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BP Oil Spill

How Ethnoscience Has Been Affected by the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

In loose terms, ‘ethnoscience’ is a way to describe an educational trend towards programmes that provide more generalization in the sciences. The ‘ethno’ prefix partially pays respect and attention to the indigenous knowledge that people have, because that indigenous knowledge has a way of providing understandings that will never happen in the confinement of devotion to European and Western thought, scientific speciality and scientific method.

Indigenous knowledge is fragile and complex knowledge that is passed on through oral traditions. It is infused with linguistic, mythical, strategic and other issues. Mythical content has mixed in with concealed content over time in order to give political and social power, to soothe the group’s need for explanations of the unknown, and to protect trade and political secrets.

In the current era of globalization in just about every science, from military and political science, to world health and biological prospecting, local and indigenous people’s knowledge about their parts of the world is taking on more respect simply because that knowledge is valuable and powerful. It is based on thousands of years of observation, trial and error and lessons learned. In many cases, the knowledge is accompanied by lifetimes of training and education that are as dedicated and intelligent as anything that comes from a university.

“Ethnoscientists’ are scientists who have expanded their studies to include anthropology, sociology, linguistics and other social understandings in order to work with people directly, rather than to strip out their input and to deal only with raw numbers or facts.

The people who have lived in the Gulf oil spill region have centuries worth of experience and knowledge that will have to be respected and mined as scientists seek to fully understand the impact of the BP oil spill on man and nature. The plants, animals and humans of the region are only fully understood by the plants, animals and humans who have lived and who will live in the region, and only the humans are able to do the talking.

A Vietnamese immigrant family, for example, will have brought their existing understandings of marine life together with decades of daily interaction with the waters and biomes of the Gulf in ways that are priceless. Centuries-old familes of sea fishermen, wetlands dwellers and residents of all races and ethnicities will know more about the land before the oil, during the oil and after the oil, than any scientist can know. Native Americans will have the oldest knowledge of all, especially about the fact that the Gulf has had natural oil seeps since the arrival of humans.

As a result, even the most laboratory-bound economists, physicists, botanists, biologists and engineers will benefit from those special representatives of their science who can mix it up with the people and get the fragile, indigenous, oral knowledge from those who have the most complete, steady and long-term exposure, interaction, experience, knowledge, trial and error, and observation to offer.

Source: Elizabeth M Young/Helium

O R G A N I Z A T I O N A L  P R O F I L E

The Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU)

The Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) was founded in 1977 in Escuminac, in East Coast, New Brunswick, Canada. It has 1,500 inshore owner-operator fish harvesters in the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Its members are multi-species fish harvesters (most carry fishing licences for lobster and herring, in addition to some for groundfish, scallops and others). The organization is accredited every four years under the Inshore Fishery Representation Act and other provincial legislation.

In eastern Canada, the lobster industry employs approximately 30,000 people (including captains and their crew), and creates employment for over 20,000 fish workers in processing plants. The lobster industry accounts for 55 per cent (Can$82.8 mn) of commercial fishery landings revenues for New Brunswick. The export value for the lobster industry in New Brunswick in 2006 was Can$377 mn. The asset value for the east coast New Brunswick inshore is valued at approximately Can$180 mn.

It is the opinion of the MFU that the lobster industry in Atlantic Canada is entering one of the worst crises since the 1970s. Before the worldwide economic slump began, the viability of Canada’s lobster fish harvesters was already in serious crisis, with most making a pre-tax average net revenue of around Can$10,000 in eastern New Brunswick.

Therefore, there is strong pressure for a major restructuring programme with government involvement.


Women of the Praia: Work and Lives in a Portuguese Coastal Community by Sally Cooper Cole. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1991

In this richly detailed, sensitive ethnographic work, Sally Cole takes as her starting point the firsthand accounts of five differently situated Portuguese women, who describe their lives in a rural fishing community on the north coast of Portugal. Skillfully combining these life stories with cultural and economic analysis, Cole radically departs from the picture of women as sexual beings that prevails in the anthropological literature on Europe and the Mediterranean. Her very different strategy—a focus on women as workers—reflects the Portuguese women’s own definition of themselves and allows them the strong, resonant voice that is the goal of both the new ethnography and feminist scholarship.

From this new perspective, Cole proposes an important critique of the dominant paradigm of southern European gender relations as being embedded in the code of honour and shame. Covering the Salazar years, as well as the period since the 1974 Revolution, Cole shows that fisherwomen of the past enjoyed greater autonomy in work and social relations than do their daughters and granddaughters.

F I S H E R I E S  S T A T I S T I C S

Inland Capture Fisheries in the Asia-Pacific Region

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently updated its FISHSTAT database with information on capture fisheries and aquaculture production up to 2008 for all countries. The statistics show that the world’s capture fisheries production stood at 89.3 mn tonnes in 2008 as against 89.5 mn tonnes in 2007. The marine capture fish production was 79.5 mn tonnes in 2008, while freshwater capture fish production stood at 9.7 mn tonnes (the highest recorded since the 1950s). Production from aquaculture in 2008 was 52 mn tonnes, contributing US$ 96 bn, as against 49 mn tonnes and US$ 88 bn in 2007. Freshwater aquaculture contributed the largest both in terms of quantity (31 mn tonnes) and value (US$54 bn), while mariculture contributed 17 mn tonnes, valued at US$29 bn, while the rest came from brackishwater aquaculture.

