Sustainable Fisheries: Multi-Level Approaches to a Global Problem

The Social Embeddedness of Natural Resource Extraction and Use in Small Fishing Communities

Kenneth A. Frank, Spiro Maroulis, Dale Belman, and Michael D. Kaplowitz

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874219.ch14

Small-scale fishers in the developing world constitute a large proportion of the economic activity and natural resource use associated with fishing (e.g., Valdimarsson and Metzner 2011, this volume). Correspondingly, there is an increasingly large literature on management of small-scale or artisanal fishing (Allison and Ellis 2001; Berkes et al. 2001). While this literature has established the cultural contexts in which fishers make decisions, little is understood about variation in individual decision making within those contexts.

Current theory guiding the design and evaluation of sustainability policies highlights both an actor-specific component that focuses on how individuals respond to market forces (McNeely 1988; Sanchirico 2008) and a macrosocial component that focuses on how natural resource users respond to cultural norms such as rituals that effectively limit catch rates (Ostrom 1990, 1997, 1998; Ostrom et al. 1994, 2002, 2007). In this chapter, we build theory to fill the middle ground by exploring how economic incentives and cultural norms affect the utility of a fisherman depending on the specific social networks in which the individual is embedded (Granovetter 1985). In Granovetter’s sense, we view individuals as neither undersocialized, responding merely to economic incentives, nor over-socialized, responding uniformly to macrolevel cultural institutions. More specifically, we aim to develop a theoretical apparatus for specifying social network questions and models that incorporate both economic and social considerations.