Mind the culture gap

Clash of fishing “cultures" requires culturally sensitive resource management to resolve conflicts

Net fishermen from Chwaka Bay, Tanzania.

- Management of fisheries in particular and of natural resources in general seldom address cultural aspects or social institutions like kinship and are therefore prone to fail.
This is one of the key conclusions from an extensive study conducted by centre-affiliated researcher Maricela de la Torre-Castro and Lars Lindström. In their recently published article in Marine Policy, de la Torre-Castro and Lindström call for a broader institutional approach that better considers norms, values and cultural issues.
Not your everyday fence fighting...
de la Torre-Castro and Lindström analyzed the institutionalization of artisanal fisheries in Chwaka Bay, Tanzania, a rural setting surrounded by fishing villages with high complexity in terms of ecosystem diversity, hydrological conditions, villages and above all conflicting fishing methods between net fishermen and basket trap fishers.
-  Net fishermen have created their own institutions based on group belonging, friendship and a sense of modernity. They tend to ignore the local restrictions and argue for laws at Zanzibar or even at Union levels, which allow for a more open approach regarding the use of fishing areas. This has caused a direct clash between the traditional aspects and property rights that basket trap fishermen respect, de la Torre-Castro explains.

According to the research, basket trap fishers claim that net fishermen invade fishing grounds while net fishermen argue that the existence of traditional fishing grounds is an old institution. In addition, the need for fish due to the tremendous tourism expansion has created “big catch dreams" among the young net fishermen.

This, together with signs of resource overexploitation has increased the effort of net companies´ jeopardizing sustainability.
- The regulative efforts from the Department of Fisheries could neither suppress nor solve the conflict because normative and cultural aspects of the two villages clearly create a sphere of contestation, de la Torre-Castro explains.
but kinship cushions conflict...
Despite the conflict between the two fishing cultures, which also turned violent during the 1990s, there are strong kinship links between them.
Single marriages, multiple marriages, secret relationships, obligations towards individuals or family groups as well as identification with higher units of organization like towns or tribes, clans and extended families all form essential kinship elements that  cushions the conflict between and among fishers and villages.

- Competition over grounds and obstruction of activities are to a large extent concealed and suppressed by strong kinship relations. Many basket trap fishermen have sons that are net fishermen, for instance, de la Torre-Castro says.
Prone to fail without cultural sensitivity
The conflict demonstrates the importance of approaching fisheries management with cultural sensitivity.

- Clearly defined property rights, regulated by law or customary, may contribute to successful management, but unless these rights solidly rest on both normative and cultural aspects, they are prone to fail, de la Torre-Castro says.

- Our case shows that the focus on regulations is not sufficient to understand fishery dynamics and promote sustainability. Complex interactions need to be considered also. The final outcome will therefore be based on the balance of forces that drives the system into alternative paths, some of them sustainable, others not, de la Torre-Castro concludes.

Source: Fishing institutions: Addressing regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements to enhance fisheries management. By Maricela de la Torre-Castro and Lars Lindström, Marine Policy, 2009. Online Doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.04.012

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Fishing institutions: Addressing regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements to enhance fisheries management. By Maricela de la Torre-Castro and Lars Lindström, Marine Policy, 2009. Doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.04.012


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