MAREA: Ecological and Institutional Diversity in Small Scale Fisheries


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On November 2016, the Gulf of California Marine Program started an interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration to study small scale fisheries in the Northwestern Mexican Pacific. We attended the first workshop in La Paz, Baja California Sur, which you can read about in a previous blog written by Alan Berman. As Alan pointed out, MAREA, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, brings together research groups from different institutions and countries. Each of these groups contributes data, methodologies and expertise to solve questions related to how social-ecological systems function and adapt; questions that would be impossible to solve from a single discipline’s perspective.

We also got some opportunities to talk about how our individual projects relate to each other and can be integrated into a broader perspective about the importance of fisheries for the communities in the Gulf of California.

Dr. Octavio Aburto, Dr. Andrew Johnson, and I represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Our main role is to help the rest of the team understand the ecology behind the fisheries patterns that we see in the region. We will also provide data on the fisheries landings (our team has curated daily fisheries records from the entire Mexican Pacific from 2001 to 2015), the health of the rocky reefs (from our annual ecological underwater monitoring program started in 1998), and the region’s oceanographic variables (e.g. sea surface temperature, chlorophyll a, wind speed and direction, etc.).

Map of the first set of candidate communities to be analyzed by MAREA. The score of available data represents relative amounts between the studied communities: 0 is the least amount of data and 1 is the greatest amount of data.

To be able to solve coupled social-ecological questions, we must think carefully about the site selection and the communities we work with, so that we can have data on the ecological and human components. The first social scientific surveys will start in a couple of months, led by Xavier Basurto’s Lab at Duke University. Our team has assisted in pre-selecting sites by providing estimates on the amount of ecological data that could be used to analyze from each of the candidate communities, directing the social surveys towards areas in which we have the most information. The map shows the first set of candidate communities for the study and a score of the available fisheries and ecological data. The communities that have the most information are in the region known as El Corredor in the Gulf of California.

Photo by Alfredo Giron. During our visit to Espiritu Santo Island, the research group had extensive discussions about which communities to analyze.

This project will continue for the next couple of years, and through collaborations between  researchers, NGOs and communities, we expect to gain a deeper understanding of how healthy societies and ecosystems can promote well-being for both nature and humans.




Alfredo Girón

PhD student, SIO

Alfredo is a Ph.D. student of Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. He has collaborated in the Gulf of California Marine Program since 2011 in the development of dataMares, an initiative that seeks to promote data sharing and science communication. His research is focused on evaluating the exploitation state of artisanal fisheries in the Gulf of California, and use this information to inform fisheries managers.

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