A global decline in fishes is already underway, with each passing year adding to the pressure. While large trawlers leave almost nothing behind for local fishing, there are also more protected areas for species like the whale that are out of bounds for people. Fisherfolk everywhere are caught in a net, much like the fish they try to catch. Therefore, governments often encourage them to switch to options like seaweed farming. But whether these ‘alternatives’ are good enough or even accepted easily is not well known.
Hill and colleagues studied the effects of seaweed farming as an alternative to fishing, in villages in central Philippines. They asked villagers about their perception to changes in number of fisher folk over the years and whether they liked seaweed farming. Results, however, varied across villages; while some felt fishing increased because human populations had grown, others felt the opposite. Additionally, some said fishing was not reliable anymore, while others still strongly believed fishing to be the breadwinner.
Many other studies have suggested that fishing is difficult to replace, not just for its economic stability but also for intangible benefits like enjoyment. In this study too, most villagers felt that seaweed farming did not provide as much, in all aspects, as fishing. But their mixed opinions call for the scrutiny of the feasibility of such alternatives and if they will ever be good enough. After all, in today’s unstable economy, being able to do different jobs when needed is a handy tool to survive.
Hill NAO, Rowcliffe JM, Koldewey HJ and EJ Milner-Gulland.. 2012. The interaction between seaweed farming as an alternative occupation and fisher numbers in the central Philippines. Conservation Biology, 26: 324–334. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01796.x