Ecological knowledge, social institutions, and subsistence in Puerto Rican small-scale fisheries


Carlos Garcia-Quijanos - Whittier College  


Abstract: This talk presents an ethnographic exploration of the relationships between cultural knowledge, subsistence economies, and social institutions of fishery resource use in Southeastern Puerto Rico. Southeastern Puerto Rican fishers face the challenge of maximizing the continuity and predictability of their social-ecological environment amidst much heterogeneity and change brought by larger physical and socioeconomic forces. Social institutions emphasize maintaining lasting connections to coastal communities and the fishing lifestyle, while having flexibility to spread effort between types of fishing and to move between fishing and land-based jobs as conditions change. This is a common feature of small-scale resource dependent activities operating within large modernized economies. I explore proxies of fishing success and whether patterns of agreement in ecological knowledge correlate with culturally defined success. I discuss how in-depth multidisciplinary ethnography can contribute to crucial steps in the modeling of social institutional scenarios, such as rule formulation, output validation and robustness assessments.