Field trip to Mexico–Meeting the Agents!

Reporting back from my recent trip to Mexico, Baja California Sur (BCS), visit small-scale fishery communities, and to join the start-up workshop for my post doc.

Arriving in La Paz, the presence of having the Gulf of California aka ‘the largest aquarium in the world’ just off shore is manifested throughout the city by amazing murals, statues, and tortoise shaped waste bins. After meeting up with the rest of the field trip team, Maja Schlüter, Laura Elsler, Xavier Basurto, Bjorn Vollan, Kara Pellowe and Heather Leslie, we continued to the Pacific side of of BCS to visit two fishing cooperatives. The boats belonging to each cooperative where either yellow or red, and grouped in two sections of the beach. The story is that one of the cooperatives had lost their permission to keep their boats there because of the new hotel (fig. 2), but somehow they are back. Hopefully an agreement was made!


Fig 2. Boats belong to two fishing cooperatives, and the new hotel in the background trying to push the fishers away.

The technique to get the boats into the water required that first a truck pulled the boats to the beach, and then a big group of fishermen helped push the first boat into the water. This boat had a rope to the next boat on shore and helped pull this boat out, this boat in turn helped the next and so forth (fig. 3). Fishers where also running and throwing themselves into the boats to make sure to pass the huge waves. Perhaps now I should say that in my research, I have built an agent-based model representing small-scale fisheries just like the this fishery for example (where the fishers are the agents). However there is nothing in the model on how they actually get the boats into the water. Although actually the model captures if a fishing trips takes place or not (because of bad weather), and it is quite clear to me now that under some conditions this is a critical aspect.


Fig 3. Fishers running and pushing the boat, and then throwing themselves into it. Simultaneously the boat is pulled by a rope in the front to make sure the boat and crew make it through the waves.

Our field trip continued to join another group of free fishers (not belonging to any cooperative), next to Cabo Pulmo on the east coast of BCS. We camped on the beach not far from the fishers beach camp (fig. 4), as they were traveling from a inland village. The first night, we noticed a lot of activity in the fish camp and although it was pitch black and midnight, fishers were going out to fish for red snapper, using hook and line (fig. 5). Because there is another species eating the very expensive bait in the day time, going out at night is the only alternative. Fishers said that some times bait costs more then the income from selling the catch.


Fig 4. Fish Camp in Cabo Pulmo. Fishers live in inland villages and come to camp on the beach to provide food and income for their families, that stay in the village.


Fig 5. Fisher unloading fish and sorting on plate size which give a higher price per kilo than larger fish. A fish buyer was then weighing and measuring the fish to store in a isolated freezer truck. One fisher had 122kg, and got 50 pesos per kg, about 25SEK, and 4$.

After this field trip, we went back to La Paz to have the first work shop of the MAREA project on Ecological and Institutional Diversity in Small-scale fisheries, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Lots of discussions on different types of ecological and social data that was available or needed in the project and how to fit data to the agent-based model that I will be working on. During the second day we made a field trip to Espiritu Santo (fig. 6) to discuss further our research questions and collaborations. This research project, and workshop, brought together a great group of people and I look forward to doing my post doc for the next two years with all of them! You can follow the project on our MAREA website, and read more about the workshop at the GC Marine Program’s blog post.


Fig 6. Workshop location day 2, National Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Isla Espritu Santo.