Volume 59

Reflections of the way life used to be: Anthropology, History and the Decline of the Fish Stocks in Puerto Rico

Valdés-Pizzini, M.
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Date: November, 2006

Pages: 37-48

Event: Proceedings of the Fifty Nine Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Belize City

Country: Belize


Arguments explaining the decline in fish stocks for Puerto Rico are straightforward: Overfishing is the main culprit for the steady decline in landings over the last three decades. The data is self-explanatory, and the graphs clearly show peaks and sharp and steady declines in catches. Accordingly, fisheries’ management strategies focus on extractive activities and the seasonality of fishing to protect species through closures, Marine Protected Areas (MPA), and other regulations that reduce effort. In this paper I propose a reverse approach: the examination of proximate human causes and driving forces that affect fish population dynamics and stocks. Not as a fundamental explanation for the decline, but to contextualize fishing, and overfishing, in a tropical-insular environment on a historical perspective. Ecosystem-based and adaptive management require innovative ways of looking at the data and the new forms of analysis. Understanding of the connectivity between the ecological, human, and managerial, systems on diverse spatiotemporal scales is a sine qua non condition. Here, I examine those connections by looking at a particular surface of processes and explanations: (1) Destruction of essential fish habitats, (2) Fish consumption and markets on a temporal (long duration) and global scale, (3) Policies to develop and retard fishing, (4) Coastal development and urban sprawl, and (5) The complex and fluid seascape of Caribbean fishing activities. If the argument holds water, then an adaptive and ecosystem-based management of fisheries must incorporate those processes in the management of the system.

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