Managing complexity: Ecological knowledge and success in puerto rican small-scale fisheries

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This paper examines the interrelationship between Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) and success in the small-scale fisheries of Southeastern Puerto Rico (SE PR). Using mixed qualitative-quantitative ethnographic methods over 18 months of fieldwork, I investigated what constitutes success for small-scale fishers and what role LEK plays in helping them achieve success. SE PR fishers' models of success are geared towards socially beneficial goals such as resource sustainability and social household reproduction rather than towards profit maximization. For SE PR fishers, to be successful is to manage social and ecological complexity enough so they can make a living from fishing. Their LEK enables them to do precisely that and find predictable catches of fish in a heterogeneous, rapidly changing coastal and marine environment; at the same time, drawing on their LEK, they question and evaluate the actions of competing stakeholders for access to coastal and marine resources. Shared cultural models of success, as well as systems of LEK, are shaped by strategies to manage complexity and maximize predictability in sociocultural, economic, and ecological contexts. Copyright © 2009 by the Society for Applied Anthropology.

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Human Organization