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LOCAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE, LIMITATIONS, AND PERCEPTIONS OF
CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF SMALL-SCALE COMMERCIAL
FISHERMEN IN BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to Dr. Stephen Humphrey and the
School of Natural Resources and Environment for providing funding during my graduate
work. I would like to thank my committee members for being flexible and supportive
throughout the process. Mike Jepson gave me amazing advice from personal experience,
and Chuck Cichra was always ready with input and motivation. I also want to thank my
committee chair, Rick Stepp, for supporting me, giving me freedom to do this study, and
most of all, for his never-ending positivity. Even in difficult times, he still found a
moment to listen and push me through. Finally, I would like to acknowledge Eric Jones,
my honorary committee member and close friend, who always gave me honest feedback
The Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, provided me
with inexpensive housing during my field work; I cannot thank them enough for allowing
me to stay there and being so helpful, especially Dr. Van Waddill, Marie Thorp, and
Monica DeLeon-Herrera. My roommates during my time in south Florida, Xing and Yan
Wang, kept tabs on me during my excursions and kept me calm during the hurricane. I
also want to acknowledge the advice and guidance of three other people in the area:
Marella Crane, Doug Gregory, and Don Pybas. Brenda Lanzendorf from Biscayne
National Park was a wonderful source of information, along with Dr. Tony Paredes,
recently retired from the NPS Southeast Regional Office, who provided feedback and
motivation for this study. Todd Kellison, also from Biscayne, always took a minute to
answer questions and listen to my ideas-I cannot thank him enough. Also, I would like
to acknowledge the input from Greg Guest and David Casagrande, who took the time to
read over my ideas and give me feedback.
I also want to thank my family and friends for their support. My grandmother
Eleanor sent me letters and emails that kept me going. Richard, my grandfather, is the
greatest anthropologist I ever knew and taught me how to ask lots of questions. My
parents have been my rock; without their unconditional love and patience I never would
make it. My father's positive outlook always made me worry less. I want to thank my
mother, my best friend and my ultimate committee member, for always lending an ear
and, most of all, for reminding me to breathe.
I cannot begin to thank the wonderful second family I have found in my friends.
My first friend in Florida, Jenny Haddle, gave me support, love, and a laugh ever since
the beginning. Thank goodness she went through all of this first so she could tell me
what I was supposed to be doing. Lindsay Eddleblute was there to get me through the
hard parts and celebrate during the good parts. Jonathan Ament continues to be a daily
occurrence in my life and the best storyteller I know; I thank him for listening to my own
stories, for his advice on writing, and for his friendship. I also would like to
acknowledge Daniel Whitman, whose familiar face gave me company while I was in
south Florida, and whose competitiveness drives my motivation. Jason Page gave me
endless support and advice throughout the planning and fieldwork.
Finally, I would like to thank the fishermen of Biscayne for welcoming me into
their community and helping me with my research. They were enthusiastic and
interested, and I am lucky to have crossed paths with such a wonderful group of people. I
wish that I could list some of their names but the IRB says I cannot. So, the following
people, once my informants but now my friends, know who they are: the captain of the
"Cadillac," the last shrimper in Key Largo, the family of shrimpers with a new boat, and
most of all-Toad. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii
L IST O F TA B LE S .................................. ................................. ............ .. ix
LIST OF FIGURES ............................... ... ...... ... ................. .x
ABSTRACT .............. .................. .......... .............. xi
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
State ent of the P problem .................................................................................. 1
R research O bjectives.......... ................................................................... ........ .... .3
L im stations of the Study ............................................................... ....................... 3
Overview of Thesis................. ............... ......... ..................... .... 4
2 LITERA TURE REVIEW .......................................................... ..............6
Fisheries M anagem ent .................. ........................................ .. ........ ..
L ocal E cological K now ledge....................................... .......................................8
Inform al and Co-m anagem ent ......................................................... ............. 10
Sum m ary of the L iterature........................................................................... ...... 12
3 RESEARCH CONTEXT AND STUDY SITE ...................................................14
F fishing in F lorida .................... .. .... ........ .... ....................... 14
Current Commercial Fishing Regulations in Florida .......................................15
The N et B an................................................... ........................... ....... 15
Study Site: Biscayne N national Park................................ ......................... ........ 16
Environment of Biscayne National Park ..........................................................17
Population Growth of Nearby Miami-Dade County .......................................17
Canals and Freshwater Flow ..................... ............................. 18
Other Pressures for Biscayne National Park ........................ ........................18
Status and Management of Marine Resources at Biscayne National Park..........19
Summaries of Scientific Knowledge of Each Target Species .............. .................21
Blue Crab ..................................... ............................... ........... 21
S to n e C rab ...................................................... ................ 2 2
S p in y L o b ste r ................................................................................................. 2 2
B row n and P ink Shrim p ........................................................... .....................23
4 M E T H O D O L O G Y ......................................... .. .. .................................................. 3 1
Locating Inform ants ............. ................. .................. .... ..... ...............3 1
Interview s w ith Fisherm en ........................................................................................32
Communication with Fisheries Management Staff at Biscayne National Park..........33
P participant O b servation ..................................................................... ...................33
Interview Protocol .............. .......... ....................................... .... ...... 34
Interview Schedule and Constraints ........................................ ....................... 35
S e c o n d ary D ata ..................................................................................................... 3 6
D ata A nalysis...................... ............... ...............36
Fishermen Interviews and Field Notes............... ......................................36
Taxonom ic D ata ........................................ ... .... ........ ......... 37
Secondary D ata...................................................................................37
5 R E S U L T S .............................................................................3 9
Demographics of the Biscayne National Park Fishermen ........................................39
Overview of the Fisheries ...................................... ................ ............... 41
B lue C rab ................................. ................................ ... ....... 4 1
S to n e C ra b ..................................................................................................... 4 2
S p in y L o b ste r ................................................................................................. 4 3
B a it S h rim p .................................................................................................... 4 4
L local E ecological K now ledge.............................. ........ ..... .................................. 48
Trapped Species (Blue Crab, Stone Crab, Spiny Lobster) ................................48
B a it S h rim p .................................................................. 5 1
B iodiv ersity .......................................................................... 53
Factors A affecting Effort and Catch........................................ ......................... 55
T rap F ish erm en ........................................................................... ............... 55
T h eft ................ ...................................... ................ 5 5
Seasonality and w weather ..................................... ........................ .. .......... 57
Territory and conflict ......................... .. .. ......... ......... ........ ......58
S h rim p ers ...................................... .............................................. 5 9
S e a so n ality .................................................. ................ 5 9
Secrecy .................................. ........... ................. ............ 60
The network of the bait shrimpers.....................................................61
W working alone .................. ............................. ...... .. .. ........ .... 62
Conservation and Management ............................................................................63
6 D ISC U S SIO N ............................................................................... 7 1
K now ledge of the Fisherm en ............................................................... ............... .... 71
Comparison of Scientific Knowledge and Local Ecological Knowledge ..................73
Lim stations on the Fisherm en ............................................. ............................ 74
Fishermen and "Commons" Assumptions...............................................................75
Selfishness .................................................................... .........75
Overexploitation and Limited Resources ................................. ................ 77
Common Property and Open-access .................................... ............... 78
Could Biscayne National Park Become a "Tragedy?" ......................................80
The Future of the Fisheries at Biscayne National Park ............................................80
R recreational F fishing ................. ............................................................ .... 8 1
Biscayne Fishermen in the National Park Service Context ........................................83
FISHERMAN INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ..................... ............... 87
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ........................................................................ .....................88
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................98
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Summary of main characteristics of local ecological knowledge of fishermen...... 12
3-1 Current costs of licenses and endorsements for commercial fishing. ....... ........ 24
3-2 Federally listed endangered species in Biscayne National Park ...........................24
3-3 Summary of the development of the fisheries management plan at Biscayne
N atio n al P ark ...................................................... ................ 2 5
3-4 Summary of elements of the Biscayne fisheries management plan........................25
4-1 Themes used in coding interviews and field notes..........................................38
5-1 Organisms mentioned during interviews and documented in field notes. ..............64
6-1 Some comparisons of scientific knowledge and local ecological knowledge ........86
LIST OF FIGURES
2-1 Combining information sources of fishermen and scientists. ................................13
3-1 Sam ple trip ticket. ............................................. ................... ........ 26
3-2 M ap of B iscayne N national Park ................................................................... ..... 26
3-3 Habitat distribution in Biscayne National Park................... ..................................27
3-4 Propeller scars on a seagrass bed in Biscayne Bay. ..............................................28
3-5 Population of Miami-Dade County from 1900 to 2000. .......................................28
3-6 Elevated landfill near Black Point Marina, nicknamed "Mt. Trashmore.".............29
3-7 Canal system in M iami-Dade County................... ............. ......... ............. 29
3-8 A view of Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant from Biscayne Bay.......................30
4-1 Trip ticket area codes for Biscayne National Park...............................................38
5-1 Blue crab (m ale). .................................... .. ....... .... .............. .. 66
5-2 B lue crab trap w ith tw o levels ........................................ ........................... 66
5-3 Stone crab trap .................................................. ................. 67
5-4 Spiny lobster........................................................................ ... ...... ...... 67
5-5 Lobster sanctuary boundaries within Biscayne National Park.............................68
5-6 Lobster trap (in repair). ................................................ ............................... 68
5-7 Rollerframe trawl on a bait shrimp boat ...... ......... ...................................... 69
5-8 Holding tanks on a bait shrimp boat..................................................................... 69
5-9 Picking tray on a bait shrimp boat with seagrass "trash."..................................... 70
5-10 Bait shrim p boat.. ....................... ......... .. .. ...... .. .............. 70
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
LOCAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE, LIMITATIONS, AND PERCEPTIONS OF
CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF SMALL-SCALE COMMERCIAL
FISHERMEN IN BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK
Chair: John Richard Stepp
Major Department: Interdisciplinary Ecology
Decline in fish stocks and degradation of marine habitats are growing problems
facing many areas of the world. In addition to quota restrictions, ecosystem-based
approaches are being applied to management plans. Recently, there has been more
attention placed of the value of studies on the fishermen, including documentation of
local ecological knowledge, cultural aspects, factors influencing fishermen behavior, and
projects involving co-management.
This study used qualitative data collection and analysis to examine the local
ecological knowledge, limitations, and perceptions of the small-scale commercial
fishermen working within Biscayne National Park, Florida. I collected data through
interviews with fishermen in addition to participant observation and informal
conversations documented in field notes. Local ecological knowledge was coded into life
cycle, diet, predation, habitat, seasonality, and taxonomy.
The knowledge of the fishermen was broad and pertained to how and where they
fish. When compared to existing scientific knowledge on the target species (blue crab,
stone crab, spiny lobster, and bait shrimp), local ecological knowledge was similar except
on the topics of spawning and age of sexual maturity or harvest size. External factors
that affect or limit the fishermen's behavior included theft, environmental seasonality,
and market. Within the fishing community, I found that secrecy and the social network
play important roles in transmission of knowledge and how the fishermen work.
Perceptions of conservation and management were also documented, including concerns
discussed by the fishermen. While the fishermen understand the importance of
conserving the marine resources of Biscayne National Park, they place more value on the
continuation of commercial fishing in the park. Each major finding was discussed in the
context of implications for fisheries management at the park and in the context of
common property management. In addition, emphasis is placed on the importance of
collaboration between managers and fishermen, and suggestions for improving this
relationship are offered.
Statement of the Problem
Due to increasing pressure on the world's marine resources, fisheries management
is becoming more important for the conservation of the resources. Since 1950, there has
been a 400% increase in world fishery harvest (Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations 2004). However, fisheries management is a complicated process. Marine
environments are dynamic and fisheries biologists may disagree on research findings.
Furthermore, perfect satisfaction of data needs will rarely occur due to limited resources
and time (Johannes 1998); managers must also consider economic and social
consequences during the planning process (Walters and Martell 2004:6). Many marine
systems are treated as open-access resources and common property, adding more stress to
the duties of managers because they must address the issues and complications of
ownership, access rights and availability (Rousefell 1975:249). Yet scholars still have
confidence in the potential of fisheries management, as the science is evolving
continuously (Johannes 1998).
