In our last blog we told the story of a shark fisher, Muhajir who lives at the southern end of Breuh Island, at Gugop Village, where around 65% of inhabitants were killed during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The 12 villages of Breuh Island have been rebuilt over the past 5 years. After the tsunami, Muhajir like so many other fishermen learnt shark fishing techniques from older fishermen who had been displaced from their villages to the south. With the return of boats and availability of long-line fishing gears they started to catch shark for the first time in 2007. Nowadays, many of the sharks end up as “shark meat balls” sold on the street to school kids and adults.
In a recent collaboration between James Cook University and the Wildlife Conservation Society we examine the perceived impact of customary marine resource management on household and community welfare in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. The findings have recently been published by Setiawan et al. (2012) in Coastal Management, 40:239–249. The work examines the influence of socioeconomic factors on the perceived success of the Panglima Laot (PL) customary management systems in Aceh. The paper tested the hypothesis that socioeconomic conditions would differ between fishermen who perceive the system has positive impacts on household and community well-being compared to those with negative or neutral perceptions.
The key findings were that a majority of respondents perceived that the PL system is beneficial on their own livelihood and on their community more broadly. These positive perceptions were possibly because: (1) the main goals of PL are creating social harmony by ensuring that everyone has the same the opportunities to extract marine resources (as opposed to regulating resources for conservation); (2) it functions as a conflict resolution mechanism; and (3) it has existed in Aceh society for several centuries.
However, not all fishers had positive perceptions about the PL system. Those fishers who felt the PL system was less beneficial to them were often poorer, had lower levels of participation in resource management, had lower levels of trust in local institutions and lower levels of involvement in community events. Many households and fishers from the Aceh Islands, where Mujahir lives, and where shark fishing is largely uncontrolled, were in this category, as they have had very little contact with organizations willing to help them with sustainable fishing practices.
The findings are helping WCS and our partners to identify and work with villages and fishers who felt like they did not benefit from PL, and find innovative ways to work with local leaders and managers to ensure that livelihood benefits are delivered to the poorer fishers. It also allows us to identify strategies for cross learning between villages with different levels of involvement in fisheries management, and identify villages which need assistance regarding management of the shark and other fisheries.