Human Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 177–188 | Cite as

Fish, Trade and Food Security: Moving beyond ‘Availability’ Discourse in Marine Conservation

  • Michael Fabinyi
  • Wolfram H. Dressler
  • Michael D. Pido


The goal of food security increasingly serves as an objective and justification for marine conservation in the global south. In the marine conservation literature this potential link is seldom based upon detailed analysis of the socioeconomic pathways between fish and food security, is often based on limited assumptions about increasing the availability of fish stocks, and downplays the role of trade. Yet, the relationship between fish and food security is multi-faceted and complex, with various local contextual factors that mediate between fish and food security. We use data from interviews and food security assessment methods to examine the relationship between fish and food security among fishing households in San Vicente, Palawan province, Philippines. We highlight the local role of income and trade, emphasising the sale of fish to purchase food not easily accessible for fishers, particularly staples. In particular, we show that because rice is the primary staple of food security for these households, fish must be traded with the intent of buying rice. Trade is therefore central to household food security. We argue that the relationship between fish and food security must be considered in greater depth if marine conservation is to engage with food security as an objective.


Food security Fisheries Livelihood Marine conservation Philippines 



We thank the San Vicente municipal government for their support of this research, the household interviewees for their time, Alex Felipe, Mark Tabangay, Reziel Camacho, Precious Joy Latras, Mark Buncag and Engr. Maria Rosario Aynon A. Gonzales for logistical and fieldwork assistance, Simon Foale for helpful discussions on the topic of this paper, and three anonymous reviewers for constructive reviews. We also thank other faculty and staff members from the Palawan State University for their inputs to the project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of James Cook University (Human Ethics Approval Number H5517).


Funding for this research was provided by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program (Grant Number DP140101055) and a Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship (M. Fabinyi).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.WorldFishBayan LepasMalaysia
  4. 4.School of GeographyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Center for Strategic Policy and GovernancePalawan State UniversityPuerto Princesa CityPhilippines

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