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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    There are alternative approaches that argue for compatible approaches to food security, trade and sustainability, which we return to in the Conclusion.

  2. 2.

    Although women are usually heavily involved in fish processing, trading and marketing, fishers are usually male (Eder 2006; Fabinyi 2012).

  3. 3.

    In many Austronesian and mainland Southeast Asian groups, this relationship is mapped on to gender oppositions, with rice often associated with female deities (Janowski 2007: 9).

  4. 4.

    For similar practices in other parts of the Philippines, see Russell and Alexander (2000) and Segi (2014: 1233-1234).

  5. 5.

    Rice cost PHP34–42/kg during the 2015 fieldwork.

  6. 6.

    Meat is also more expensive and less accessible because most fishing households are tenure-insecure coastal dwellers with few flatter plots of lands suitable for animal husbandry. They may keep a few chickens and a single large pig, usually tethered next to the house or under a shade tree. Herds of pigs and cattle are rare amongst such households. Few households have the necessary capital assets (apart from land) to tend livestock. Veterinary support is inconsistent or absent in many rural areas, so that most attempts at animal husbandry fail due to disease and improper animal nutrition (see also Dressler 2009).

  7. 7.

    Family planning services are not available in much of the rural Philippines, where the Catholic Church has long imposed its views against contraception (Bautista 2010).

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Michael Fabinyi.

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

Funding

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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Fabinyi, M., Dressler, W.H. & Pido, M.D. Fish, Trade and Food Security: Moving beyond ‘Availability’ Discourse in Marine Conservation. Hum Ecol 45, 177–188 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9874-1

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Keywords

  • Food security
  • Fisheries
  • Livelihood
  • Marine conservation
  • Philippines