Achieving fisheries compliance is challenging in contexts where enforcement capacity is limited and the incentives for rule-breaking are strong. This challenge is exemplified in Myanmar, where an active shark fishery exists despite a nationwide ban on targeted shark fishing. We used the Kipling method (5W1H) to gather a complete story of non-compliance in five small-scale fishing communities in the Myeik Archipelago. Among 144 fishers surveyed, 49% were aware of the nationwide ban. Shark fishers (24%) tended to be younger individuals who did not own a boat and perceived shark fishing to be prevalent. Compliant fishers were motivated by a fear of sharks and lack of capacity (equipment, knowledge), whereas food and income were cited as key motivations for non-compliance. The results of our study emphasize that in resource-dependent communities, improving compliance for effective shark conservation may require addressing broader issues of poverty, food security and the lack of alternatives.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ajzen, I. 1991. The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50: 179–211.
Arias, A. 2015. Understanding and managing compliance in the nature conservation context. Journal of Environmental Management 153: 134–143.
Arias, A., and S.G. Sutton. 2013. Understanding recreational fishers’ compliance with no-take zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Ecology and Society 18: 1–9.
Arias, A., J.E. Cinner, R.E. Jones, and R.L. Pressey. 2015. Levels and drivers of fishers’ compliance with marine protected areas. Ecology and Society 20: 1–14.
Armitage, C.J., and M. Conner. 2001. Efficacy of the theory of planned behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology 40: 471–499.
Battista, W., R. Romero-Canyas, S.L. Smith, J. Fraire, M. Effron, D. Larson-Konar, and R. Fujita. 2018. Behavior change interventions to reduce illegal fishing. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 403.
Bennett, G., P. Cohen, A.M. Schwarz, J. Albert, S. Lawless, C. Paul, and Z. Hilly. 2014. Solomon Islands: Western Province situation analysis. Project report: AAS-2014-15. Penang, Malaysia: CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems.
Bergseth, B.J., and M. Roscher. 2018. Discerning the culture of compliance through recreational fisher’s perceptions of poaching. Marine Policy 89: 132–141.
BOBLME. 2015a. Assessment of the efficacy of Myanmar’s Shark Reserves. Phuket, Thailand: Department of Fisheries (DoF) Myanmar, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem project (BOBLME).
BOBLME, Department of Fisheries, Myanmar, Fauna and Flora International. 2015b. Guide to the development of Myanmar’s National Plan of Action for the conservation and management of sharks. Phuket, Thailand: Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BOBLME).
BOBLME. 2015c. Situation analysis of the Myeik Archipelago. Phuket, Thailand: Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem.
Booth, H., D. Squires, and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2019. The neglected complexities of shark fisheries, and priorities for holistic risk-based management. Ocean and Coastal Management 182: 104994.
Bova, C.S., S.J. Halse, S. Aswani, and W.M. Potts. 2017. Assessing a social norms approach for improving recreational fisheries compliance. Fisheries Management and Ecology 24: 117–125.
Bräutigam, A., M. Callow, I.R. Campbell, M.D. Camhi, A.S. Cornish, N.K. Dulvy, S.V. Fordham, S.L. Fowler, et al. 2016. Global priorities for conserving sharks and rays: A 2015–2025 strategy. Cambridge: Global Sharks and Rays Initiative.
Butler, P., K. Green, and D. Galvin. 2013. The principles of pride: The science behind the mascots. Arlington, VA: Rare.
Carr, L.A., A.C. Stier, K. Fietz, I. Montero, A.J. Gallagher, and J.F. Bruno. 2013. Illegal shark fishing in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Marine Policy 39: 317–321.
Cepić, D., and F. Nunan. 2017. Justifying non-compliance: The morality of illegalities in small scale fisheries of Lake Victoria, East Africa. Marine Policy 86: 104–110.
Cialdini, R.B. 2007. Descriptive social norms as underappreciated sources of social control. Psychometrika 72: 263.
Cortes, E. 2002. Incorporating uncertainty into demographic modeling: Application to shark populations and their conservation. Conservation Biology 16: 1048–1062.
Davidson, L.N., M.A. Krawchuk, and N.K. Dulvy. 2016. Why have global shark and ray landings declined: Improved management or overfishing? Fish and Fisheries 17: 438–458.
