Do fish scales matter? Diversification and differentiation in seafood commodity chains

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Ocean and Coastal Management, 2016, 134 pp. 103 - 111
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Elsevier Ltd Recent studies in the literature on fisheries trade have contrasted the challenges and opportunities associated with domestic and internationally oriented fish trade. We examine forms of domestic and international fish trade in a municipality of the Philippines to show the empirical complexities of how fish trade unfolds on the ground. We draw on insights from the literature in livelihoods to highlight how the debate on fisheries trade can benefit from closer attention to the social and economic context of fisher livelihoods. We argue that from the perspective of small-scale producers who are focused on maintaining diversified livelihoods across a range of fisheries, the distinctions between domestic and international fish trade blur locally, and are sometimes of limited relevance when assessing livelihood options and outcomes. Instead, a more important distinction for households is social differentiation based on ownership of fishing assets. We suggest that household asset characteristics strongly influence how households can access a broad range of fisheries (both domestically and internationally traded) that often co-emerge in rural areas of the Philippines. We argue that a better understanding of household diversification and differentiation provides a view of fisheries trade that is more closely aligned with the perspectives and priorities of local fishers, than a focus on whether such trade is (or should be) domestically or internationally oriented.
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