The top ten capture fish producing countries were China, which led the world’s capture fish production at 14.5 mn tonnes, followed by Peru (7.4 mn), Indonesia (4.9 mn), United States of America (4.3 mn), Japan (4.2 mn), India (4.1 mn), Chile (3.5 mn), Russian Federation (3.4 mn), Philippines (2.6 mn) and Myanmar (2.5 mn).

At the individual species level, Peruvian anchovy was the species caught in largest quantities (7.2 mn), followed by Alaskan pollock (2.7 mn), Atlantic herring (2.5 mn), skipjack tuna (2.4 mn), and chub mackerel (1.9 mn). Besides these, 9.4 mn tonnes of fish were recorded as marine fish species (not elsewhere included).

The Northwest Pacific fishing area contributed the highest (20 mn), followed by Southeast Pacific (12 mn), Western Central Pacific (11 mn), Northeast Atlantic (9 mn), Eastern Indian Ocean (6.6 mn), Asia-Inland waters (6.4 mn), Western Indian Ocean (4.1 mn) and Eastern Central Atlantic (3.4 mn).

Marine capture fisheries was dominated by China (12.3 mn tonnes), followed by Peru (7.3 mn), Indonesia (4.63 mn), United States of America (4.3 mn), Japan (4.2 mn), Chile (3.5 mn), India (3.3 mn), Russian Federation (3.2 mn), Norway (2.4 mn) and the Philippines (2.4 mn). The important marine species, besides the Peruvian anchovy, Alaksa pollock, Atlantic herring, skipjack tuna and chub mackerel, include the largehead hairtail (1.4 mn), blue whiting (1.3 mn), Chilean jack mackerel (1.28 mn) and Japanese anchovy (1.26 mn).

Asia dominated the world freshwater capture fish production, with China contributing to 2.2 mn tonnes, Bangladesh (nearly 1 mn), India (0.85 mn), Myanmar (0.81 mn), Uganda (0.45 mn), Cambodia (0.37 mn), Indonesia (0.31 mn), Nigeria (0.30 mn), United Republic of Tanzania (0.28 mn) and Thailand (0.23 mn). Nile perch was captured in largest quantities (0.36 mn), followed by Nile tilapia (0.19 mn), oriental river prawn (0.14 mn) and Siberian prawn (0.14 mn). Besides these, the top species also included cyprinids, tilapia, freshwater molluscs and freshwater siluroids.

China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh continue to dominate the aquaculture sector, contributing 81 per cent of the total quantity of aquaculture fish produced. In terms of species cultured, silver carp, grass carp, cupped oyster, Japanese carpet shell and common carp, along with Nile tilapia, dominated the top few species.

China, India, Vietnam, Chile and Norway contributed 68 per cent to the total value from aquaculture production. The top five species, in terms of value of aquaculture production, are whiteleg shrimp, Atlantic salmon, grass carp, silver carp and common carp. China alone accounts for 62 per cent of the total aquaculture fish production, and 50 per cent of the value. In terms of unit value (US$ per kg), the top species are Japanese abalone, red abalone, sawtooth caridina, humpback grouper and perlemoen abalone.

(Source: FISHSTAT Plus Database. FAO. 2010.)


Small Indigenous Freshwater Fish Species: Their Role in Poverty Alleviation, Food Security and Conservation of Biodiversity Workshop proceedings.

The proceedings of the workshop on small indigenous freshwater fish species (SIFFS), held in Kolkata, West Bengal, 23-25 February 2010, provide a fresh focus on SIFFS, usually regarded as ‘trash’ fish. It urges scientists, researchers and decisionmakers to develop policy and legislative measures to ensure the conservation and promotion of SIFFS, both in capture- and culture-fisheries systems.


Workshop: “Recasting the Net: Defining a Gender Agenda for the Lives and Livelihoods in Fishing Communities”

Comite Locale des Peches of Le Guilvinec

The website of the Comite Locale des Peches of Le Guilvinec, Brittany, France, provides domestic and international news as well as the price of fish, and also information on training and capacity-building programmes.


Whether we live by the seaside, or by the lakes
and rivers, or on the prairie, it concerns us to
attend to the nature of fishes…

—Henry David Thoreau


ICSF’s Documentation Centre (DC) has a range of information resources that are regularly updated ( A selection:


Na pesca e na luta: mulheras construindo direitos by Articulacao de Mulheres Pescadoras do Ceara, Insituto Terramar, and CPP Regional Ceara. 11 mins. Documentary in Portuguese. 2009.

This video documents the first meeting of the Articulation of Women in Fisheries of the State of Ceara, 27–29 November 2008.

