An empirical agent-based model to understand inequality and sustainability in small-scale fisheries

Small-scale fisheries provide food and livelihoods to hundreds of millions of people around the world and play a role in shaping the culture and identity of coastal communities. These valuable social-ecological systems can also be stages for disparities in social and economic power, patterns that can be exacerbated by fisheries regulations that privilege some actors over others. Such issues can threaten the resilience and adaptive capacity of fishers and fishing-dependent communities to economic and environmental change. Tackling the complex issues that shape marine fisheries requires an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates understanding of ecological, social, and institutional processes and their feedbacks. This study focused on the small-scale fishery associated with an ecologically- and culturally-important species of clam in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Over six years, using a set of complementary field studies, we identified the ecological, social, and institutional processes that shape stakeholder decisions, their well-being, and sustainability of the target species population. We leveraged qualitative and quantitative data from these field studies to develop the FlexiMar agent-based model, designed to ask: 1) How does heterogeneity among individual fishers affect the sustainability of fished populations; 2) How do fisheries regulations interact with fisher heterogeneity to affect fisher economic inequality and fishery sustainability; 3) What types of regulatory interventions serve to reduce economic inequality among diverse fisher types while simultaneously ensuring the sustainability of the fished population? The regulatory intervention scenarios tested in the FlexiMar model were developed together with fishery managers, and with the model, will be used to identify which scenarios result in win-win outcomes where fished species sustainability and economic inequality are optimized.

Keywords: agent-based model; economic inequality; fisheries policy; intervention; small-scale fisheries; sustainable fisheries

Paper: Pellowe, K.E., Lindkvist, E., Schluter, M., Leslie, H. M. (In Preparation) The unintended effects of fisheries regulations: An empirical agent-based model to understand inequality and sustainability in small-scale fisheries

Participants SES-LINK: Kara Pellowe, Emilie Lindkvist, Maja Schlüter

Funders: NSF USA

Want to know more? Kara.pellowe(at)su.se