Vulnerability and viability of small-scale fisheries in Sisal, Yucatan, Mexico

Millán, Alicia Saldaña (2019) Vulnerability and viability of small-scale fisheries in Sisal, Yucatan, Mexico. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Small-scale fishing communities are highly vulnerable to changes both climate-related and other socio-economic and institutional changes mostly because of their high dependency on natural resources. Several of the approaches that have been developed and applied to reduce their vulnerability are largely externally driven and involve pre-determined vulnerability assessments. Vulnerability is, however, context-specific, i.e., it may mean different things to different people. Understanding what makes people vulnerable, determining feasible policy interventions for ameliorating such vulnerability, and exploring options for enhancing viability may need to begin with asking people what they think about their own situation. From the governance perspective, it is also imperative to have comprehensive knowledge about the resource system that people depend on, the complexity and dynamics of the social system, and importantly the existing governing system. This thesis brings together two perspectives, a simplified participatory diagnostic approach and interactive governance to investigate the vulnerability and viability of a coastal, small-scale fishing community in Sisal, Yucatan, Mexico. The study involved in-person surveys using semi-structured questionnaires. These surveys were targeting at captains and crewmembers involved in harvesting, and fishing women participating in post-harvesting activities. The survey respondents were asked to populate the list of vulnerability factors, both at individual and community levels, based on their own situation and experience. They were also asked to provide explanation about how these factors make them vulnerable. The respondents were prompted to consider vulnerability related to natural, social, economic, institutional, and technological dimensions. The preliminary results of the in-person surveys were presented to the focus group discussions, organized to enable the survey participants to further discuss vulnerability issues in Sisal, and to explore potential solutions to address them, as well as possible pathways to enhance viability. Overall, the survey respondents agreed about the natural aspects of vulnerability but diverged in the other four dimensions. The level of agreement was higher between the captains and the crewmembers but lower between the captains and the women participating in post-harvest activities. The vulnerability factors receiving the highest number of mentions by all respondent groups were related to the social dimension. These include a wide range of issues such as lack of respect for regulations, issues pertaining to migration, lack of support from financiers, and lack of support and recognition for women working in post-harvest related activities. The interactive governance analysis of the fisheries in Sisal reveals that the vulnerability of the fish harvesters and the women are related to the high complexity, dynamics, and scale of the natural and the social systems. In addition, weak capacity of the governing system and the poor quality of interactions exacerbate vulnerability. Nevertheless, rich ecosystem, community solidarity, and strong leadership are key factors fostering viable livelihoods for the people of Sisal. Social relationships, proactive attitudes, high capacity and in-depth knowledge are key strengths of the community. These strengths can be built upon to encourage people to organize and participate in decision-making about their future. In conclusion, by studying how people involved in the harvest and post-harvest activities perceive threats to their livelihoods and what they see as possible avenues for strengthening their community, this thesis adds to the general discourse regarding vulnerability and viability of resource-dependent coastal communities. The outcomes of this simplified participatory diagnostic approach, coupled with the understanding of the governance system, provide sound advice for the development of fisheries policies that benefit local communities and their surroundings.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 13904
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 122-164).
Keywords: Vulnerability, Viability, Small-scale fisheries, Sisal, Yucatan, Governance, Coastal fisheries
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: May 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Small-scale fisheries--Mexico--Yucatán (State); Feasibility studies

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