Fishing livelihoods and culturally-appropriate fisheries management in North Iceland
Fisheries consist of myriad ecological, social, economic, and political factors that can create complicated management scenarios. Iceland is often hailed in the management literature as having one of the most sustainably-managed fisheries in the world, due largely to the reduction of fishing participation by privatizing the right to fish. Fisheries privatization brought about dramatic changes in fishing livelihoods, leading to rural job loss and even loss of community well-being. The theoretical background for privatization rests on the notion that individuals are profit-maximizers, and without private property rights, effort will flood into fisheries and destroy resource sustainability. However, my research challenges the dominant “tragedy of the commons” framing of fisheries by asking: can a truly “sustainable” fishery management scheme be good for fish and bad for fishing livelihoods? I use theories from political ecology to quantitatively and qualitatively explore the relationship between different types of fisheries management, motivations for participation in fisheries, and the importance of small-scale fisheries in North Iceland. Here, I present preliminary data focused on exploring motivations in fisheries to better understand the ways varying management schemes affect people’s ability to access resources and engage in culturally and historically important livelihoods. Fisheries management schemes assuming one culturally-specific reasoning over another can often lead to tension between user-groups and ultimate failure. At a time when privatization of fisheries is increasing worldwide, it is important to understand the impacts that varying management schemes have on the cultural dimensions of fisheries in order to design management scenarios that are effective from economic, environmental, and social standpoints.