Spatial diversification as a mechanism to adapt to environmental changes in small-scale fisheries


© 2020 The Authors Small-scale fisheries’ actors increasingly face new challenges, including climate driven shifts in marine resource distribution and productivity. Diversification of target species and fishing locations is a key mechanism to adapt to such changes and maintain fisheries livelihoods. Here we explore environmental and institutional factors mediating how patterns of spatial diversification (i.e., utilization of alternative fishing grounds) and target species diversification change over time. Using small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur (Mexico) as a case study, we adopt a social-ecological network approach to conduct a spatially explicit analysis of fisheries landings data (2008–2016). This approach quantifies relative patterns of diversification, and when combined with a qualitative analysis of existing literature, enables us to illuminate institutional and environmental factors that may influence diversification strategies. Our results indicate that interannual changes in spatial diversification are correlated with regional oceanographic change, while illustrating the heterogeneity and dynamism of diversification strategies. Rather than acting in isolation, we hypothesize that environmental drivers likely operate in combination with existing fisheries regulations and local socioeconomic context to mediate spatial diversification. We argue that small-scale fisheries policies need to better account such linkages as we move towards an increasingly variable environment. Overall, our results highlight spatial diversification as a dynamic process and constitute an important step towards understanding and managing the complex mechanisms through which environmental changes affect small-scale fisheries.






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Publication Info

Gonzalez-Mon, B, Ö Bodin, E Lindkvist, TH Frawley, A Giron-Nava, X Basurto, M Nenadovic, M Schlüter, et al. (2021). Spatial diversification as a mechanism to adapt to environmental changes in small-scale fisheries. Environmental Science and Policy, 116. pp. 246–257. 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.11.006 Retrieved from

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Xavier Basurto

Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor

I am interested in the fundamental question of how groups (human and non-human) can find ways to self-organize, cooperate, and engage in successful collective action for the benefit of the common good. To do this I strive to understand how the institutions (formal and informal rules and norms) that govern social behavior, interplay with biophysical variables to shape social-ecological systems. What kind of institutions are better able to govern complex-adaptive systems? and how can societies (large and small) develop robust institutions that provide enough flexibility for collective learning and adaptation over the long-term?

My academic and professional training is based on a deep conviction that it is through integrating different disciplinary perspectives and methods that we will be able to find solutions to challenging dilemmas in natural resources management, conservation, and environmental policy. Trained as a marine biologist, I completed a M.S in natural resources studying small-scale fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Realizing the need to bring social science theories into my work on common-pool resources sustainability, I earned an MPA and a Ph.D. in Management (with a minor in cultural anthropology) from the University of Arizona and under the supervision of Edella Schlager. Following I spent two years working with Elinor Ostrom, 2009 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, at the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis of Indiana University. Methodologically, I am familiar with a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches and formally trained to conduct Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA or more recently fsQCA), that allows among other things, systematic comparisons of middle range N sample sizes and address issues of multiple-causality.

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