Past-present discontinuity in ecological change and marine governance: An integrated narrative approach to artisanal fishing
Today artisanal fishers working in Natura 2000 coastal protected sites face two major types of change: in marine resources, and the governance of their professions. Such transformations affect fishers’ livelihoods, identities and traditions, yet little is known about how these professionals elaborate on these changes – i.e., as continuities or discontinuities - in the narratives they produce as a group. Interviews and focus-groups with artisanal fishers and shellfish harvesters (n = 36) from the Portuguese Southwest coast were subjected to a two-step analysis. First, a textual analysis with Iramuteq helped select the themes directly related to marine resources and governance. Second, three main narratives - on algae, barnacles and fish - were reconstructed. These were then explored regarding: (1) narrative formats (stability, regressive, progressive, mixed); (2) whether/how these formats elaborated changes as continuities or discontinuities; (3) the roles attributed to Self and Others, and whether and how these legitimized the laws, opening avenues for change; and (4) whether narratives were unified or fragmented. This study illustrates how transformations are presented through various combinations of narrative formats, sometimes mobilized to resist and other times to legitimate legal institutional change. It shows how institutional change can be integrated into local narratives as a positive contribution through a process that implies re-constructing the collective identity and local traditions. Through a narrative approach, this paper offers an integrated examination of fishers’ concerns towards their professions and the laws regulating them, and provides useful insight into how and when marine governance is more/less likely to be legitimized.