Some fisheries management schemes have not produced the desired results of
restored stocks and sustainability. New concepts have begun to emerge, including
adaptive management, ecosystem management, and responsible fisheries. These types of
management are based on participation from users, who may have useful knowledge of
the ecosystem and who are more likely to support and comply with regulations when they
are a part of the process (Jentoft et al. 1998). With local participation, managers can also
determine the conservation ethic of the user groups (to identify appropriate educational
plans) and utilize fishermen in ongoing data collection and monitoring research
Local fishermen have developed, over many years and from firsthand experience,
an understanding of the ecosystem on which they rely (Baird 2001). In some cases,
fishing communities have been able to reduce overfishing through self-management
(Acheson 1988; Smith and Berkes 1991) and formed agreements among the local
community members to avoid gear conflicts and assist one another during difficult times
(Acheson 1981), based on local ecological knowledge. Combining local ecological
knowledge with scientific data is an alternative for fisheries management that may help
reach the desired goal (Gosse et al. 2001).
The marine resources at Biscayne National Park are also recognized to be in peril,
based on scientific data and from observations of park users and staff (Todd Kellison,
personal communication). A fisheries management plan is currently being developed by
the park. Community participation in the planning process exists in the form of public
meetings and via local representatives of the commercial fisheries appointed to the
Biscayne Working Group-a panel made up of fishermen, scientists, divers, government
officials and others-that was established to provide recommendations for and comment
on the management plan. However, little research has been conducted on the local
commercial fishermen at Biscayne National Park and their roles in the ecosystem
(EDAW:6.3 2003). This thesis will examine what commercial fishermen at Biscayne
National Park know about the ecology of the marine resources, internal and external
limitations that influence behavior and success, and perceptions of the current status of
the environment and government management.
The overall objective of the study was to characterize the Biscayne National Park
fisheries in a natural and cultural context from the viewpoint of the fishermen. The
specific objectives were to:
* document local ecological knowledge that contributes to fishing success.
* describe factors (other than government regulation) that affect behavior and limit
harvest of the target species.
* identify fishermen's perspectives on conservation and management.
I did not set out to test hypotheses or compare the fishermen in terms of specific
variables, but to document their knowledge about the resource, observations and
concerns, and the basics of how each fishery functions on a cultural and economic level.
Although much research has been conducted on the marine resource itself over the past
few decades, there has not been an in-depth study of the Biscayne fishermen themselves.
Limitations of the Study
The first limitation of the study was my status as an outsider. I was in the field for
three months, and although welcomed into the community, I constantly had to reassure
my informants that I did not work for the park. Seldom was I able to walk into an
interview without a full explanation of my motives. In addition, I am sure that all of the
responses given were not always truthful; at times, I was requesting my informants for
their secrets of success, and I am certain I was not given all the details in every response.
One aspect not covered by this study is my interaction with Hispanic captains.
From resources on the commercial fisheries in the park, I was under the impression that
there were very few Latinos working in Biscayne National Park and had not prepared an
informed consent document in Spanish. Once I realized that this status had changed over
the past year, I submitted a request for permission to use a consent document in Spanish
to the University of Florida Internal Review Board, but did not receive approval in time
to approach any Hispanic captains for interviews. Therefore, the study focuses on the
body of knowledge of longtime Anglo fishermen.
I conducted my research during the hurricane season of 2005, which was the most
active hurricane season in the history of the United States. While there were no direct
hits during my fieldwork, south Florida did experience harsh weather at several times
throughout the summer. Scheduled interviews took a back seat to preparation for and
recovery from these events, at which time I was not able to contact the fishermen for
periods ranging from a few days to two weeks.
Finally, the most substantial limitation is that the research only captures the
fishermen of Biscayne National Park as a snapshot in time. The fisheries have been
established for many decades and subsequently, as people come and go, information may
be lost or forgotten.
Overview of Thesis
The manuscript will describe knowledge about the local biophysical environment
from the viewpoint of the commercial fishermen of Biscayne National Park. Chapter 2 is
a literature review of approaches to the study of local ecological knowledge and marine
anthropology and considers the implications for management of engaging the knowledge
and participation of fishermen. Chapter 3 describes the background and current situation
of the marine resources and commercial fisheries, and a description of Biscayne National
Park. Chapter 4 explains methodology used for collecting and analyzing data, which
included interviews, participant observation and reviewing secondary data. Chapter 5
provides the results of my study, including local ecological knowledge, internal and
external factors limiting the fishermen, and perceptions of the current situation of the
resource and management. Chapter 6 includes implications for management and
scientific research based on the observations and knowledge of the fishermen, plus
suggestions for further involvement of the fishermen in research and planning. Overall,
my thesis will provide a closer look at the culture of the fishermen, what they know and
how they know it, and hopefully provide a additional base of knowledge to the scientific
research being conducted in the bay.
Despite progress in fisheries science, the majority of the world's fisheries continue
to decline. A paradigm shift in how marine resources have traditionally been managed is
needed and focus is shifting towards both ecosystem-based management and
collaboration with resource users (Hilbom et al. 2004; Link 2002; Mackinson and
Nottestad 1998; Spain 2000), particularly small-scale commercial fishermen.
The following theoretical framework provides support for my research conducted
on the Biscayne National Park fishermen. It examines these new directions for fisheries
management and how research on and with local fishermen can be used in planning. The
framework also examines concepts and previous studies on local ecological knowledge,
and how this knowledge is useful by expanding the information base of a specific area.
Next, it outlines how documentation of local ecological knowledge provides insight on
fishermen's strategies, success, and behavior. The discussion of ecological knowledge is
followed by a review of literature on the self-management of fishing culture. The chapter
concludes with a summary of how research on fishing communities is useful for fisheries
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was amended
in1996 to include the goal of maximizing fisheries benefits but also sustain the industry
for long-term viability. It recognizes the economic and social potential of United States
fisheries, but also the limitations of exploitation (U.S. Congress 1996). In 2005, the act
was modified with the Fisheries Science and Management Act. The enhancement
included improved use of science, training for council members, and equal representation
of user groups on councils. Furthermore, the amendments encourage an ecosystem-based
approach and increased collaboration with fishermen for cooperative research (U.S.
The Enhancement Act calls for more emphasis on an ecosystems approach.
Contemporary fisheries management is often based on a single-species approach and is
grounded in scientific data, which is sometimes leads to little or no improvement in the
resource following implementation of management plans (Link 2002). Finding a stock to
be below its expected population level, then placing limitations on harvest might seem to
be the logical route to conserve a species, but this only treats a symptom of a larger
problem within the entire system (Hilborn et al. 2004). Resource users are not the sole
source of any problem in a marine environment. The system in which a target species
lives is complex and connected. Often, changes in the habitat or food web are also the
results of degradation caused by pollution, development, man-made water flow
restrictions, and other anthropogenic factors. These changes most likely have a similar or
greater impact on the marine organisms than fishing, and should also be considered when
developing a management plan (Spain 2000).
Fisheries do not exist without the resource users, and managers must take into
account the social, cultural and economic aspects of a fishery in addition to the biological
and ecological factors, i.e., the human ecosystem. A human ecosystems approach to
fisheries management would consider the human and non-human components, system
dynamics, and resilience of the resource and resource users (Abel and Stepp 2003). A
system so complex with so many working factors cannot be evaluated with focus on a
single stock of fish; all facets must be examined.
Despite its importance and attention, ecosystem-based management must overcome
a major obstacle: funding. Monetary resources for data collection in fisheries
management are inadequate, even to carry out basic research (Spain 2000). A shift to
ecosystem-based management, which considers complex interactions of all organisms
within a system, is even more expensive (Link 2002). Considering not only the
population of a target species but also its predators, prey, habitat, migration, life cycle,
etc., requires much more time, money, and manpower. However, there is a largely
untapped resource available to fisheries managers that is based on years of observations,
easily consolidated and as accessible as the target species themselves: local ecological
knowledge of the fishermen.
Local Ecological Knowledge
Local ecological knowledge is defined by Olsson and Folke (2001) as "knowledge
held by a specific group of people about their local ecosystems... [and] may be a mix of
scientific and practical knowledge." Studies have been conducted on local ecological
knowledge of many different biophysical environments and in many different areas of the
world. In the past few decades, the value of local knowledge to conservation measures
and resource management plan has received more attention by anthropologists, ecologists
and other interest groups (Berkes et al. 2000). Likewise, conservation of marine
resources has spawned an interest and recommendation for documenting local ecological
knowledge of small-scale fishermen.
The knowledge systems of fishermen are specific to their locations and conditions,
and are an accumulation of information over long periods of time (Table 2-1). They are
based on empirical information about the biophysical environment, habitat, behavior of
the target species, and ecological interactions (Ruddle 1994). Local ecological
knowledge is developed over many years and comes from firsthand experience, and is
also transmitted orally between the fishermen and to subsequent generations (Baird 2001)
or through shared experiences (Berkes et al. 2000). Along with general observations,
fishermen commonly formulate theories on the processes that they witness: the 'why' in
addition to the 'what' (Gasalla 2001).
Documenting local ecological knowledge is a useful way to broaden the resource
management knowledge base and therefore strengthen the logic behind fisheries
management (Figure 2-1). Although it may not be collected, analyzed, or interpreted in
the same way as scientific knowledge, it is still a viable source of information that can be
used in addition to studies conducted by trained marine researchers to fill in gaps and
suggest emerging problems (Scholz et al. 2004). Local ecological knowledge comes in a
compiled form; it is the accumulation of previous generations and the present network of
fishermen working in an area (Mackinson and Nottestad 1998). Finally, the opportunity
to share knowledge, and possibly gain a better understanding to improve their own
fishing abilities, generates local fishermen's enthusiasm for involvement (Baird 2001).
The complex qualities of ecosystems requires a complex understanding, including
dynamics, interactions and adaptation, in order to properly manage them. Local
knowledge systems are in themselves complicated and ever-changing (Acheson and
Wilson 1996) and consider all aspects of the resource: cultural, economic and ecological.
Several studies have examined the value of local ecological knowledge for management
of the complex marine resources (Acheson and Wilson 1996; Aswini and Lauer 2006;
Berkes et al. 2000; Olsson and Folke 2001).
A benefit from documenting local ecological knowledge is that it also leads to
understanding the behavior of the various user groups (Mathiesen 2004). What a
fishermen knows will dictate when and where he fishes, in both the long and short term,
and he must have a profound understanding of the resource to be successful (Acheson
Informal and Co-management
There have been many studies of the role of local ecological knowledge in the
development of co-management schemes for marine resources, both in the United States
and other areas of the world. Examples include the development of marine protected
areas (Aswini and Lauer 2006; Scholz et al. 2004; Well et al. 2004), data collection on
spawning and migration (Gosse et al. 2001), population monitoring (Baird 2001), and
biodiversity sampling (Poizat and Baran 1997).
Informal self-management at the community level is based on local ecological
knowledge of the group and a product of social mechanisms of a culture (Acheson and
Wilson 1996, Berkes et al. 2000). Some examples of self-management are similar to
conventional management, such as monitoring, temporal restrictions, and single-species
selection; examples usually not part of conventional management include ecosystem-
based approaches and resource rotation (Berkes et al. 2000).
There is a growing body of literature on a variety of social mechanisms and local
ecological knowledge of fishing communities. Acheson (1988) discussed informal
territory among lobster fishermen in Maine and how these informal 'property rights'
affect the sustainability of both the resource and the lobster industry. Temporal
restrictions of harvest of sea urchins in the West Indies allow populations to recover
during the socially enforced closed season (Smith and Berkes 1991). Johannes (1998)
pointed out the value of local ecological knowledge of Indonesian fishermen in the
planning of management schemes based on local knowledge of spawning location and
times. In Brazil, fishermen not only recognize changes in the ecosystem, but also
formulate their own theories about them (Gassala 2001). Religious beliefs are found to
be the basis of many fishermen's perceptions of ecological processes in Chesapeake Bay
(Paolisso 2002). Studies have been conducted in many parts of the world, and also cover
other resource management areas such as forests and wildlife (Berkes 1999; Pinkerton
One of the most prevalent themes in this literature is that local management tends
to regulate "how" fishing is done, including limitations on seasons, location access,
technology, and harvest during a specific stage in the life cycle of a species. This is in
contrast to the method of quotas, in which fisheries managers regulate resource use by
limiting "how many" fish can be caught. The use of quotas is the most important concept
in fisheries management, but absent in almost all local management (Acheson et al. 1998;
cf. Walters and Martell 2004:65).
