Disconnects in global discourses—the unintended consequences of marine mammal protection on small-scale fishers

Davis KJ, Alfaro-Shigueto J, Arlidge WNS, et al (2020) Disconnects in global discourses—the unintended consequences of marine mammal protection on small-scale fishers. bioRxiv 2020.01.01.892422. doi: 10.1101/2020.01.01.892422

Globally, the populations of many marine mammals remain of critical concern after centuries of exploitation and hunting. However, some marine mammal populations (e.g. pinnipeds) have largely recovered from exploitation, and interactions between these species and fisheries—particularly small-scale fisheries—is once again of concern globally. The large scope and widespread scale of interactions highlights the local disconnect between two global policies: marine mammal conservation and small-scale fisheries protection. In this research, we explore these conflicting global policies by assessing the perceptions of coastal small-scale fishers in Peru and Chile regarding their interactions with pinnipeds, including the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) and South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis). We surveyed 301 gill net fishers and assess perceptions using a best-worst scaling methodology. We find that fishers are chiefly concerned with the increase in pinniped populations, perceive that their interactions with pinnipeds have significantly increased over the past 80 years, and report pinniped-driven catch and income losses ≥ 26 per cent. Surprisingly, fishers do not believe that compensation schemes will resolve this issue—instead they overwhelmingly call for pinniped population culls. The reported number of pinnipeds illegally killed by fishers suggests the potential for large negative impacts on these protected species, and a loss of legitimacy in marine regulation. Collectively, our results portray a sense of marginalisation from fishers’—that global policy treats them as less “important” than marine mammals. Our results highlight the increasing disconnect in global policy, which on one hand seeks to protect threatened marine mammal populations, and on the other seeks to promote the welfare of small-scale fishers.