The meeting focused on women’s rights to fish and to the coastal zone, and the documentary documents the various struggles that women have undergone for their rights.

Kayar l’enfance prise aux filets by Thomas Grand. Documentary in French. 52 mins.

This film portrays the life of a young boy named Adama, and, through him, the lives of the youth living in Kayar, a fishing village in Senegal. The children from the village lack opportunities for education, and are involved in net mending before they slowly enter the fishery. The film analyzes the crisis affecting the fisheries sector in Senegal, and its impact on the fishing community, especially on the youth. It also puts forth suggestions for a better future for the young fishermen of Senegal.


Handbook of Marine Fisheries Conservation and Management
Edited by R.Quentin Grafton, Ray Hilborn, Dale Squires, Maree Tait and Meryl Williams. New York: Oxford University Press. 2010.

This handbook is perhaps the most comprehensive interdisciplinary work on marine conservation and fisheries management ever compiled, and the first to completely bridge fisheries and marine conservation issues. The detailed case studies and governance framework provide a unique mix of theory, best practice and pathways to improve the management of the world’s oceans and to help overcome the perennial problems of overfishing and habitat and biodiversity loss. Unique themes in the handbook include: use of incentives to promote desirable fisher behavior; synthesis of best practice in fisheries conservation and management; framework for understanding and overcoming the critical determinants of the decline in fisheries; degradation of marine ecosystems; and poor socioeconomic performance of many fishing communities.

Live from Urok! Urok Islands Community Marine Protected Area: Lessons Learned and Impacts by Ambroise Brenier, Emanuel Ramos and Augusta Henriques. Guinea Bissau: International Foundation for the Banc d’ Arguin (FIBA), Tiniguena, PRCM and UROK.2010.

The process for setting up the community marine protected area (MPA) in Urok Islands in Guinea Bissau began in the 1990s. This document provides comments, illustrations and examples of lessons learnt from the process, between 2001 and 2008. Some of the impacts of the MPA are portrayed through anecdotes and short stories about changes that the inhabitants of the isles may have observed or experienced.


Small fish in Joburg

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) provided fundamental principles and a programme of action for achieving sustainable development. Now, 10 years on, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), to be held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September, is expected to come up with a Plan of Implementation for the speedy realization of the remaining UNCED goals. Of these, the most important is the eradication of poverty as an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development.

Following the 2001 Reykjavik Conference on the Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries Management, the importance of an ecosystem approach is now recognized. The Draft Plan of Implementation for the WSSD that came out of the Fourth Session at Bali proposes developing an ecosystem approach to the conservation and management of the oceans by 2012—one of the few time-bound commitments that countries have agreed to so far.

Of the top seven fish-producing countries in the world, five are developing countries. Three of them—China, India and Indonesia—have a huge population of nearly one billion people living below the income poverty line of US$1 per day. The majority of these people live in coastal areas, either participating in fisheries or contributing to activities that often have a negative impact on marine and coastal ecosystems. Sustainable development of natural resources and poverty eradication are, therefore, matters of paramount concern to the poor in coastal fishing communities. In this context, we support the proposal in the WSSD Draft Plan of Implementation to establish a World Solidarity Fund to eradicate poverty and to promote human and social development. Without international co-operation, it is difficult for many developing countries, ravaged by, among other things, poor commodity prices in world markets, to move towards sustainable development.

In many poor countries of Asia and Africa, displacement of people as a result of development initiatives and other causes has led to migrations of peasants, agricultural labourers and forest dwellers into coastal fisheries. Such migrations often make it doubly difficult for the poor in fishing communities to eke out a decent living from fishing activities. This should also include appropriate arrangements for both fishing and farming communities.

— from Comment in SAMUDRA Report No. 32, July 2002



Third Regional Consultative Forum Meeting (RCFM) of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC), Jeju, Republic of Korea. September 1-4, 2010

The third RCFM, “Balancing the Needs of People and Ecosystems in Fisheries and Aquaculture Management in the Asia-Pacific”, has themes that include “using the ecosystem approach to management in fisheries and aquaculture” and “improving livelihoods and increasing resilience in fishing and aquaculture communities”.

10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10). 18-29 October, Nagoya, Japan

COP 10 will include a high-level ministerial segment organized by the host country in consultation with the Secretariat and the Bureau. The high?level segment will take place from 27 to 29 October 2010. The 10th COP will undertake in-depth consideration on the programme of work on marine and coastal biodiversity, and protected areas.

FAO Regional Workshops on Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries: Bringing Together Responsible Fisheries and Social Development. Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok, Thailand, October 6-8) and Africa (Maputo, Mozambique, October 12-14).

These workshops of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are a means to consult with national and regional stakeholders, to identify good practices in the governance of small-scale fisheries, and to verify and/or expand upon, for each region, the outputs and specific needs identified both in the 2009 inception workshop of the FAO Extra-Budgetary Programme on Fisheries and Aquaculture for Poverty Alleviation and Food Security and in the 2008 Global Conference.