Tropical shrimp trawl fisheries: Fishers’ knowledge of and attitudes about a doomed fishery

Tropical shrimp trawl fisheries are unsustainable, and similar sets of management measures are used globally to address the direct and indirect costs of their practices. Yet little is known about shrimp fishers’ perceptions, despite the clear importance of human behaviour in determining the success of fisheries management.

This article presents the results of interviews with industrial shrimp trawl fishers from the southern Gulf of California, Mexico, and reveals fishers’ knowledge and attitudes that should be considered when developing management plans for industrial shrimp trawl fisheries. Fishers were asked to comment on problems facing the fishery, management options to address the issues, and the future of the fishery in general. The interviews also elicited new knowledge on effort and valuable components of bycatch, useful to the management process.

Among the problems facing the Gulf of California fishery, fishers tended to identify those generated externally—fluctuations in shrimp populations, increases in fishing effort, decreases in shrimp prices and increasing overheads—and thus distance themselves from responsibility for management options. The successes of any mitigation measures for the fishery are likely to depend on proper enforcement and reliable governance, as our study indicates. Should strong enforcement be put in place, then trawl free areas seem to be the most pragmatic way to alleviate problems associated with the fishery; our effort data point to areas that might have greatest acceptance among fishers.

A reduction in capacity would clearly complement marine zoning for trawl free areas. In the long run, however, it may be economic extinction of the fishery that reduces pressure on the marine ecosystem.

Foster, S.J. & A.C.J. Vincent (2010). Tropical shrimp trawl fisheries: Fishers’ knowledge of and attitudes about a doomed fishery. Marine Policy 34(3):437-446.