Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 395–411

Navigating Over Space and Time: Fishing Effort Allocation and the Development of Customary Norms in an Open-Access Mangrove Estuary in Ecuador


DOI: 10.1007/s10745-014-9655-7

Cite this article as:
Beitl, C.M. Hum Ecol (2014) 42: 395. doi:10.1007/s10745-014-9655-7


Fisheries are increasingly understood as complex adaptive systems; but the cultural, behavioral, and cognitive factors that explain spatial and temporal dynamics of fishing effort allocation remain poorly understood. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a visualization tool, this paper combines catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) and ethnographic data on the Ecuadorian mangrove cockle fishery to explore patterns in fishing effort and the social production of fishing space. I argue that individual decisions about where, when, and how to fish result in spatial and temporal patterns in effort allocation, ultimately regulating open-access fisheries that typically operate on a first-come, first-served basis. These emergent patterns in the fishing effort are explained by individual-level preferences and adaptations; the development of knowledge and customary norms through the habitual use of resource space by individuals and groups; ecological conditions; and access. New adaptive challenges threaten to undermine such self-organization of open-access systems on larger spatial and temporal scales prompting a likely re-allocation of the fishing effort in the future.


Artisanal fisheriesLocal ecological knowledgeDecision-makingComplex adaptive systemsGeographic information systems (GIS)Catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE)Ecuador

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA