Resource Conflicts: Challenges to Fisheries Management at the São Francisco River, Brazil
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The paper describes factors influencing artisanal fisheries at the São Francisco River in Brazil as an example of the challenges of managing socially and economically valued common-pool resource systems. A rapid assessment of problems affecting São Francisco River fisheries in 10 communities was carried out in 2003, representing the upper, middle, and lower river portions. Field visits, interviews, focus group discussions and a literature survey allowed us to map socioeconomic and environmental factors important to the fisheries, including conflicts and tensions between stakeholders. Federal, state, and municipal governments, industries, farmers, hydroelectric companies, and urban and rural populations all have a stake in river use. Traditional fishers are the most disadvantaged of these stakeholders. With declining fish populations, most of the fishing communities surveyed are now poor, socially excluded, and with few alternative livelihood options. The stakeholders involved in access and use conflicts are artisanal fishers, professional fishers, sport fishers, farmers, enforcement and regulatory agencies, and hydroelectric companies. Traditional fishers have close ties to the river and its environment and they are usually not invited to contribute to resource management decisions. We recommend changes to management structures involving the fishing communities that are essential to resolve the major conflicts and to improve equity and sustainability of artisanal fisheries.