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Shifting Baselines or Shifting Currents? An Environmental History of Fish and Fishing in the South-West Capes Region of Western Australia

Chapter
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 12)

Abstract

The South-west Capes region of Western Australia is one of high marine biodiversity but relatively low productivity. Still the region’s waters have long provided food for the local Noongar people and sustained commercial and recreational fishing since the nineteenth century, when activities were loosely regulated, if at all. But from the mid- to late-twentieth century, as catch rates apparently declined while the popularity and reach of recreational fishing increased, policies governing fishing in the region became increasingly restrictive and fiercely contested. This chapter therefore endeavours to disentangle the strands of policy, perception, and fish populations in the Capes region, evaluating evidence of change in the region’s fish populations over the long run, and accounting for it with reference to social contexts, fishing intensity and practices, and change in the regional environment. It ultimately suggests that the movements and abundance of fish have varied considerably over time due to biophysical and ecological influences, and claims of depletion have sometimes reflected cultural anxieties rather than environmental change. However, there is also a long history of human interventions in the region’s marine ecosystems. Such interventions, shaped by complex cultural and economic factors, have left short- and longer-term imprints on the region’s ecosystems.

Keywords

Marine environmental history Ngari Capes Marine Park South-west capes region Fishing history Western Australia Leeuwin current 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HistoryThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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