The 'tragedy of the commons' is a popular topic of debate for anthropologists
studying fishing communities (Hardin 1968). Berkes (1985) outlined the three
assumptions of the 'tragedy': users are selfish and personal gain trumps public interest;
resources are limited and harvest exceeds regeneration; and the resource at stake is open-
access and public property. Commercial fishermen may fit these assumptions and
contribute to degradation of the resource. However, many communities have sustained
stocks and marine ecosystems without formal regulation or introduction of private
property. Social factors and cultural norms can also influence the behavior of the
fishermen and thus, limit harvest (Berkes 1985).
Summary of the Literature
Fisheries management requires research, planning, and implementation. Each
aspect of management has the opportunity to utilize and collaborate with the resource
users, especially small-scale commercial fishermen. A compilation of years of
experiences and intergenerational transmission, local ecological knowledge contributes to
the database of information about the resource, from biodiversity to habitat change to
effects of human impacts. Additionally, knowledge dictates fishermen behavior and can
help fisheries managers identify fishing effort by the fleet and areas subject to greater
exploitation. Finally, cultural aspects of a fishing community, including internal and
external factors that limit the fishermen or affect their behavior, should be considered by
fisheries managers when planning to assess potential economic and social impact on the
user group. Fisheries are made up of fish and fishermen; both species should be equally
as important when making management decisions.
Table 2-1: Summary of main characteristics of local ecological knowledge of fishermen
1. Knowledge is based on long-term, empirical, and local observation, and is adapted to
2. Knowledge is based on practicality and drive fishermen behavior.
3. Knowledge systems have structure; this complements scientific concepts.
4. Knowledge systems are dynamic and adapt to changes in the system (environmental or
Figure 2-1: Combining information sources of fishermen and scientists to increase
knowledge of the marine resource (adapted from Mackinson and Nottestad
RESEARCH CONTEXT AND STUDY SITE
This chapter provides background information on fishing in Florida, including
current commercial fishing regulations and the ongoing struggle between small-scale
commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. A brief description of the history,
environment, and marine resources of Biscayne National Park follows. The chapter
concludes with a summary of scientific literature on life histories of each target species,
which will be compared to the local ecological knowledge of the fishermen in the
Fishing in Florida
Florida has a coastline of over 1,900 km, and saltwater fishing has figured as a
prominent way of life since the earliest people inhabited these shores. Recreational
fishing is of major economic importance to the state, spawning activity from local bait
shops to charter guides to national fishing equipment companies. Commercial fishing
also contributes to the economy to a lesser extent, but continues to be particularly salient
in the social and cultural aspects of the state's past and present.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was established in
1999 and resulted from a merger of several state agencies responsible for overseeing fish
and wildlife (FWC 2005a). Along with the Division of Marine Fisheries, the FWC
regulates and monitors the marine resources of Florida and of all commercial and
recreational activities in Florida's coastal waters.
Current Commercial Fishing Regulations in Florida
Several permits are required for commercial fishermen in Florida (Table 3-1). All
fishermen must obtain a Saltwater Products License, which can be purchased for an
individual or for a vessel. Harvest of many species-including blue crab, stone crab,
spiny lobster, and shrimp-entails a Restricted Species endorsement. This endorsement
requires that the fisherman previously reported landings through the trip ticket program.
The four crustaceans also require additional specific certificates, and crab or lobster traps
must have appropriate tags attached to them. Federal permits are required for some
species and to participate in limited entry fisheries (FWC 2005b).
The Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket system was established in 1984 in an effort to
track commercial landings. The program requires wholesalers to complete a trip ticket
with each purchase from a fishermen (Figure 3-1). Information recorded on the ticket
include license numbers for the buyer and seller; date; location; species; amount caught;
gear; and payment, among other information. Wholesalers can use paper copies of
tickets or enter information using a computer program (FWC 2000).
The Net Ban
In 1994 Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to discontinue use of
entanglement nets and all nets over 500 square feet. Usually, the issue would have been
addressed in the state congress, but extensive media campaigns by recreational fishing
lobby groups put the decision into the hands of Florida residents. In an effort to educate
Floridians on the negative impacts of gillnets, conservation and recreational advocates
advertised heavily; the commercial fishermen could not compete with them (Duff and
Harrison 1997). Over 1,500 fishing families were negatively affected by the ban (Smith
et al. 2003), despite buyback programs (Duff and Harrison 1997). Six years later, some
target stocks had improved, although it is unknown if the net ban contributed to this
(Adams et al. 2000).
Although conservation was the stated goal of the amendment's advocates, the
campaign might be interpreted as a matter of resource allocation, a common issue for
small-scale fishermen (Smith et al. 2003; Thunberg et al. 1994). Additionally there
appears to have been little focus on the social consequences of banning gill nets (Smith et
al. 2003). The net ban did not directly affect the Biscayne fishermen but is an example of
the ubiquitous struggle between Florida's commercial fishermen and the recreational
anglers and environmental groups. In addition, commercial activity within a protected
area generates opposing views on access rights and resource allocation.
Study Site: Biscayne National Park
Established as a national monument in 1968 and later as a national park in 1980,
Biscayne National Park is located between Miami-Dade County and the upper Keys
community of Key Largo (Leynes and Cullison 1998) (Figure 3-2). Because it
encompasses most of Biscayne Bay, the park itself is also commonly referred to as
Biscayne Bay or often simply Biscayne; references to the area in this thesis also use those
designations. The park occupies about 700 km2, of which 95% is water. Approximately
500,000 people visit Biscayne each year with the most common activities being nature
viewing, walking/hiking and fishing (Simmons and Littlejohn 2001). The most
significant pressures the park faces comes from urban development, discharge and
thermal pollution from a nearby nuclear power plant, and the changes in water quality of
Biscayne Bay (EDAW 2003:6.3). Humans have utilized the marine resources at
Biscayne for at least 10,000 years, according to archeological findings (Biscayne
National Park 2004). Currently, the commercial fisheries include blue crab, stone crab,
food shrimp, bait shrimp, finfish and spiny lobster (EDAW 2003:4.2).
Environment of Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is a diverse ecosystem of land and water (Figure 3-3).
Where it is not developed, the coast is outlined by mangroves that provide habitat for
larval and juvenile fishes (Ault et al. 2001). Within the bay, there are seagrass beds and
hardbottom, and the outer eastern area is part of a coral reef system that extends south
into the Florida Keys.
Biscayne is home to 14 federally protected species and 39 state-protected species,
which includes sea turtles, birds, mammals, fish, and plants. Ten are listed as endangered
by the federal government (Table 3-2). The park also utilizes the Park Resources
Protection Act, which allows resource managers to pursue monetary compensation for
environmental damage. Often prosecution usually is not possible due to the difficulty in
identifying the responsible party. The most common damage is the scarring of seagrass
beds by boat propellers (Figure 3-4). In 2000, the park won a $1 million lawsuit against a
negligent tanker that caused major damage to a coral reef. The money will be used for
restoration (National Park Service 2000).
Population Growth of Nearby Miami-Dade County
The 2000 census reported that Miami-Dade County had a total population of
2,253,362 people. Historical data show that the population sharply increased in the 1940s
and has continued to grow into the 21st century (Figure 3-5) and now has a density of
1,158 people per square mile [compared to the state's average of 296 people per square
mile] (U.S. Census 2000). In addition to the resident population, south Florida has eight
million visitors each year (Biscayne National Park 2004). Along with a growing
population comes urban development, including buildings, bridges, sewer systems and
landfills (Figure 3-6). In addition, because of the likelihood of flooding in south Florida
came the drainage project.
Canals and Freshwater Flow
The Central and South Florida project was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1948
with the goal of flood control for the state (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
2005). In 1947, a major hurricane hit south Florida and put 80% of the area under water
(Parks 1981). The state requested funding and authorization to construct a system of
about 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and 200 structures for water control
(Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan 2005). The canals are now under the
jurisdiction of the South Florida Water Management District (Figure 3-7).
The floodgates are opened under the advisement of the South Florida Water
Management District when the canals reach capacity following heavy rainfall. Smaller
canals in neighborhoods flow into larger canals that eventually carry the water to the
coast (South Florida Water Management District 1997). The influx of freshwater causes
a lower salinity gradient in the western part of Biscayne Bay, which is where several
canals enter the bay (Alleman 1995). Studies have been conducted on the effects of
water flow from the canals and found changes in natural hierarchy of the flora (Irlandi et
al. 2002; Lirman and Cropper 2003) and animal biodiversity (Lirman et al. 2003).
Other Pressures for Biscayne National Park
The Turkey Point Power Plant, located in the southwestern part of the park, added
nuclear units in 1972 and 1973 (Cantillo et al. 2000) (Figure 3-8). The plant provides
power for 450,000 homes. A canal system is used to cool water before it is circulated for
re-use. The main concern with the plant is thermal pollution from the cooling canals,
although the power plant reports a viable population of the endangered American
Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and a wide variety of birds living in or near the canals
(Florida Power and Light 2005). The canals are also rumored to be superb fishing spots,
but strict security measures prevent anyone from being in close proximity to the plant.
Homestead Air Force Base was constructed in 1942 as an airfield and activated as a
base in 1955 following its closing due to hurricane damage (Cantillo et al. 2000). In
2001, a proposal to create a commercial airport on the base, only two miles from
Biscayne National Park boundaries, was struck down (Department of the Air Force
2001). Environmentalists, concerned with the potential trash and noise pollution from an
airport, were pleased with the decision, but the developers continued to fight for the
airport, including a lawsuit against the Air Force. The lawsuit was overturned but airport
supporters plan to appeal (Viglucci 2006).
Status and Management of Marine Resources at Biscayne National Park
The waters of Biscayne Bay are clear enough to see the bottom, but there are other
factors at work that are affecting the quality of the bay's biophysical environment and
marine resources. In addition to changes in salinity and the effects of pollution
(specifically trash and fertilizer runoff), exploitation of fish stocks also has come into the
spotlight. An analysis based on records of harvest lengths shows that 77% of the 33
target species were analyzed to be overfished (Ault et al. 2001).
Jurisdiction of commercial and recreational fishing in the park belongs to the state
of Florida, as indicated in the enabling legislation of the park (U.S. Congress 1980). A
major attractant for visitors, fishing contributes to the economy and plays an important
role in the social connection of visitors to the area (EDAW 2003). However, with the
decline in fish populations and the growing population of the surrounding area, a fisheries
management plan was formulated in 2000 (Table 3-3).
The first phase in planning for the fisheries management plan for Biscayne
National Park was a public comment period to obtain recommendations from resource
users in 2002 and 2003. A main suggestion was to form a working group of local
residents who represented user groups. The Biscayne National Park Fishery Management
Plan Working Group was assembled with the purpose of making recommendations for
the plan and providing input on the desired future conditions (Todd Kellison, personal
communication). The members were chosen with recommendations from Florida's
Fisheries Management Division, who had formed an advisory board for the establishment
of the marine reserve in the Dry Tortugas. Participants of the Working Group included
commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, charter captains, divers, biologists, and
representatives of environmental groups.
Resource managers at Biscayne National Park have to meet the requirements of
Florida and the National Park Service, and the management plan must be evaluated by
federal and state entities. In the spring of 2005, the first draft of the plan was sent out for
review. The park reports that it will be published in the Federal Registry and made
available for public comment again when copies are made available on the Registry.
The main changes that will be implemented include additional permits, changes in
lobster fishing and spear fishing, and revisions in bag limits (Table 3-4). Under the
plan's 'preferred alternative' [four alternatives were presented in previous drafts of the
plan], special permits from the park will be required for commercial fishermen and
charter guides. All recreational anglers and boaters would have to obtain an annual
permit to fish in park waters. The two-day "mini season," during which recreational
lobster fishing occurs prior to the opening of the official season, would no longer be
allowed in park boundaries. Use of trigger guns and SCUBA equipment while
spearfishing would be prohibited under the plan, and bag limits for some fish species
would be increased or decreased.
