Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 399-418

First online:

The political culture of poaching: a case study from northern Greece

  • Sandra BellAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Durham Email author 
  • , Kate HampshireAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Durham
  • , Stella TopalidouAffiliated withEKBY

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Poaching has deep social and cultural roots and its meanings are multi-layered. This article explores the meanings attached to the practice of illegal hunting and fishing around Lake Kerkini in northern Greece. Here poaching must be considered in the context of a disordered ecosystem, where the dominance of locally maligned fish and bird species results from economic and environmental policy designed to benefit distant farmers. We conclude that poaching cannot be understood only as an individual action, but as one where collective and personal identities are defended in the face of seemingly irrevocable economic and social decline. The discussion shows that poachers identify different kinds of poaching. Some of the most apparent forms of poaching, done by local inhabitants, may be less damaging than other commercially oriented forms, including by outsiders. Poaching is motivated through a complex mix of factors. Our data lead us to discuss two manifestations of poaching (a) poaching as a form of collective resistance; and (b) poaching as a violation of culturally valued types of human-nature interaction. Some people who admit undertaking what they perceive as least detrimental forms of poaching are antagonistic towards what they construe to be truly harmful forms. Such people appear willing to act and to support actions against types of poaching they agree to be threatening. This is a message with potential importance for environmental management strategy.


Biodiversity Fisheries Fishing Greece Hunting Livelihoods Local culture Poaching Wetlands