Human Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 341–352 | Cite as

Poverty and Beyond: Small-Scale Fishing in Overexploited Marine Environments

  • Magne KnudsenEmail author


Small-scale fishers in tropical regions of Asia are known to respond to uncertain resource fluctuations in diverse ways. Less is known of their adaptations to and motivations for fishing in severely overexploited fishing grounds. A common explanation emphasises poverty and a lack of access to alternative skills and sources of livelihood. Based on a study of small-scale fishing among coastal dwellers on Negros Island in the Philippine, I show that fishers’ reasons for continuing to fish in overfished waters are more complicated than this explanation allows. To explain why better-off households remain committed to fishing when fish catch levels are generally very low, and why very poor and marginalized households drop out of fishing under such conditions, I combine a diverse livelihoods approach with literatures that focus on issues of power, politics and social exclusion. I differentiate among different kinds of small-scale fishing and track changes in these over time. I pay close attention to fishermen’s own conception of their work and the status distinctions made among them, and examine the socio-institutional arrangements of coastal livelihoods more broadly.


Small-scale fishing Poverty Environmental decline Livelihood diversification Social exclusion Philippines 



This study was supported with an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship and an Australian National University Scholarship. A Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore allowed me to do additional fieldwork. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers and the editors for helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universiti Brunei DarussalamBandar Seri BegawanBrunei Darussalam

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