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Undefining Small-Scale Fisheries in India: Challenging Simplifications and Highlighting Diversity and Value

Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE,volume 17)

Abstract

Indian marine fishers and fishing practices vary considerably, from semi-industrial boats crewed by two-dozen to the lone fisher paddling a tiny canoe. It is difficult to capture this in simple statistical measurements, leaving much of the small-scale sector as less-than-legible. Policymakers often default to defining fishers – and particularly the small-scale – in the aggregate as locked in poverty and part of the underdeveloped “backward classes.” This view results in development focused on capitalizing and “modernizing.” This paper seeks to challenge this reductionist perspective. Following a discussion of the difficulty in defining small-scale fisheries (SSF), the paper reviews of the Indian fisheries development context. Analysis of census data from India’s Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute examines the questionable but widespread generalization that Indian SSF are synonymous with poverty. The analysis finds considerable variability in the characteristics of fishing communities and the predictors of poverty within and across geographies. Inspired by the social wellbeing framework, the paper finally attempts to describe India’s small-scale fisheries in terms beyond simplistic techno-economic measures. This more nuanced statistical picture of India’s fisheries questions the narrative that SSF are inherently destitute and leads to an argument that politics, policy and scholarship should shun overly simplified economic abstractions and reconsider the diversity and values of SSF.

Keywords

  • Fisheries
  • India
  • Scale
  • Development
  • Poverty
  • Wellbeing
  • Statistics

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Fig. 7.1
Fig. 7.2
Fig. 7.3
Fig. 7.4

Notes

  1. 1.

    Excluding the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

  2. 2.

    For example, the National Fisheries Development Board, created in 2006, pushes production and export.

  3. 3.

    States occasionally privilege “traditional” gears. For example, states generally exempt small boats from the monsoon fishing ban (Vivekanandan et al. 2010).

  4. 4.

    Excluding the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

  5. 5.

    Larger boats face more onerous central government regulation; most boat owners stay under the 20 m threshold (field interview July and August 2012; September 2014).

  6. 6.

    Enumeration took place in April/May 2010. Data entry and validation continued until November 2011. Statistics in this paper, unless otherwise noted, are based upon this census.

  7. 7.

    A different agency surveys the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep; they do not factor in this analysis.

  8. 8.

    CMFRI declined to release household-level data. The institute provided hardcopy tables containing village-level aggregate statistics only. During 3 weeks in 2013, I scanned more than 2600 pages of data and compiled digital tables using text-recognition software. I have checked 5% of data rows against hard copies for error, removing a handful of observations because of inconsistences in the printed versions. I have also compared my digitization to typed data entry by the Fisheries Management Resource Center. I am confident the digital data used here reflect the original hardcopy publication.

  9. 9.

    This is different from an overall percentage. For example, while 75.5% of fisher households are Hindu (Hindu households divided by total households), in the average village 84.9% are Hindu (sum of all village percentages divided by the number of villages).

  10. 10.

    Around 26–27 under this BPL calculation (Ram et al. 2009).

  11. 11.

    Wealthier households may own multiple boats, but CMFRI’s aggregation of data to the village level obscures concentration of craft ownership within villages.

  12. 12.

    Fishing villages fall within 69 coastal districts. The models include dummy variables for 68 districts (omitting one as a reference) to control for unobserved fixed effects.

  13. 13.

    Census data t-statistics or standard error can be interpreted. For example, if an unstandardized coefficient represents nominal average relationship strength, standard error can be understood as the variation of response. This more complex analysis is beyond the space available here.

  14. 14.

    Chosen from more than 100 two-step cluster iterations of the data set randomly ordered. Other variables tested for cluster definitions include ownership of motorized and non-motorized boats; marginalized caste/tribe status; poverty; female employment; and male on-the-water fishing. Solved based on Schwarz’s Bayesian Criterion using log-likelihood distance and a noise threshold of 10%. Cluster quality has “good” cohesion/separation of 0.5. The four-cluster solution includes the outlier cluster.

  15. 15.

    The highest Nagelkerke R2 value of 38.3% existed for predicting Cluster 4 membership.

  16. 16.

    https://dory.creait.mun.ca

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Jadhav, A. (2018). Undefining Small-Scale Fisheries in India: Challenging Simplifications and Highlighting Diversity and Value. In: Johnson, D., Acott, T., Stacey, N., Urquhart, J. (eds) Social Wellbeing and the Values of Small-scale Fisheries. MARE Publication Series, vol 17. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-60750-4_7

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