Summaries of Scientific Knowledge of Each Target Species
Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are found along the Atlantic coasts of Nova
Scotia south to Argentina (FWC 2005c). They are benthic omnivores and also serve as a
food source for many marine and terrestrial animals. They occupy a variety of habitats,
depending on life stage and environmental conditions, which include estuaries, offshore
waters and shallow lagoons (Perry and McIlwain 1986).
Mating for blue crabs is not immediately followed by spawning. A male crab will
inseminate a newly molted female and carry her until her shell hardens, at which time she
will release the eggs (Perry and McIlwain 1986). Mating has been observed year-round
but mostly takes place from March to December (FWC 2005c). Larvae develop offshore
and move into estuaries with currents. A blue crab reaches sexual maturity at about one
year following birth (Tagatz 1968).
Salinity is an important factor in migration and distribution. An inverse
relationship between salinity and abundance was observed by More (1969) and sexual
distribution depends on the salinity of the water (Perry 1975). Temperature also has an
effect on the species, especially cold snaps that can cause mortality (Couch and Martin
Stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) is different from the other fisheries in Biscayne
National Park because only the claws (chelipeds) are harvested. The strong chelipeds are
used as defense against predators, which include octopi, sea turtles, and horse conchs
(Bert et al. 1978). Stone crabs are mostly carnivorous and the claws are used to crush
mollusk shells during feeding (Lindberg and Marshall 1984). After claws are removed,
they take about one year to regenerate (Sullivan 1979). A study on mortality after claw
removal reported that 28% of stone crabs died after loss of a single cheliped, and 46.5%
died when both claws were removed (Davis et al. 1978).
Stone crab spawning occurs April thru September, with peaks in August and
September (Lindberg and Marshall 1984). As temperatures drop following the peak,
spawning decreases (Savage and Sullivan 1978). Sexual maturity is reached in
approximately two years, and adults are found in shallow flats, where they burrow into
the substrate (Lindberg and Marshall 1984).
Low temperatures, particularly cold snaps, cause the animals to burrow and
become inactive. Stone crabs are typically found in areas with lower salinity, perhaps
due to inverse relationship of salinity to growth periods (Lindberg and Marshall 1984).
The spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery in Florida is of major economic
importance, both commercially and recreationally. Lobsters reproduce from late spring
to early summer, with a peak from April to May (Marx and Hernnkind 1986). Juveniles
move inshore after metamorphosis in offshore waters. Adults are found near coral and
rock overhangs, where they can find shelter (Davis 1981) and food. Sexual maturity is
reached in about two years, depending on environmental conditions. Spiny lobsters are
nocturnal foragers and mostly carnivorous (Marx and Hernnkind 1986).
Adult lobsters congregate, especially in shelters, for protection and mating
(Eggleston and Lipcius 1992). They are social animals and attracted to areas with higher
concentrations of other lobsters, and respond as a group when a predator, usually a large
fish or nurse shark, is near. When mass migration occurs, spiny lobsters have been
observed traveling in single-file lines (Marx and Hernnkind 1986). Although adults can
tolerate cold snaps in south Florida, lower temperatures can trigger movement (Little and
Brown and Pink Shrimp
Brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus) and pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum) have
similar life histories. Both are harvested in the bait shrimp fishery in Biscayne National
Park, but pink shrimp are the most prevalent in the southeast Atlantic region (Bielsa et al.
1983). Adults move offshore to deeper, cooler waters when water temperatures rise, and
subsequently spawn. Pink shrimp have been reported to spawn in waters of 4-48 m in
depth (Williams 1955) and brown shrimp in depths of 18 m (Shipman et al. 1983), which
occurs mostly during the summer months, although it is not conclusively known if the
warm waters of south Florida are an overwintering area. A pink shrimp spawns several
times during its lifetime, but a brown shrimp will die after reproducing once (Bielsa et al.
1983; Larson et al. 1989).
Shrimp larvae are moved inshore via tides and winds, where they continue
development in estuaries where seagrass provides protection and food. They are sexually
mature and of preferential harvest size in about nine to ten weeks following hatching
(Bielsa et al. 1983). Adults move out from the estuaries and are found in mud, sand, or
seagrass beds. These types of habitat allow the shrimp to bury up in the sand during the
day to avoid predation from the many species of fish that feed on them (Larson et al.
1989). Adults are omnivorous, feeding on detritus to small invertebrates, and nocturnal
(Hunt et al. 1980).
Water temperature and currents dictate most migration patterns of both species of
shrimp. A rise in temperature will cause them to move offshore and water movement
pushes them into different areas, and lower temperatures result in the shrimp burrowing.
Adult pink and brown shrimp prefer saltier waters and will move to areas of higher
salinity if there is too much freshwater (Bielsa et al. 1983; Larson et al. 1989). It has
been reported that turbidity causes higher concentrations of shrimp, most likely due to
increase in nutrient availability and decreased visibility of the shrimp to their predators
Table 3-1: Current costs of licenses and endorsements for commercial fishing.
Fishing License Price
Saltwater Products License (individual) $50-$300
Saltwater Products License (vessel) $100-$600
Restricted Species Endorsement Free, but must have reported landings in
Blue crab endorsement Free (moratorium)
Stone crab endorsement $125
Spiny lobster endorsement $100-$150
Blue crab trap tag $0.50
Stone crab trap tag $0.50
Lobster trap tag $1.00
Table 3-2: Federally listed endangered species in Biscayne National Park.
Common Name Scientific Name
Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas
Hawksbill Sea Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
Leatherback Sea Turtle Dermochelys coriacea
Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle Lepidochelys kempii
West Indian Manatee Trichechus manatus
Table 3-2. Continued
Papilio aristodemus ponceanus
Table 3-3: Summary of the development of the fisheries management plan at Biscayne
2000 Collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to
determine longterm goals for the fisheries resources.
2002 First public comment period includes concerns about overfishing, habitat
degradation, and enforcement issues.
2003 Second public comment period includes suggestions for formation of an
2004 The Working Group provides input over a series of six meetings to provide
recommendations on the proposed alternatives of the draft plan.
2004-05 The draft plan is reviewed by the National Park Service and the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
2006 The plan is approved for inclusion in the Federal Registry and a final public
comment period is planned. The Working Group also meets again to review
how its recommendations were considered and provide comments on the
current version of the plan.
Table 3-4: Summary of elements of the Biscayne fisheries management plan.
special-use permits for commercial fishermen and charter captains
annual permits for recreational fishermen and boaters
elimination of lobster "mini-season" within park boundaries
prohibition of spearguns with triggers and use of SCUBA equipment while
establishment of coral reef protection areas
changes in bag limits for some species
MARINE FISHERIES TRIP TICKET
,, .,, ,: A. ,MOUNIIT Il a In
AERIAL wTE FS=ED ILr U ---- L -
AMA FISED L II L_ STATE II_
tr, U T-1 L 5^ ci-,ii I r -Ur 8- w, 1 6 cll( B I I I I EMS
BEAREs Lu U H ogi l i L. I I sJant Li --
#UBIMTLN 011IMWIL I IO SETS LI.. SOUA TIME '"
HEAD BETMLE DUt LJ CHmTER LJ ADUACULTURE U L..a N.
U .i tEl 11i;P
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FWC COPY IMAIIDAI
0 5 10 20 Miles
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Figure 3-2: Map of Biscayne National Park (red outline). Data source: Florida
Geographic Data Library.
Figure 3-1: Sample trip ticket.
M Patchy seagrass
S| Seagrass meadow
Hardbotorom with grass
Figure 3-3: Habitat distribution in Biscayne National Park (outlined in black). Data
source: Florida Geographic Data Library.
Figure 3-4: Propeller scars on a seagrass bed in Biscayne Bay.
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
Figure 3-5: Population of Miami-Dade County from 1900 to 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau).
Figure 3-6: Elevated landfill near Black Point Marina, nicknamed "Mt. Trashmore."
0 5 10 20 Mies
I I I I i I I
Figure 3-7: Canal system (in blue) in Miami-Dade
Geographic Data Library.
County. Data source: Florida
Figure 3-8: A view of Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant from Biscayne Bay.
The overall methodology involved collection and analysis of qualitative data.
Interviews and field notes were coded by prevalent themes, and participant observation
was used to supplement responses. The data were organized into four major fields:
fishing technique and gear, local ecological knowledge, limitations, and conservation/
Prior to and during the first weeks at my study site, I contacted several people from
Biscayne National Park, Florida Sea Grant, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and
Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami for suggestions for finding commercial
fishermen in Biscayne Bay. Those inquiries provided no contacts, but online information
about the Biscayne National Park Fisheries Management Plan Working Group provided
names of a few local captains, and I finally was able to contact some of them. I also
visited bait shops to ask how to get in touch with the fishermen, and was pointed to one
of the local marinas.
After making initial contacts, I found that snowball sampling (Bernard 2002)
worked best, as expected. Typically, the initial interviews included information about
other fishermen or stories heard from other fishermen. In this way, I could inquire about
additional informants and acquire additional information regarding the status of a
potential interviewee within the fishing community. Many fishermen, once they felt
comfortable with me, were willing to pass along names and phone numbers of others.
Often, when I would get in touch with the new informant, he would tell me that he had
been told I would be calling and ask why did it take so long for me to follow through and
contact him. As I met more fishermen, the networking among them became easier.
Interviews with Fishermen
I conducted over 30 hours of semi-structured interviews with 13 commercial
fishermen. I also had countless hours of informal conversation from my time at the docks
and fish house, and during social time spent with the informants, which was documented
in my field notes. Upon consent, I tape-recorded the semi-structured interviews and later
transcribed them. Initially I used a list of questions as a guide but found out that carrying
out the interviews as relaxed conversations typically led to the informants being more
comfortable and thus, more open with me. I also found that some topics, (e.g., bycatch
and pollution) were more easily approached using different questions that allowed the
conversation to somewhat naturally veer into the touchy subject without being directly
introduced by me.
Because I was an outsider and the fishermen did not know be well initially, I
formatted each interview to be as similar to a conversation as possible. I also found that
when I asked a direct question about certain subjects, they would either not be able to
answer it on the spot or tell me that they did not know. However, whenever information
was solicited in the form of a story, they would volunteer a substantial amount of
information. Stories, included in responses, were found to be one of the most important
sources for obtaining information relevant to my interests.
Because I was unable to obtain permission from Biscayne National Park to
conduct research within park boundaries, I conducted 16 interviews at Black Point
marina (n=4), restaurants (n=2), fish houses (n=2), and at the fishermen's homes (n=8).
With three of the informants, I conducted a second interview. My preference for
interviews was at the fisherman's home to maximize comfort and convenience, and also
to include wives, who were useful in reminding the fishermen of events (Neis 1999), and
whom I found to be as knowledgeable as the fishermen, even if the wives had never
worked in the fishing industry. However, I would also agree to meet them in restaurants
or their place of work such as the fish house or marina.
Communication with Fisheries Management Staff at Biscayne National Park
Prior to my field work, I contacted the fisheries manager at the park and informed
him of my upcoming research. He updated me on the status of the fisheries management
plan and gave me contact information for past researchers and for local residents who
might know the commercial fishermen. Later, I conducted a short interview with him
about the Fisheries Management Plan Working Group and how the participants were
selected, and also about the fisheries management plan. I documented that interview with
In addition to interviews, I used participant observation to build trust, provide
concrete examples of topics discussed in interviews, and to fill in gaps in baseline data
(Bernard 2002:333-335; Paolisso 2002). I spent time at the marina when the fishermen
were preparing for an evening trip and while they were working on boats and equipment.
I also spent social time with the fishermen, when invited, which included dinners and
visits to their homes.
I spent approximately 30 hours on the boats with shrimpers and one lobster
fisherman. I asked the blue crab fishermen during the interviews if they would allow me
to join them when they went out; each of them consented, although none contacted me on
the days of the planned outing, so I was unable to observe the techniques and locations
they visited. I did not go out with any stone crab fishermen because my fieldwork took
place when the season was closed.
