Impact of increasing market access on a tropical small-scale fishery
Small-scale fisheries have historically been marginalized in management and policy investments, and they often remain under-reported in national economic and fisheries statistics. Even so, small-scale fisheries are not entirely buffered from the impacts of globalization, such as the introduction and expansion of markets. This study measures the long-term impact of market-access on a coastal fishery on Nicaragua׳s remote Atlantic Coast from approximately the time when fishermen had access to stable and predictable local markets until the present, when the region has been transformed by road connection. In the last four years, fisheries trade has expanded as road connection has facilitated export to distant markets. Fishery-independent surveys were used to measure changes in indicators of fish-community status such as length-frequency, mean trophic level, and relative biomass. Species-level changes in relative biomass of common snook Centropomus undecimalis and gafftopsail catfish Bagre marinus were also evaluated since these species are the most economically valuable and likely account for the most fish biomass in the system. Using historical records, reports, current observations and interviews, changes in indicators of fishing intensity and market access over the past 17 years were assessed. From 1994 to 2011, community and species-specific metrics of the lagoon fishery declined significantly across all indicators examined. The potential social and economic outcomes of the decline in the fishery are far-reaching for the region, because this tropical fishery comprises the main source of protein and income for residents of twelve indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.