Dearden, P. 2016. Blueprint for a Network of Marine Protected Areas in the Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar Fauna and Flora International, Myanmar. Tanintharyi conservation report 39, Yangon.
Diedrich, A., C. Benham, L. Pandihau, and M. Sheaves. 2019. Social capital plays a central role in transitions to sportfishing tourism in small-scale fishing communities in Papua New Guinea. Ambio 48: 385–396. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1081-4.
Dulvy, N.K. 2013. Super-sized MPAs and the marginalization of species conservation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 23: 357–362.
Dulvy, N.K., S.L. Fowler, J.A. Musick, R.D. Cavanagh, P.M. Kyne, L.R. Harrison, J.K. Carlson, L.N. Davidson, et al. 2014. Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. eLife 3: e00590.
Dulvy, N.K., C.A. Simpfendorfer, L.N.K. Davidson, S.V. Fordham, A. Bräutigam, G. Sant, and D.J. Welch. 2017. Challenges and priorities in shark and ray conservation. Current Biology 27: 565–572.
Fabinyi, M. 2007. Illegal fishing and masculinity in the Philippines: A look at the calamianes islands in Palawan. Philippine Studies 55: 509–529.
Dent, F., and S. Clarke. 2015. State of the global market for shark products. Technical paper 590: I. Rome: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Fisher, R.J. 1993. Social desirability bias and the validity of indirect questioning. Journal of Consumer Research 20: 303–315.
Friedman, K., S. Gabriel, O. Abe, A. Adnan-Nuruddin, A. Ali, R. Bidin Raja Hassan, S.X. Cadrin, A. Cornish, et al. 2018. Examining the impact of CITES listing of sharks and rays in Southeast Asian fisheries. Fish and Fisheries 19: 662–676.
Fowler, S.L. 2012. First meeting of the signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks, 26. Background Paper on the Conservation Status of Migratory Sharks.
Gelman, A., A. Jakulin, M.G. Pittau, and Y.S. Su. 2008. A weakly informative default prior distribution for logistic and other regression models. The Annals of Applied Statistics 2: 1360–1383.
Gezelius, S.S. 2004. Food, money, and morals: Compliance among natural resource harvesters. Human Ecology 32: 615–634.
Gill, D.A., M.B. Mascia, G.N. Ahmadia, L. Glew, S.E. Lester, M. Barnes, I. Craigie, E.S. Darling, et al. 2017. Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally. Nature 543: 665–669.
Han, N.M. 2010. Overview on the needs of public awareness for sustainable development in Tanintharyi coastal urban areas. Myeik: Myeik University.
Hatcher, A., S. Jaffry, O. Thébaud, and E. Bennett. 2000. Normative and social influences affecting compliance with fishery regulations. Land Economics 76: 448–461.
Heupel, M.R., S.T. Kessel, J.K. Matley, and C.A. Simpfendorfer. 2018. Acoustic telemetry. In Shark Research: Emerging technologies and applications for the field and laboratory. Marine biology series, ed. J.C. Carrier, M.R. Heithaus, and C.A. Simpfendorfer, 133–156. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Holmes, K., U.T. Tun, and U.K.T. Latt. 2013. Marine conservation in Myanmar—The current knowledge of marine systems and recommendations for research and conservation, 204. Yangon: WCS and MSAM.
Howard, R., A. Ahmad, and U.S.H. Shein. 2015. Shark and ray fisheries of Myanmar—Status and socio-economic importance. Report no. 12 of the Tanintharyi Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Myanmar Forest Department, FFI, Yangon, and the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BOBLME).
Howard, R., Z. Lunn, A. Maung, S.M.N.N. Len, S. Thiha, and S.T. Aung. 2014. Assessment of the Myeik Archipelago Coral Reef Ecosystem, Reef Check Surveys, January 2013 to May 2014. Report no. 5 of the Tanintharyi Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Myanmar Forest Department. Yangon: FFI.
Instituto Oikos and BANCA. 2011. Myanmar protected areas: Context, current status and challenges. Milano, Italy: Ancora Libri.
Isaacs, M., and E. Witbooi. 2019. Fisheries crime, human rights and small-scale fisheries in South Africa: A case of bigger fish to fry. Marine Policy 105: 158–168.