Participant observation proved to be an important source of data, since fishermen
typically transmit ecological knowledge orally-sometimes unintentionally-frequently
during the course of fishing. Furthermore, local ecological knowledge of fishermen is
part of everyday life, and becoming involved with this lifestyle helped me reveal
additional information not discussed in interviews (Neis et al. 1999), especially
pertaining to sensitive issues and conflict (mostly hearsay concerning a personal
disagreement between two fishermen). Each time I interacted with fishermen, I
documented my findings and observations in my field notes.
I primarily used informal semi-structured interviews to obtain the study data from
the fishermen. I had a list of specific topics that I wanted to address either with direct
questions or that would naturally come up in the conversation (Appendix). I used a small
notebook to jot down topics that I wanted to remember to bring up later. I typically
found that the same themes came up in each interview without prompts by me. The
questions were based on topics included in other researchers' studies of local ecological
knowledge of fishing communities and basic ecological concepts.
I always opened the interview asking about the informant's experience in the
fishery: how long have you been doing it, how did you learn, etc. This typically led into
questions about how the fisherman knows where to set his traps or drag his trawls,
followed by inquiries about the target species' biology and ecology, plus information
about the ecosystem as a whole, including effects of weather and seasonality. I also
asked about pollution and other human impacts that the informant had observed or heard
about. Each interview included some discussion about resource management that is
carried out by the local, state, and federal governments. Finally, I also noted answers to
basic close-ended questions concerning age, marital status, boat and motor types,
technology used, and alternative incomes.
Often, if an informant did not know the answer to a specific question, he would
use the phrase "I don't know, but I heard..." I used these responses to solicit information
about other possible informants and also to construct a basic net of social relationships of
the fishing community at Biscayne National Park.
At the end of each interview, I asked the informant to tell me his "best fisherman
story." Partly out of my own interest, the stories were also documented and ended up
revealing additional cultural aspects of their fishing behavior and knowledge. These are
discussed in the results.
Interview Schedule and Constraints
The semi-structured interviews were conducted from May through July of 2005.
Each interview typically lasted one to three hours, although the entire time was never
spent addressing my research questions and often involved small talk or questions
directed at me. This was not a problem, as informal conversations, even if straying far
from the topic, sometimes led to interesting discussions that would not have taken place
otherwise. I feel that casual conversation, plus answering questions about myself, helped
build rapport with my informants. Also, during small talk, my lack of background in
marine ecology was made obvious, which I felt was an advantage for me as an
interviewer; my informants always knew more than me and thus, were willing to share
As an outsider, it took several weeks to locate my informants. However, the
community was open to me once I began speaking with the fishermen. I was questioned
several times about my motives but, for the most part, the fishermen were interested in
my work and willing to assist me. I started, not necessarily by design, with several
central figures in the community who led me to additional informants. The tightness of
the fishermen's network also helped me develop rapport, as I was told many times by an
informant that he already knew my name and project through another informant.
Nonetheless, I was asking questions about secrets and did not expect to always be told the
truth. However, I feel that my informants gave me generally reliable information.
Wholesalers in the commercial fishing industry in Florida are required to report
daily through the trip ticket system, which includes information on weight, location
caught, buyer and seller of the catch. I obtained the data from the FWC of reported
landings from 2000 to 2004, including preliminary data for 2005. The data are for the
zones within Biscayne National Park (see Figure 4-1) and include landings in pounds for
the blue crab, stone crab, spiny lobster, and bait shrimp fisheries. The captains' names
were not given to me to maintain confidentiality, but numbers of fishermen reporting
each year are included. Finally, I also received information on the Biscayne National
Park fisheries management plan from park staff and from the park website, including a
rough draft of the plan and briefings on the status of its enactment.
Fishermen Interviews and Field Notes
I used an inductive coding approach for the transcriptions of fishermen interviews
(Bernard 2002). Some themes recurred during my research, and during analysis I
reviewed each transcript and added each informant's responses to notes regarding each
theme. For example, whenever a fishermen spoke about pollution, I made notes of what
he said in the 'pollution' section of my theme notes. Because I wanted a broad
representation of the culture as a whole rather than each individual's knowledge, I added
all responses together. However, I did make a note of each theme that was mentioned by
a majority of the informants, and a note of conflicting responses concerning the same
issue. Because my field notes were typically documentation of informal conversations, I
used the same approach and compiled the data with information from the interviews.
The main themes that I coded for were organized into three groups: local ecological
knowledge, limitations, and perceptions of conservation and management (Table 4-1).
Each organism mentioned during interviews and recorded in field notes was
added to one list of species. Scientific names were assigned as best I knew and I enlisted
the help from the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Department at the University of Florida
to identify plant and algae species that I could not identify. The local names were then
each labeled as generic, specific, or varietal according to lexemes (Berlin et al. 1973). I
also noted if the organism was discussed as 'trash', predator, or impediment. I calculated
the frequency of each taxonomic level and the context in which the organism was
Secondary data on commercial and recreational landings were entered into
Microsoft Excel. Graphs were generated for visual presentation, and to get a sense
whether there were any seasonal and annual trends. I also used the data on commercial
landings to estimate the number of commercial fishermen working within park
Table 4-1: Themes used in coding interviews and field notes.
Local ecological knowledge
predator and defense
market (supply and demand)
cultural (secrecy, territory, network)
Conservation and management
perceptions of impacts by fishermen
perceptions of other anthropogenic impacts
concerns and suggestions for management
Co&ds lf Area 744
744.0 Offshore watrs, 0-3 nautical miles offshore
744.1 Florida Bay (in puIn
744.3 Bisayne Bay. outside of the National Prk
744.4 [iscaync National Park. inside the colr-c line
744.6 Card Sound
744.8 Biscayne National Park. fidral waer
744.5 Biscayne National Park. from the colreis line
to 3 nautical miles offshore
744.9 Federal Waters
744.7 Karncs S.und
- Biscayne National Park Boumdary
. I. ,
Figure 4-1: Trip ticket area codes for Biscayne National Park. (Source: Florida Fish and
The commercial fishermen working in Biscayne National Park represent a group of
people affected by a mix of cultural, social, economic, ecological, and political factors.
Long past are the days when a Biscayne fisherman's main concern was simply how and
where to find the target species. The system has become much more complex, and he
faces pressure from a growing metropolitan area, dynamic market, and increased
regulations. He must know how external factors work as much as how ecological factors
affect his catch.
In this chapter, I will cover the major results from my study. All information is
taken from interviews and field notes unless otherwise noted as being from a secondary
source. I will begin with a demographic overview of the fishery participants and
descriptions of each fishery. Next I will outline local ecological knowledge of each
group of fishermen, discussing information they have about the marine resources at
Biscayne National Park. The chapter will continue into the results from responses about
limitations for fishing, considering both internal and external factors. Finally, I will
present ideas for conservation and management from the fishermen's viewpoints.
Demographics of the Biscayne National Park Fishermen
The demographics of the fisheries participants is based on information about the
informants and personal observation during my time at the marinas. Most information is
relevant to all target fisheries studied; specific information is noted as such.
Most of the trap fishermen and shrimpers are Anglo, and the estimated average
age is 45, although the Hispanic captains of the bait shrimp fishery (not included in this
study) were observed to be in their mid- to late 20s. Almost all are male, but stories of
the past and present indicate that some wives work in the fishery also. Several are
currently married and have families, but many are divorced. Those with wives lived in
double-income households. Children of the fishermen ranged from ages 6 to 25. The
majority of fishermen have lived most of their lives in south Florida; if they were not
born there, they had moved to the area at a young age. Most finished high school but
none of the fishermen I met or knew of had attended college or technical school.
Fishing was the dominant occupation for most fishermen in Biscayne National
Park, although some had worked in other areas of the southeast or on the west coast of
Florida. Most fishermen entered the industry after high school, around the age of 18.
Some of them became interested in fishing when they began working as helpers for other
fishermen, and eventually bought their own boats and worked alone. A few fishermen
reported additional income from other jobs, including farming, electrical work, and odd
Homes of the fishermen in this study were spread out, from south Miami to Key
Largo. The trap fishermen typically kept their boats at home and launched them at Black
Point marina, which was usually not more than a 20-minute drive from where they lived.
Shrimpers that worked on boats at Dinner Key usually lived nearby in Miami, and those
at Black Point resided in Homestead. The few fishermen that lived in Key Largo had
residences located directly on channels and were able to dock their boats at their homes.
Overview of the Fisheries
The target species for the blue crab fishery is Callinectes sapidus (Figure 5-1).
The blue crab fishery in Biscayne National Park has the least number of participants,
although it once had many fishermen involved. From interviews, there are only five blue
crabbers working in the park. However, data from the FWC lists seven fishers with
reported landings in 2004 within a single zone (trip ticket area code 744.4). The
remaining two may have come from areas north (Miami) or south (Key Largo) of the
park, versus those who typically launch their boats at Black Point marina or Card Sound.
All blue crab fishermen are part-time. Alternative incomes include working at fish
houses and participating in the other, more lucrative, trap fisheries.
The blue crab fishery is open year-round. There is a moratorium on the licenses at
this time so the number of participants in the fishery cannot grow. Blue crabs must be 5
inches from the tip of one lateral spine to the other to harvest legally. They are sold to
local fish markets (commonly called fish houses) in the Miami and Keys areas.
Blue crab traps are composed of a variety of materials, such as wood, plastic or
wire. They can be purchased pre-made or constructed by the fishermen. Many are
double-layered (Figure 5-2). The crab comes into the trap in an entrance on the bottom,
attracted to bait placed inside. Once it enters, the crab moves to the top part of the trap
and cannot exit. All traps have o-rings to allow small crabs and other bycatch to move
out. There is also biodegradable cord, required by law, that ensures escape by any
animals caught inside should the trap be lost and become a ghost trap.
Traps are marked with individual tags, purchased from the state, and buoys that
float on the water surface. They are placed in lines for ease in harvest. Blue crabbers
typically place their traps in shallow water (three to five feet) and do not use GPS.
In 2004, blue crab landings within Biscayne National Park (710 km2) equaled
7,303 pounds. According to trip ticket data, this is barely half of what was caught in the
Chicken Key area (0.5 km2), a small inlet located immediately north of the park
boundary. Although the Biscayne National Park Ethnographic Overview and Assessment
(EDAW 2003) summarizes landings reported from the FWC as having an increase from
1991 to 2001, the blue crabbers say that there has been a sharp decrease in the number of
fishermen over the past decade. They note movement of the crabs due to habitat change,
but no decline in catch, which indicates an increase in effort by the fleet.
The target species for this fishery is Menippe mercenaria. The stone crab fishery
reported 11 participants at most in 2004, but I was only able to locate three of the
fishermen. Most combine stone crabbing with other fisheries, particularly lobster.
The stone crab season is October 15 to May 15. Only the claws can be harvested,
and must be removed in a specific way to avoid mortality of the crab. The legal harvest
size for a claw is 2.75 inches, and no egg-bearing female may be in possession. The
claws are sold to local fish houses.
Stone crabs are caught in traps similar to blue crab traps, with little or no escape
by the crabs. They are made of plastic (Figure 5-3) or wood, although the crabs can
break out of the wooden traps. Many stone crab traps have cement or some other form of
weight in the bottom to maintain placement. Each trap is baited and placed in a line with
buoys on each trap, or sometimes just on the traps at the end of the line. Some stone
crabbers use GPS to keep track of trap placement.
The state reported 8,621 pounds of stone crab claws landed in 2004. Most were
harvested in the outer eastern areas of the park. Only about a quarter of the landings were
harvested within the bay. Compared to the park's Ethnographic Overview and
Assessment (2003), this is a remarkable increase from landings in 2001, but similar to
landings from 1996 to 2000.
The target species for this fishery is Panulirus argus (Figure 5-4). Data from the
FWC suggest that there are 14 to 18 lobster fishermen working in the park, according to
reports from 2004. One lobster fishermen noted that there were possibly illegal
immigrants working in the fishery. Therefore, some participants may not be reporting
their landings and the state may not be aware of them. Estimates by other informants
who participated in the fishery suggest there are less than ten lobster fishermen.
Because of the popularity of lobsters among both commercial and recreational
fishermen, a lobster sanctuary was established in the bay and includes most of the
western waters of Biscayne National Park (Figure 5-5). Lobster fishermen work further
east outside of the sanctuary, near the reefs, which is coded as area 744.5 for trip tickets.
