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Lobster and conch fisheries of Belize – a history of sequential exploitation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
2005 (English)In: Conservation Ecology / Ecology & Society/, ISSN 1195-5449, Vol. 10, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents a historical review of the lobster and conch fisheries in Belize, Central America. In terms of yield and value, these are the main wild-caught targets of the national fisheries, a small-scale commercial fishery of around 3000 fishermen. Data were collected during interviews with key informants involved with the fisheries and through literature and archive research. The goal was to study how the fishing industry has responded to environmental signals from these resources and from their ecosystems and ecosystem dynamics. National yields for both lobster and conch have been relatively stable, however, individuals’ yields have been declining despite increased effort since the 1980s. This study concludes that the use of fossil fuel-based technology and organizational change, with the establishment of fishermen’s cooperatives, have masked environmental signals. This masking, together with economic incentives, has led to the “pathology of resource use.” As a symptom of this pathology, four forms of sequential exploitation in these fisheries were identified. A major conclusion is that social resilience may not confer ecological resilience. The development of the cooperatives was needed in order to improve equity in the industry. Before their impacts could be assessed, this organizational change, together with new technology, led to very important and rapid changes in the industry. Together with existing regulations that allow de facto open access to lobster and conch, these changes resulted in a short-term boom that has resulted in the pathology of resource use, with over-capitalization and dependence on maintained yields, regardless of environmental feedback.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ottawa: Carleton University for The Resiliance Alliance, , 2005. Vol. 10, no 1
Keyword [en]
Belize; marine reserves; pathology of resource use; queen conch; sequential exploitation; spiny lobster
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Systems Ecology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-23181OAI: diva2:190532
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176Available from: 2004-05-17 Created: 2004-05-17 Last updated: 2009-12-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Masking environmental feedback: Misfits between institutions and ecosystems in Belize and Thailand
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Masking environmental feedback: Misfits between institutions and ecosystems in Belize and Thailand
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis analyses relationships between ecological and social systems in the context of coastal ecosystems. It examines human impacts from resource extraction and addresses management and governance behind resource exploitation. The main premises are that a lack of ecological knowledge leads to poor ecosystem management and that the dichotomy between social and natural systems is an artificial one. The thesis illustrates the importance of basing resource management on the ecological conditions of the resource and its ecosystem. It also demonstrates the necessity of accounting for the human dimension in ecosystem management and the challenges of organising human actions for sustainable use of ecosystem services in the face of economic incentives that push users towards short-term extraction.

Many Caribbean coral reefs have undergone a shift from coral to macroalgal domination. An experiment on Glovers Reef Atoll in Belize manually cleared patch reefs in a no-take zone and a fished zone (Papers I and II). The study hypothesised that overfishing has reduced herbivorous fish populations that control macroalgae growth. Overall, management had no significant effect on fish abundance and the impacts of the algal reduction were short-lived. This illustrated that the benefits of setting aside marine reserves in impacted environments should not be taken for granted.

Papers III and IV studied the development of the lobster and conch fisheries in Belize, and the shrimp farming industry in Thailand respectively. These studies found that environmental feedback can be masked to give the impression of resource abundance through sequential exploitation. In both cases inadequate property rights contributed to this unsustainable resource use.

The final paper (V) compared the responses to changes in the resource by the lobster fisheries in Belize and Maine in terms of institutions, organisations and their role in management. In contrast to Maine’s, the Belize system seems to lack social mechanisms for responding effectively to environmental feedback. The results illustrate the importance of organisational and institutional diversity that incorporate ecological knowledge, respond to ecosystem feedback and provide a social context for learning from and adapting to change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för systemekologi, 2004. 35 p.
Marine reserves, ecosystem change, sequential exploitation, pathology of resource use, institutions, driving forces, coral reefs, social-ecological systems, mangroves, aquaculture, Belize, Thailand, Maine
National Category
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176 (URN)91-7265-881-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2004-06-07, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 C, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-05-17 Created: 2004-05-17Bibliographically approved

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Huitric, Miriam
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