Jaiteh, V.F., S.J. Lindfield, S. Mangubhai, C. Warren, B. Fitzpatrick, and N.R. Loneragan. 2016. Higher abundance of marine predators and changes in fishers’ behavior following spatial protection within the world’s biggest shark fishery. Frontiers in Marine Science 3: 43.
Jaiteh, V.F., N.R. Loneragan, and C. Warren. 2017. The end of shark finning? Impacts of declining catches and fin demand on coastal community livelihoods. Marine Policy 82: 224–233.
Joffe, H., and L. Yardley. 2004. Content and thematic analysis. In Research methods for clinical health psychology, ed. D.F. Marks and L. Yardley, 56–68. London: Sage.
Keane, A., J.P. Jones, G. Edwards-Jones, and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2008. The sleeping policeman: Understanding issues of enforcement and compliance in conservation. Animal Conservation 11: 75–82.
Krakstad, J., K. Michalsen, B. Krafft, E. Bagøien, O. Alvheim, T. Strømme, M.T. Tun, and A.S.T. Tun. 2014. Cruise report Dr. Fridtjof Nansen Myanmar ecosystem survey, 13 November–17 December 2013. Bergen: Institute of Marine Research.
Kuperan, K., and J.G. Sutinen. 1998. Blue water crime: Deterrence, legitimacy, and compliance in fisheries. Law and Society Review 32: 309–338.
Lancaster, D., P. Dearden, and N.C. Ban. 2015. Drivers of recreational fisher compliance in temperate marine conservation areas: A study of rockfish conservation areas in British Columbia, Canada. Global Ecology and Conservation 4: 645–657.
Levi, M., A. Sacks, and T. Tyler. 2009. Conceptualizing legitimacy, measuring legitimating beliefs. American Behavioural Scientist 53: 354–375.
Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF). 2015. Status report on Myanmar’s designated ecotourism sites. http://www.gms-eoc.org/resources/status-report-on-myanmar-s-designated-ecotourism-sites. Accessed 20 April 2019.
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) Myanmar. 2013. Myanmar Tourism Master Plan 2013–2020. Nay Pyi Taw.
MOECAF and Oikos. 2015. Lampi Marine National Park: General management plan 2014–2018. Yangon and Milano, Italy: Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) and Myanmar and Instituto Oikos.
Mora, C., S. Andréfouët, M.J. Costello, C. Kranenburg, A. Rollo, J. Veron, K.J. Gaston, and R.A. Myers. 2006. Coral reefs and the global network of marine protected areas. Science 312: 1750–1751.
Mullainathan, S., and E. Shafir. 2013. Scarcity: Why having too little means so much. London: Macmillan.
Pauly, D. 1997. Small-scale fisheries in the tropics: Marginality, marginalisation, and some implications for fisheries management. In Global trends: Fisheries management: American Fisheries Society symposium 20, ed. E.K. Pikitch, D.D. Huppert, D.D., and Sissenwine, M.P. Bethesda, Maryland: American Fisheries Society.
Pew Charitable Trusts. 2018. Shark Sanctuaries around the world. https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2018/02/shark_sanctuaries_2018_issuebrief.pdf. Accessed 20 April 2019.
Pollnac, R., P. Christie, J.E. Cinner, T. Dalton, T.M. Daw, G.E. Forrester, N.A. Graham, and T.R. McClanahan. 2010. Marine reserves as linked social–ecological systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107: 18262–18265.
Pomeroy, R., J. Parks, K. Reaugh-Flower, M. Guidote, H. Govan, and S. Atkinson. 2015. Status and priority capacity needs for local compliance and community-supported enforcement of marine resource rules and regulations in the coral triangle region. Coastal Management 43: 301–328.
R Core Development Team. 2019. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Ross, L., D. Greene, and P. House. 1977. The “false consensus effect”: An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13: 279–301.
Russ, G.R., and A.C. Alcala. 2010. Decadal-scale rebuilding of predator biomass in Philippine marine reserves. Oecologia 163: 1103–1106.
Schneider, H., S. Thiha, M. Pontillas, and E.M. Ponce de Leon. 2014. Socio-economic baseline assessment: Thayawthatangyi and Langann Islands, Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar. Report no. 10 of the Tanintharyi Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Myanmar Forest Department, FFI, Yangon, and the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem project (BOBLME).
