Fishers’ participation in small-scale fisheries. A structural analysis of the Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas MPA, Spain
The role of traditional fishing institutions appears, paradoxically, to be waning despite scientific support and rhetoric about the value of fishers’ involvement in local marine management. Relational data of fishers have been used in this paper as a lens through which to explore the status of their participation in Marine Protected Area (MPA) management and to identify structural and contextual barriers to participation. Fieldwork was carried out during 2013–2015 in Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas MPA (CPH-MPA) using a mixed method approach involving the collection and analysis of data from institutional surveys and community meetings. The analysis shows that the fishers’ self-perception of having low influence in decision-making is consistent with the perception towards fishers of the wider social system. Several barriers and constraints to participation in CPH-MPA management are identified. The inefficient structure of the information exchange network further explained fishers’ feelings of distrust and marginalisation regarding decision-making. Understanding how structural barriers make it difficult to set in motion a collective learning process – necessary for an efficient decision-making process – breaks new ground for the design of interventions. Recommendations include clarifying the scope for participation in an appropriate institutional setting and careful consideration of the space in which dialogue takes place in order to integrate diverse knowledge and to acknowledge differential power relations.