Exploring the socio-cultural contexts of fishers and fishing: Developing the concept of the ‘good fisher’
Recent calls have been made to pay greater attention to the social and cultural contexts of fisheries and their management. This paper explores how the recent Bourdieusian-inspired literature on the ‘good farmer’ might inform our discussion of fishers and their activities. Bourdieu's ideas of habitus, field and capital(s), and how these interact in (re)shaping the positioning as a ‘good fisher’, allows us to move beyond the myopic, economic, framing of fishers seen in much previous literature and fishing policy. Through in-depth interviews and participant observations in a small-scale fishing community in North Wales (UK), the paper explores the particularity of the fishing field, and notes the multiple performances and demonstrations required in order for individuals to position as a ‘good fisher’. It goes on to highlight the importance of these performances in developing social capital and the associated access to networks of support and reciprocity at sea. Central to these interrelations, the paper observes, is adhering to and internalising various ‘rules of the game’ – which include managing territories, respecting fishing gear, maintaining safety at sea, and the importance of keeping secrets. The paper moves on to consider the implications of these observations for the current and future management of fishing in such areas – noting how pre-existing and context-specific relations between fishers offer boundaries to what change might be achieved by new policies – before examining future agendas for research in this field.