Shein, S.H. A. Maung, S.M.N.N. Lin, and U.Z. Lunn. 2013. Socio-economic survey in the villages along Thayawthadangyi Kyun group, Kyunsu Township, Tanintharyi region, Myanmar. Development of a Marine Protected Area Network in Myanmar, Myanmar Marine Programme Report No. 1/2013 Fauna & Flora International.
Sofield, T. 1996. Anuha Island Resort, Solomon Islands: A case study of failure. In Tourism and indigenous peoples, ed. R. Butler and T. Hinch, 176–202. Boston: International Thomson Business Press.
St John, F.A., G. Edwards-Jones, J.M. Gibbons, and J.P. Jones. 2010. Testing novel methods for assessing rule breaking in conservation. Biological Conservation 143: 1025–1030.
Sutinen, J.G., and K. Kuperan. 1999. A socio-economic theory of regulatory compliance. International Journal of Social Economics 26: 174–193.
Sutton, R.I., and H. Rao. 2014. Scaling up excellence: Getting to more without settling for less. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Tourangeau, R., and T. Yan. 2007. Sensitive questions in surveys. Psychological Bulletin 133: 859.
Travers, H., L.J. Archer, G. Mwedde, D. Roe, J. Baker, A.J. Plumptre, A. Rwetsiba, and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2019. Understanding complex drivers of wildlife crime to design effective conservation interventions. Conservation Biology 33: 1296–1306.
Turner, R.A., J. Addison, A. Arias, B.J. Bergseth, N.A. Marshall, T.H. Morrison, and R.C. Tobin. 2016. Trust, confidence, and equity affect the legitimacy of natural resource governance. Ecology and Society 21: 18.
UN FAO. 2013. About the IPOA-Sharks. www.fao.org/fishery/ipoa-sharks/about/en. Accessed 2 April 2020.
Vincent, A.C., Y.J. Sadovy de Mitcheson, S.L. Fowler, and S. Lieberman. 2014. The role of CITES in the conservation of marine fishes subject to international trade. Fish and Fisheries 15: 563–592.
Ward-Paige, C.A. 2017. A global overview of shark sanctuary regulations and their impact on shark fisheries. Marine Policy 82: 87–97.
Ward-Paige, C.A., and B. Worm. 2017. Global evaluation of shark sanctuaries. Global Environmental Change 47: 174–189.
WCS. 2013. Myanmar biodiversity conservation investment vision. Yangon: Wildlife Conservation Society.
Whitcraft, S., A. Hofford, P. Hilton, M. O’Malley, V. Jaiteh, and P. Knights. 2014. Evidence of declines in Shark Fin demand, China. San Francisco, CA: WildAid.
White, J., C.A. Simpfendorfer, A.J. Tobin, and M.R. Heupel. 2013. Application of baited remote underwater video surveys to quantify spatial distribution of elasmobranchs at an ecosystem scale. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 448: 281–288.
White, K.M., J.R. Smith, D.J. Terry, J.H. Greenslade, and B.M. McKimmie. 2009. Social influence in the theory of planned behaviour: The role of descriptive, injunctive, and in-group norms. British Journal of Social Psychology 48: 135–158.
WHC. 2014. Myeik Archipelago—Tentative lists. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5874/. Accessed 9 May 2019.
World Bank, Food Agriculture Organization, and WorldFish. 2012. Hidden harvests: The global contribution of capture fisheries, economic and sector work. Report No. 66469-GLB. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Wright, J.H., N.A. Hill, D. Roe, J.M. Rowcliffe, N.F. Kümpel, M. Day, F. Booker, and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2016. Reframing the concept of alternative livelihoods. Conservation Biology 30: 7–13.
We sincerely thank all community members who participated in this research. We also sincerely thank staff at Fauna and Flora International (Robert Howard, Soe Thiha, Sanay Ko, Soe Tint Aung, Kyaw Zay Ya, Salai Mon Nyi Nyi Lin) and Instituto Oikos (Elisa Facchini, Aung Myo Lwin) for support with logistics and data collection. We are grateful to three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was supported by the Shark Conservation Fund.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
MacKeracher, T., Mizrahi, M., Bergseth, B. et al. Understanding non-compliance in small-scale fisheries: Shark fishing in Myanmar’s Myeik Archipelago. Ambio (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01400-1
- Shark conservation
- Shark fishing
- Small-scale fisheries