Hill NAO, Rowcliffe JM, Koldewey HJ, Milner-Gulland EJ. 2012 Conservation Biology 26, 324-334

The interaction between seaweed farming as an alternative occupation and fisher numbers in the central Philippines


Alternative occupations are frequently promoted as a means to reduce the number of people exploiting declining fisheries. However, there is little evidence that alternative occupations reduce fisher numbers. Seaweed farming is frequently promoted as a lucrative alternative occupation for artisanal fishers in Southeast Asia. We examined how the introduction of seaweed farming has affected village-level changes in the number of fishers on Danajon Bank, central Philippines, where unsustainable fishing has led to declining fishery yields. To determine how fisher numbers had changed since seaweed farming started, we interviewed the heads of household from 300 households in 10 villages to examine their perceptions of how fisher numbers had changed in their village and the reasons they associated with these changes. We then asked key informants (people with detailed knowledge of village members) to estimate fisher numbers in these villages before seaweed farming began and at the time of the survey. We compared the results of how fisher numbers had changed in each village with the wealth, education, seaweed farm sizes, and other attributes of households in these villages, which we collected through interviews, and with village-level factors such as distance to markets. We also asked people why they either continued to engage in or ceased fishing. In four villages, respondents thought seaweed farming and low fish catches had reduced fisher numbers, at least temporarily. In one of these villages, there was a recent return to fishing due to declines in the price of seaweed and increased theft of seaweed. In another four villages, fisher numbers increased as human population increased, despite the widespread uptake of seaweed farming. Seaweed farming failed for technical reasons in two other villages. Our results suggest seaweed farming has reduced fisher numbers in some villages, a result that may be correlated with socioeconomic status, but the heterogeneity of outcomes is consistent with suggestions that alternative occupations are not a substitute for more direct forms of resource management.

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