There is a closed season for commercial lobster harvest from March 31 to August
6. The season is preceded by a two-day "mini season," which occurs during the last
weekend in July and is only open to recreational harvest (a limit of six legal lobsters per
person each day).
Lobster traps are made of wood and most are customized by the fishermen (Figure
5-6). They come in different sizes, depending on where they are intended to be placed.
Unlike crab traps, lobster traps do not confine the animal with little or no escape.
Instead, the funnel is large and acts as an entrance to a new home. Lobster fishermen do
bait the traps, but for the most part depend on the social characteristics of the lobster; i.e.,
lobsters congregate inside the trap, and the more inhabitants of the trap, the higher the
Each trap has a tag and buoy, and is placed in a line. Some lobster fishermen use
GPS to mark the locations of traps because the animals are usually found in deeper
waters. Because traps are usually weighted, they are heavy and many lobster fishermen
have installed hydraulic systems on their boats to hoist the traps onto the deck.
Legal lobsters must be three inches on the carapace (from posterior part of the head
to the anterior part of the tail) and have a tail length of 5.5 inches. If a small lobster,
known as a short, is found in the trap, it is placed back inside to serve as an attractant.
While some researchers feel that using shorts as attractants should not be allowed, lobster
fishermen note that they will most likely return to the trap anyway if the trap is placed
into a nearby location. Also, because any lobsters are free to move in and out of a trap,
there is no requirement for escape o-rings. There is, however, a mandatory minimum
size for the funnel to allow the animals to exit.
Commercial lobster landings for 2004 reported 21,698 pounds, of which 90% was
harvested east of the reefs. All of the lobster fishermen I interviewed reported a steady
catch since they began fishing, and some mentioned an increase over the past few years.
The target species for the bait shrimp fishery includes brown shrimp (Penaeus
aztecus) and pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum). The bait shrimp fishery in Biscayne has
been established since the 1950s (EDAW 2003). There are two main docks, Dinner Key
in Miami and Black Point in Homestead. Some bait shrimpers dock south of the park, in
Card Sound or Key Largo. Data from trip tickets in 2004 report 18 to 30 shrimp
fishermen harvesting in Biscayne National Park; my estimate from interviews is 25
fishermen. Most captains are Anglo, but over the past year several Hispanic captains
were hired after one boat owner purchased several boats from a fisherman who left the
There is a quasi-hierarchy among the shrimpers at Biscayne National Park, in
which a more seasoned and successful shrimper typically moves up. Most shrimpers
follow this path but few reach the top. The hierarchy is based on experience and how
much money that position earns. The first level is as a helper on another shrimper's boat,
and he will be paid accordingly by the captain. Eventually, a helper will be hired by a
boat owner as a captain, at which time he will take home half of the profit each night and
allocate a portion of that to his helper, if he has hired one. The next step is to purchase
his own boat. Both profits and costs are the fisherman's responsibility at this level, and
this is the terminal point for most shrimpers. The highest level is the wholesaler, who
buys from the shrimpers and sells to the local bait shops. Most wholesalers also own
boats and hire captains. Usually wholesalers no longer run the boats, but will work if a
captain is not available one night.
Bait shrimpers work from sunset to near sunrise. There is no closed season for
shrimping and many work at least five nights a week. Often one or two boats will supply
one wholesaler, but the shrimpers will sell to other wholesalers if another captain cannot
meet his order, although these are informal agreements and do not occur on a regular
basis. There are a few captains who work as substitutes for other captains, and sell to
several different wholesalers, depending on which boat they are running. The bait
shrimpers of Biscayne National Park supply shrimp to bait shops from Miami to Key
Bait shrimping in the bay utilizes the rollerframe trawl (Figure 5-7), reportedly
designed by an oldtime shrimper from Black Point. Previously, the bait shrimpers used
door nets, which were two pieces of plywood that are pulled apart by the water pressure
and collected up anything along the way. With the current gear, the bottom of the frame
is a metal roller and allows the trawl to run along the bottom and ideally roll over
anything in its path, such as rocks or grass. The front of the trawl includes stainless steel
bars, called fingerbars, that are spaced at most three inches apart. The fingerbars keep
out any large animals and plantlife. Any bottom-dwelling organisms that can fit through
the bars will be pushed into the net by the water pressure. The trawls are hoisted using
hydraulics installed on the boat.
Once a shrimper has made a drag, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, the catch is
brought on deck and placed into holding tanks with continuously circulating water
(Figure 5-8). Some shrimpers first remove as much grass as possible by swirling a stick
through the water. Then a scoop of the catch is placed on the picking tray and sorted by
hand (Figure 5-9). The target shrimp are thrown into a separate tank and the bycatch is
pushed overboard. The shrimpers make an attempt to keep the bycatch alive by returning
it to the water as soon as possible. Any plant, algae, or animal caught in the net that is
not a shrimp is known as "trash."
Some captains take mates with them, known as "pickers," to help sort the shrimp.
These are typically fishermen with less experience. Most captains work alone, especially
in the summer when supply is low, in an effort to save money. Autopilots on the boats
allow the shrimpers to pick simultaneously while making a drag.
Most boat owners have one or two boats and several work as captains as well.
The boats are sometimes purchased from other shrimpers, or the fishermen buy
recreational vessels and renovate them into working shrimp boats. Due to high costs of
labor for welding, electrical and hydraulic work, the shrimp fishermen design and
construct all gear on their boats by themselves. The boats are simple, usually consisting
of a cabin and fishing equipment (Figure 5-10).
GPS units are commonly found on shrimp boats, but used mostly to mark hazards,
such as buoys or rocky areas, and for documentation of locations fished at previous times.
Many shrimpers use lineups from radio towers and Turkey Point for navigation, relying
on the lights from the shore to guide them to certain locations or back to the marina. One
fisherman noted that the increase in cellular towers and a changing skyline means less
dependency on the lineups because the fishermen are no longer certain that the points of
light are the same ones as before.
When shrimpers sell to wholesalers, the shrimp are counted by the thousands.
The method used to estimate catch is to count out about 550 shrimp, weigh that group,
and then calculate the number by weighing all the catch. Trip tickets are also completed
using individual numbers of shrimp, which is converted to pounds for data entry by the
In 2004, shrimpers reported 48,190 pounds of shrimp caught in Biscayne National
Park. No informants felt there was a decrease in catch, but noted that the shrimp are not
in the same locations they usually are at this time of year. The recent active hurricane
seasons affected both supply and demand, which has an impact on the cycle of landings
Local Ecological Knowledge
The local ecological knowledge of the informants is reported collectively and
organized into the trap fisheries and the bait shrimp fishery. The information presented is
based on responses during interviews and field notes that documented informal
Trapped Species (Blue Crab, Stone Crab, Spiny Lobster)
These species are omnivores and are attracted to almost anything. Fish heads are
common bait with a preference for native species such as yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus
chrysurus). Blue crabs will not eat old fish heads so they are changed out regularly, even
if they are not eaten. Lobster and stone crabs are attracted to pork bones, pigs' feet, and
cowhide. Cowhide is widely used because it only attracts the target species rather than
fish and other animals. One lobster fishermen reported using a 'special bait' but would
not reveal what it was. However, it is an animal and was discovered with trial and error
based on "what the lobster usually eats in its natural environment."
Blue crab and stone crab traps are set in muddy, grassy areas. Crabs prefer the
grass because it provides protection and a habitat for many small animals that serve as a
food source for the crabs.
Lobsters typically live near rocks or coral, which provide them with protection.
Lobster traps are set near the ledges on sandy bottom (to avoid falling or tipping), and are
'homes' for the lobsters. Once one lobster has discovered a trap, it will send out
messages to other lobsters with its antennae. The more lobsters in a trap, the more will
be attracted to it. Because eventually lobsters become their own attractants, lobster
fishermen will keep a few 'shorts' in the trap to lure in others, and some fishermen
reported that they discontinue use of fish heads or cowhide after the trap is occupied.
Of the three species, only blue crab can be fished throughout the year. The
fishermen mentioned that there was "talk of a closed season" for the blue crab but did not
feel it was necessary. The blue crabs tend to move out of the bay in the summer, due to
higher temperatures and increased rain, and therefore have a natural closed season. Some
blue crabbers do continue fishing but with fewer traps, and for the most part "it's not
worth going out and wasting the time."
Stone crabs are only legal to harvest from October 15 to May 15. Fishermen feel
that the closed season is meant to allow the stone crabs to regenerate claws, and some
mentioned that it was the spawning season. However, stone crabs have also been
observed with eggs during harvest, so the regulated closed season may not overlap with
Once a blue crab is hatched, it grows quickly and is of legal harvest size in four
months. A stone crab may take one or two years to reach legal size, and lobsters are legal
to harvest about a year after they hatch.
Blue crabs have many predators, especially during molting season when their shells
are soft. Stone crabs, however, were reported to only have one predator (besides
humans): the octopus (Octopus spp.). Each fisherman reported that octopi are found in
traps along with dead stone crabs, and octopus eggs have also been observed in the traps.
While there are certain times of the year when there are more octopi found in the bay,
they have never caused a major impact on the stone crab fishery.
Sea turtles also break into the traps, although not as often as other humans
(discussed later). One informant told me that the evidence of a sea turtle is that the wood
will be broken inward, because a turtle will use its nose, versus a human who will pull the
wood slats out. Sea turtles are not a major problem for the trappers, breaking traps only
Because there is little defense against humans or octopi regardless, stone crabs do
not need even one claw to survive, although as one fishermen put it, "it sure does make it
easier." When claws are removed, the animals will hide and filterfeed on small
organisms until the claws regenerate.
As the environmental conditions change, the animals will move. Blue crabs will
move outward when there is an abundance of rain or the canals are opened, although
immediately following rainfall there will be a larger harvest because they prefer
somewhat brackish water. Both stone crabs and blue crabs respond to changes in
barometric pressure; they will move if the pressure is high. Cold snaps will cause them
to move or bury up in the sand or mud.
The size of traps and type of material used can affect a fisherman's harvest.
Different sizes are used in different habitats. Also, depending on the bottom, traps can be
made of wire, wood, plastic, and be of different colors. One fishermen pointed out that
perhaps vision is important in the crab's decision to enter the trap. Some blue crab traps
have double layers in which a crab enters the trap and then moves to the top, where there
is no exit. The fishermen could not explain why the crabs always move to the top layer.
One fisherman reported modifying his traps in a particular way and achieving
positive results, but I promised not to divulge the details of his secret.
Shrimp are omnivores and will eat anything, but primarily have an herbivorous
diet. Much of what they eat is microscopic. Likewise, anything will eat a shrimp, which
is why they are a popular bait for recreational anglers. Because of the universal appeal,
shrimp bury up in the sand for protection during the day, when they are easily seen in the
shallow, clear waters of the bay.
The target species can be found in areas with seagrass, but the fishermen's
preference for trawling is on the hardbottom, which is in front of Black Point. They
define hardbottom as a sandy bottom with little or no plant life. This allows the drags to
be cleaner, i.e., less seagrass and algae in the nets.
Shrimp are larger and more abundant in the wintertime, with January and February
typically being the best months for harvest. During the summer, they move offshore
towards the cooler water; the bay warms quickly and they prefer lower temperatures.
Basically, the summertime is when "the old crop's moved out and the new crop hasn't
shown up yet."
There is little agreement among the fishermen on where the shrimp spawn. Some
fishermen feel that they head to the waters offshore to breed, and the eggs float into the
bay with the easterlies. Others, based on observations of the earliest small shrimp
appearing in the bushes nearshore first, believe that they spawn inshore, or the eggs are
scattered in the bay. One fisherman, doubtful of the theory that shrimp are born offshore
and float in, said,
But to me, you're talking about something this big [-three inches] going all the
way back out there to find a piece of grass to lay eggs in that's going to float all the
way back here? I don't buy it.
Once a shrimp is born, it matures in three to nine months. It grows quickly,
doubling its size each month. The shrimpers note that the animals must reproduce
quickly because shrimping has occurred for many decades and there has not been a
decline in catch.
