Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences (MSBES)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Austin Humphries


Food and livelihood security are key concerns for coastal communities in Indonesia as local and global drivers threaten fisheries across the archipelago. However, the focus of fisheries management and conservation on fish production excludes important aspects of the fish food system such as local economies, relationships, and cultures. For management and conservation policy to address food insecurity and marine resource declines, there is a need to understand local trade and consumption. In this study, we use value chain analysis and a “fish as food” framework to investigate the links between fish production, distribution, and consumption in an Indonesian fishing community (Bontosua Island, which is near the port city of Makassar). To explore dimensions of food security, we employed value chain surveys spanning trading structures and livelihood benefits (Chapter 2) and household surveys depicting on-island distribution pathways (Chapter 3). Three questions guide the research: i.) What social and economic benefits do actors in the Bontosua-Makassar value chain receive from the fish trade, and what maintains them? (Chapter 2); ii.) Which fisheries are most important for food security (i.e. trade, nutrition, cultural, and social value) on Bontosua? (Chapters 2 and 3); and iii.) In what ways do the island’s nutritional dependence on certain fish species and acquisition pathways reflect the local fishing and trading environment? (Chapter 3). The results of this study are also interpreted to advise an ongoing coral restoration project on the island, which was formed with a socio-economic aim to support long-term food security and livelihoods.

We found that trade connected to the study community was market-based and fish were staple items in household diets. Although coral reefs are the main targets for marine conservation projects like the one occurring on-island, small pelagic (offshore) fish were the dominant fish type present in value chain and household surveys. Fish flows were maintained primarily by pelagic fishing crews, a hierarchical fishing format supported by debt-based ties between a patron (lender) and client (debtor). Debt mediated unequal trade relations, leading boat owners and middlemen to accumulate a majority of the wealth from fish trading. At the household level, access to fish and particular fish species was seasonally dependent: during the windy season, households had higher social and economic vulnerability because fish supplies were limited, fish buying increased, and households had to substitute their preferred wild-caught species with imported farmed fish. Strong associations between dietary diversity and purchased food groups, combined with a market-led, hierarchical fish trade, suggests that improving food security outcomes requires greater investment in trading equity within the fisheries value chain. Given the study island’s strong ties to offshore fishing and debt-based relations, a conservation project focused primarily on enhancing populations of coral reef fish is unlikely to generate long-term community benefits tied to food security. Our conclusions underscore the need to more closely examine the dynamics of subsistence, commercial, and cultural use when integrating fisheries conservation and management plans.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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