic resources. In the Dry Zone where scarcity of water is the major constraint to all human activities, village settlements are located in close proximity to the irrigation tanks. In every village, aquatic resources are found in association with the village-irrigation tank, its distributory canal system and the buffalo wallow, the pool in which the water drained from the paddy tract is accumulated. Indigenous practices which contribute to the sustainable utilization of fishery resources are threefold: (1) institutional, (2) technological and (3) ecological. While various cultural limitations on fishing rights, rules and regulations pertaining to fishery and powers of the village leadership prevent the over-exploitation of fishery resources, the implements and techniques used for fishing, including trapping and poisoning, were traditionally designed in such a way that they would not cause over-fishing. The ecological set-up maintained by the villagers around the water bodies was also conducive to the sustainability of the fishery. However, all these indigenous practices are now increasingly disappearing in the face of modernization.

Colonial governments, ignorant of traditional management structures and institutions, introduced various types of ineffective centralised natural resource management policies which persist today and often greatly weaken local traditional authority.
Counter Claim:
Villagers do not have adequate scientific information on which to base management decisions. Villagers may not understand the need for certain types of management or if they do, they may not know how to formulate management plans to address those needs effectively. The introduction of commercial fishing, export orientated fishing, and the introduction of new fishing gears and faster boats have all brought new management challenges for which traditional arrangements were not designed to cope.
Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 14: Life Below Water