In addition to water temperatures, choppy weather also affects the movement of
the shrimp. Winds produce wave action on the top and bottom, and habitat can change
quickly under the surface. With exception to strong winds that make navigation difficult,
the fishermen prefer some wind to "stir up everything" and cause the shrimp to be more
available as the trawl passes. An overcast sky also helps because less moonlight will
bring the shrimp out of hiding in the sand.
One important environmental condition that affects shrimp is the east wind.
When storms come from the east, they push the shrimp inshore, and this increases catch
rates because more shrimp are available. Conversely, a west wind will push the shrimp
out of the bay, limiting the abundance that is accessible to the shrimpers. However, the
winds change rapidly and the fishermen know that with every west wind, there will be an
east wind to bring the shrimp back into the bay. For this reason, they never appear to
worry about availability of the stock.
Hurricanes play a major role in the availability of the shrimp. As mentioned
before, the direction from which the hurricane comes is an important factor. Following
Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which came from the east, there was a surprise increase in
shrimp during a normal and slow summertime. After Hurricane Dennis in July 2005, a
hurricane originating in the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Point shrimpers 'lost' the shrimp
for approximately ten days (e.g., the shrimp were not in the usual places they are found
during the summertime). However, the following week an easterly pushed them back
inshore and they were able to resume trawling.
Two informants mentioned problems with Cassiopeia jellyfish (Cassiopeia
frondosa); not as predators but with the jellyfish stinging the shrimp while in the holding
tank. While typically more abundant in the summer, they have not been a major problem.
However, one informant noted that they "are the biggest threat, and getting worse."
Freshwater, from abundant rain or opening of the canal gates, causes the shrimp to
move offshore. Shrimp prefer saltier water, and the shrimpers will wait to fill the holding
tanks until they are far from the dock to avoid too much freshwater and thus, higher
shrimp mortality. Also, over the years the influx of freshwater into the bay-from canals
or run-off from development-has changed the habitat. Areas that were once prime
shrimping spots are no longer viable, such as around Black Point marina.
During interviews, informal conversations, and participant observation, the
informants discussed 70 marine animals (Table 5-1). To organize the names of animals, I
used methods for folk taxonomies by Berlin et al. (1973), based on the number of
lexemes. These species included 41 fishes, 17 crustaceans, eight non-crustacean
invertebrates, two reptiles and two marine mammals. The majority (58.6%) were
mentioned at the generic level (one lexeme used), such as damselfish, sponge, and sea
turtle. Twenty-three (32.9%) were at a specific level (two lexemes), such as spiny puffer,
and six (8.6%) were at a varietal level (three of more lexemes), such as bonnet-head
shark and shovel-nosed lobster. Most of the fish were at the generic level, but
conversely, only two crustaceans were mentioned in generic terms. As suggested by
Berlin et al. (1973), animals discussed at the generic level are the most numerous.
Thirty-seven (53.6%) organisms were noted or observed as bycatch. Larger
animals, such as horseshoe crabs and grouper, were cases of trap bycatch. Smaller
organisms, or at least slimmer animals that can fit through the finger bars on a shrimp
boat, were mentioned or observed with shrimpers. For example, common trawl bycatch
include trumpetfish, pinfish, juvenile lobsters, and other shrimp, which are easily swept
into the shrimp trawls. However, on occasion, larger animals like flounder and sting rays
(that appear as if their size would let them avoid being swept into the nets) are caught,
presumably because they were sideways at the time of the drag. When this happens, they
fit perfectly through the fingerbars. When questioned about the natural history of
different species during participant observation, the shrimpers knew many aspects,
including diet, life cycle, and obstacles for captivity. Many shrimpers admitted to
keeping interesting species in their home aquariums, where they observed the animals.
Twenty (29%) of the animals were mentioned as predators of the target species,
although no serious problems in a year's harvest has occurred due to abundance of any
predators. Most were mentioned during interviews with the shrimpers, boasting the
universality of shrimp as bait for recreational fishing in the bay. Two species from the
family Cnidaria, the Cassiopeia jellyfish and Portuguese Man O' War (Physaliaphysalis)
were mentioned as not only harmful to the catch but also the fishermen. Octopi were
mentioned as seasonal impediments for stone crab fishermen, and sea turtles were noted
as breaking into the lobster and crab traps.
The informants also discussed eight types of algae and six types of marine plants
(Table 5-1). Many were local names and some had multiple names. For example,
Sargassum spp. is known as sargassum or berry grass; Thalassia testudinum is called
turtle grass or blade grass; and Giffordia spp., a brown algae, is referred to as snotgrass or
gumbo. Of the algae, all were mentioned as impediments to traps (growing on or inside
the traps and deterring catch) or clogging up shrimp trawls. The marine plants were all
included in responses to questions about habitat, although the bait shrimpers consider
grass in their nets as trash and detrimental to upkeep of the nets or interfering with sorting
out the shrimp.
Factors Affecting Effort and Catch
In addition to regulations from local, state, and federal governments, the
commercial fishermen of Biscayne National Park are subject to several aspects of
limitations that may prevent them from their maximum exploitation of the resources. In
this section, I will describe two main external factors that affect trappers-theft and
seasonality-and the social aspects of territory and conflict that limit space. For
shrimpers, the main limitation is environmental and economic seasonality. Internal
limitations include secrecy, networking, and aspects of working without a picker.
The most substantial problem for the trap fishermen was theft. Every informant
who participated in one of the trap fisheries brought up this issue, and once mentioned
theft was mentioned, went into details and personal experiences (which all reported
having). Theft, at this point, is simply part of being a crab or lobster fisherman.
Although stealing is not a new phenomenon, the trap fishermen blame the
population increase of adjacent Miami-Dade County for the growing problem. As more
people move in, the higher the likelihood that traps will be stolen or vandalized.
Molestation of traps is a third-degree felony, entailing a fine up to $5000 and
imprisonment of a maximum of five years (Florida Senate 2006), but it is hard to enforce
the law and theft continues to be an issue.
Crab and lobster traps are kept at the commercial dock at Black Point. There is
little security at the dock and one lobster trapper reported that some of his best traps had
been stolen during the night before the interview. He said that they are taken to be used
as decorations for patios. Because he has no other place to store hundreds of traps, he
must depend on enforcement from the marina staff
Most occurrences involve robbing a trap, which almost always includes damaging
it in some way. A blue crabber told me, "they don't steal the traps, they just take what's
there out of there and leave it." One informant reported that he can tell if the thief was a
human versus a sea turtle: the wood will be pulled out instead of pushed inward. He also
noted that robbing from a trap was the equivalent to robbing a store. Another informant
stated that "it's one thing to steal from you, but kill [obstruct] your trap from not being
able to catch?" Damaging the traps only adds insult to injury. Also, many time the lines
are cut or the traps moved, causing it to become a ghost trap if the fishermen is unable to
Because the trappers are required to mark each trap or line with buoys, it is not
difficult for recreational anglers, divers, and other passersby to locate the traps. A boat
trip in the bay will provide several instances where passengers will see trap buoys. Blue
crabs, which are fished for in shallow inshore waters, are especially easy to find. In an
area the size of Biscayne National Park, with open boundaries, there was seldom another
boat in sight during my excursions out in the bay. Not being seen robbing a trap is even
easier at night.
To combat theft, one fisherman is considering using time-release buoys made of
zinc, available from a fishing supplies company. The zinc erodes in saltwater over a
course of two weeks and releases the buoy. Another response is to only place buoys on
the ends of each line, but this method requires knowing exact placement of traps or use of
Another way to cope with theft is through the network, which was mentioned by
one of the trappers: "All of us around here, we try to watch for stuff like that, which
helps". When I accompanied a lobster fisherman on a harvest, he was communicating
with other fishermen using a Nextel walkie-talkie, discussing an unknown boat near an
area popular for lobster traps. Because the boat was not checking any other traps, the
fisherman was worried that someone was waiting for him to leave. He asked another
trapper, who was on his way to the area to check his own traps, to keep an eye on the
Several fishermen relayed stories they had heard of thieves being arrested and
prosecuted, and all had personal accounts of theft of their own traps. One informant
stated, "I will never go for restitution, I'll just go for jailtime."
One informant told me that because there was little chance of catching a thief, in
the past the trappers had handled anyone caught or suspected of robbing traps by their
own means. The responses to thieves in these stories were very severe; it was revenge.
Robbing from a fisherman's trap is nothing to be taken lightly, as indicated in the stories
of the fates of thieves.
Seasonality and weather
The lobster and stone crab fisheries have closed seasons imposed by the state of
Florida. The best time of the season is in the first few months, and then there is a
decrease in catch. The blue crab fishery does not have a closed season but, as mentioned
above, less harvest occurs in the summer months as a result of an increase in temperature
(i.e., it is too hot to fish) and a decrease in availability of blue crabs.
Similar to effects of hurricanes on bait shrimp availability, one trapper reported
problems following strong westerlies but little impacts from easterlies, even a major
hurricane such as Andrew. The most substantial concern is the loss of traps and lack of
demand following extreme weather events.
Territory and conflict
While there are no rules about where a fisherman may place his traps, several
informants mentioned attempts to find less crowded areas and not informing other
fishermen of a new location. Territoriality is difficult, however, when traps must be
marked with buoys and are visible on the water surface. One trapper spoke of his
It's not that anybody else can't go there, it's that you have to maneuver around the
trap without hitting another trap, and you have to have a certain amount of space.
And out of courtesy, whatever, etiquette of the blue crabber...if you see a guy's
line well, you give him a certain amount of distance to let him fix that area. That's
what I do.
Keeping a distance between one's traps with another fisherman's traps appears to
benefit both parties, but informants reported instances when trap lines were crossed by
another crab or lobster fisherman. However, no unwritten rules of territory were
mentioned. As one trapper stated, "my license is as good as anybody else's."
Each trapper interviewed mentioned shrimp trawlers potentially damaging crab
traps (lobster traps are typically set further out in the bay, in deeper water, and near coral
reefs-not desirable locations for shrimpers). One informant reported that he keeps a
local shrimper who frequently fishes the same area as he does updated on where he
placed his traps in an effort to minimize damage. Another crabber stated that he keeps
his traps closer inshore to keep the lines from being run over by the shrimp trawls.
Although mentioned in the interviews, conflict does not seem to be a major issue.
Interestingly, none of the shrimpers brought up a problem with the crab traps; the only
mention was included in a description of the mechanics of a trawl, and how they should
roll over the top of a trap.
The environmental and economic seasons that affect the bait shrimpers of
Biscayne are interesting in how they parallel one another. The environment affects the
supply; the local economy-mainly recreational fishing tourism-affects the demand.
Both are at their lows in the summer and highs in the winter.
The changes in environment include basic weather patterns, and have impact on
both the shrimp and the shrimpers. In the summer, the shrimp are less available because
of their spawning and movement towards deeper waters once water temperature in the
bay begins to climb, according to some shrimpers.
During this time, a variety of factors change the normal routines of the fleet. The
shrimpers go out less (one shrimper reports that he takes the entire summer off), and
spend less time on the water. Also, nights are shorter in the summer, and because a
captain will "wait until the water looks good and black [no sunlight]," he will not go out
until at least 8 pm. Likewise, the sun begins to rise earlier in the summer, which causes
the shrimp to bury up in the sand sooner than in the winter. Longer daytime hours mean
less shrimping hours.
The summer precipitation and winds also alter the activities of the shrimpers. When
weather is rough, the informants reported that shrimping is better. However, potential
damage to the boats and personal safety are considered if the weather is too rough, which
it often is during the rainy summer months.
The recent active hurricane seasons of the past two years have caused some
problems for the shrimpers. Hurricane season is June 1 through November 30, with the
most active period in August and September. The years of 2004 and 2005 saw an
unusually high number of major hurricane landfalls, and 2006 has been predicted to be an
active season as well (Klotzbach and Gray 2006). While extreme weather can increase
catch during a usually slow time for the shrimpers, it also can cause problems. In
addition to storms from the west pushing the shrimp offshore, the shrimp boats can
sustain considerable damage if not properly secured. Also, rising gas prices that follow
the storms, particularly the spike after Katrina in 2005, deterred some shrimpers from
going out if they did not feel they could catch enough shrimp to make a profit. Gas
prices also play a role in the smaller number of tourists visiting south Florida.
The local economy of south Florida is driven by tourism, the primary income for
the state. When there are fewer tourists, there are fewer orders for shrimps from the bait
shops. Even if the shrimpers are catching an abundance of shrimp (e.g., following a
storm from the east) they do not always have an outlet for selling them. Shrimp are
typically not kept for more than a day if not sold immediately and therefore the fishermen
do not catch excess shrimp.
Bait shrimpers only harvest during the night and are sometimes difficult to see
once a certain distance is reached. Because of this, they can explore other areas of the
bay in search of their catch with other fishermen having little knowledge of where they
are. Several informants mentioned maintaining secrecy if they came upon a good spot,
particularly in the summertime. One shrimper said,
I'm kind of a sneaky shrimper. I don't let a lot of people know where I'm working
or know where I'm going. I keep to myself...because every time I ever let
somebody know something, next thing I know there's ten shrimpboats there,
pounding my area. Oh, what happened? There goes a month's worth of shrimp in
two days, wiped out.
Another shrimper told me that summer is when the captains are especially
protective of their spots, even if it means extra effort to deter them from following him.
He said, "If I caught ten thousand tonight, tomorrow night I'd go in a different direction.
I'd take the whole fleet somewhere else."
During my time on the boats, I noticed that the shrimpers used the CB radio often
to check in with other fishermen and see how their nights were going. When asked if
they divulge good locations, I was told that if a shrimper finds a spot like that, he does
not tell anyone else. One shrimper was known for being easy to figure out: if he was not
on the CB radio as usual, he had come upon a prime location and did not want the others
to ask where he was working.
The network of the bait shrimpers
The Anglo, longterm bait shrimpers at Black Point, where I spent a majority of
my time, were a close group of people. Many had known one another for decades, and
sometimes through means other than the fishery. While many of them spoke of the old
days, there seemed to be a closeknit network still functioning in the community.
However, when asked about the new captains, mostly Hispanic, my informants admitted
that they did not converse with them on a regular basis. The segregation at the dock
seemed no more than a language barrier.
Being a part of, and especially being a central figure, in the network is beneficial
to the fishermen for the most part. Through the network, information about catches,
problems, and stories of previous years passes. Often during interviews I heard the
phrases, "I heard," or "they say." Information flows freely among the fishermen.
Most shrimpers work alone, especially during the summer months when catch is
low and an effort is made to maintain as much of the profit as possible. Autopilot on the
boats are useful when shrimping solo, as the captain can pick while he drags, only having
to check where he is going on occasion.
The drawback to working alone is the possibility of getting behind, i.e., finishing
a drag before a shrimper has the chance to complete picking the last drag's catch. This is
a common occurrence because there are two sets of trawls on each boat. It is plausible to
have two or more drags' worth of catch in the holding tanks at a time, but chances of
encountering a problem increase. For example, if there is already one drag in the tank
and the second drag contains a Cassiopeia jellyfish, both catches might be lost from the
stinging. Most shrimpers try their best to keep ahead of each drag.
However, there is only so much one person can do when working alone, and this
decreases the effort for harvest. There is only a certain amount of time in which the
shrimpers are able to work, and more time is spent at the picking tray when there is only
one person aboard.
With years of experience, many fishermen learn quicker ways to pick. It is
desirable to be as swift as possible. This is not only beneficial to the time management of
the shrimper, but also to the chance of survival for the bycatch. The faster a scoop is
sorted through, the faster the bycatch are placed back into the water. A slow picker may
be detrimental to the bycatch.
Conservation and Management
The informants in this study all expressed a desire to conserve the resource.
Some of them have children that are interested in following in their parents' footsteps,
but even the immediate future of the industry is a concern for them. However, many
were more focused on the uncertainty of being allowed to continue fishing within the
park rather than the sustainability of the fishery.
One prominent theme was that the fishermen felt like they were the target of
unfair accusations of destroying the habitat. They noted other sources of degradation,
such as freshwater influx, runoff, urban development, and recreational anglers. Many
also pointed out that they had not experienced a decline in catch, indicating that the
fisheries are sustainable.
When government regulations were discussed, almost all of the informants stated
that lack of enforcement was the main problem. Several relayed stories of law
enforcement approaching them and checking for permits and safety requirements, but no
one recalled a time when fishing gear was inspected, which seemed to bother those
fishermen that felt they followed all regulations when other fishermen did not adhere to
the rules. Verification that equipment was in good condition and functioning properly
was a common suggestion for improvement of management and for conservation of the
Table 5-1: Organisms mentioned during interviews and documented in field notes.
green moray eel
Gi. y ii, uii ,,1,1 cirratum
Folk Taxonomic Rank
Table 5-1. Continued.
Portuguese man 'o war
Plants and algae
Folk Taxonomic Rank
*Common names listed with higher scientific taxa than genus or species are common
terms that could indicate several species of fish, and were not distinguished by the
** denotes insufficient information.
Sources: Alden et al. 1998; Tom Frazer, personal communication; Gosner 1978; Humann
and DeLoach 1995; Katz 1998; Voss 1976.
Figure 5-1: Blue crab (male).
Figure 5-2: Blue crab trap with two levels.
Figure 5-3: Stone crab trap.
Figure 5-4: Spiny lobster.
Figure 5-5 Lobster sanctuary boundaries (in blue) within Biscayne National Park.
F r .5blu w
Figure 5-5: Lobster sanctuary boundaries (in blue) within Biscayne National Park.
':.'.. ; y l,:', s" :,
-9 .11*' S .. .
Figure 5-6: Lobster trap (in repair).
Figure 5-7: Rollerframe trawl on a bait shrimp boat. Identification on the boat has been
hidden to maintain privacy.
Figure 5-8: Holding tanks on a bait shrimp boat.
Figure 5-9: Picking tray on a bait shrimp boat with seagrass "trash."
Figure 5-9: Picking tray on a bait shrimp boat with seagrass "trash."
Figure 5-10: Bait shrimp boat. Identification has been covered to maintain privacy.
The overall objective of the study was to characterize the Biscayne National Park
fisheries in a natural and cultural context from the viewpoint of the fishermen. The
specific objectives were to:
* document local ecological knowledge that contributes to fishing success.
* describe factors (other than government regulation) that affect fishermen behavior
and limit harvest of the target species.
* identify fishermen's perspectives on conservation and management.
In Chapter 5, I presented the results as applied to these objectives. In this chapter, I
provide a brief summary of the results, followed by a discussion the implications of the
results, specifically the utility for management planning of having such information about
resource and user groups and of applying anthropological concepts to fisheries. I
conclude the discussion with suggestions for how this study can be used in management
at Biscayne National Park and by giving some suggestions for integrating cultural studies
of the fishermen into park research and planning.
Knowledge of the Fishermen
The information presented from my study regarding local ecological knowledge
encompass the biology and ecology of the target species (diet, predators, and life cycles)
and the habitat of the bay. Knowledge was concentrated on information that was
pertinent to commercial fishing success, although some information about other species
and fisheries was reported by the informants, which suggests dialogue among fisheries,
plus an interest of fishermen in the entire ecosystem.
The knowledge of users harvesting crabs, lobsters and shrimp is useful to not only
monitor stocks but to assess changes in the ecosystem, using the animals as bioindicators.
A change in the abundance of adult animals that are harvested might indicate a change in
population at the larval stage, which could affect biodiversity of the bay because of the
position of crustacean zooplankton in the food web.
Knowledge about the life cycles and migration of the target species provide
insight on how the informants make decisions on where to fish. Depending on the time
of year and weather, the fishermen will move to different areas of the bay, and
knowledge based on experience is the most important source of information about catch
availability. By documenting ecological knowledge of life cycles and migration,
fisheries managers can understand the patterns of use and can make use of the long-term
monitoring of the resource by the fishermen.
Information about predation on the target species reflects the compilation of
knowledge from years of experience and from interaction among the informants.
Predators affect the movement and abundance of the animals and are of concern to the
fishermen, especially if there is a period when predators affect catch. The only predation
emphasized in this study was octopi on stone crab, and of which the impact on catch was
minimal. However, the possibility of changes in the octopus population, continuously
monitored by the stone crab fishermen, can alert fisheries managers of changes in
biodiversity and possibly other issues.
Information recorded about changes in the bay, especially from fishermen who
have worked there for long periods, is valuable for assessing changes in habitat. Because
fishermen use information on habitat to make decisions on where to place their traps or
make a drag for shrimp, they are constantly taking mental notes of the location of the
target species and what is particular about that place that attracts the animals.
Comparison of Scientific Knowledge and Local Ecological Knowledge
When the local ecological knowledge of the fishermen in this study was compared
to documented scientific knowledge of the target species, the two sources agreed for the
most part, which was similar to findings from a comparison study on yellowfin tuna
between fishermen and managers (Miller et al. 2004). The few differences were mostly
on the life cycles and spawning of each species. Table 6-1 reviews how scientific
knowledge and local ecological knowledge diverge on these aspects.
One notable difference was that the information that fishermen knew typically
only pertained to adults, and little or no information on the other life stages was included
in the responses. This is perhaps because adult animals are what the fishermen are in
search of and primarily deal with. Larval stages were not discussed at all by the
fishermen, and juveniles were mentioned only by the shrimpers when they spoke of
smaller shrimp showing up near the shore during late summer.
Another difference concerns the age of the animal that is reported. In scientific
literature, the age at which the animal reaches sexual maturity is the focus because
recruitment is important for fisheries scientists (Wilson 2003). However, the fishermen
were more concerned and knowledgeable about how long it takes a crab or lobster to
reach legal harvest size, and the time for a shrimp to be a good size to catch. The
divergence reflects a difference in motives for each group.
Limitations on the Fishermen
There are internal and external factors that affect the ability to harvest crab,
lobster and shrimp. Internal factors are a product of the culture and include secrecy,
social networks and some fishermen territoriality. External factors originate from social,
economic and environmental sources.
Understanding how the fishermen interact with each other and what influences the
way that the other fishermen work together or not is useful to managers because it
provides insight on fishing effort of the fleet (Salas and Gaertner 2004). In the case of
the Biscayne fishermen, knowledge about mediocre locations is commonly shared, but
locations of abundance are often withheld. Knowing the areas that are more exploited
than others (mediocre locations) allows resource managers to assess impact more
The external factors that affect the Biscayne fleets include theft, market, and
weather. Theft is a major concern for the crab and lobster fishermen and enforcement is
lacking. Information from the trappers on when and where this is happening could help
law enforcement officials to better address the situation.
The market also affects how the fishermen work. Understanding that the dynamics
of harvest are a result of not only supply but also demand is important in planning for
regulation, especially should the park decide to make seasonal changes.
Finally, the environmental factors that are affecting the Biscayne fishermen should
be taken into account during planning, and allow managers to work with limitations that
are already in place and influencing fishing effort.
A factor not directly mentioned, but discussed as the fishermen spoke of the rapid
development in south Florida, was urbanization and its effects on the fishermen. Johnson
and Orbach (1990) examined the impacts of urbanization on the spiny lobster fishery in
the Florida Keys, and found that most pressure came from new participants, who recently
moved to the area, entering the fishery; increased living expenses; and tourism growth.
While the Biscayne National Park fishermen do not have a problem with an influx of new
fishermen, they are subject to the expensive and growing cost of living in south Florida
and opposition from recreational fishing tourism. However, one fisherman told me that it
was the high cost of real estate in the area that kept new fishermen, who he perceived to
be middle class at most, from moving to south Florida and working in the park.
Fishermen and "Commons" Assumptions
The three assumptions of Hardin's 'tragedy of the commons' outlined earlier by
Berkes (1985) included selfish users, limited resources, and common properties. In this
section, I will discuss how the Biscayne National Park fisheries apply to each
Regarding a group of people who all depend on the same resource and deal with
the same problems, at some point they will have to depend on the community in some
way, and the community will come to depend on them, which helps structure the
expression of selfishness. There are two specific realms in which this occurs: 1)
information transmission, and 2) response to change or difficulty.
In the realm of information transmission, fishermen seek to find answers to
questions about the resource through their networks (e.g., one fishermen asking another
where he worked the day/night before and how the catch was). Other fishermen are the
only resource for knowledge when personal experience is not sufficient. A shrimper
cannot consult the literature to decide where he will take his boat that night, nor can a
trapper watch the evening news to see where the crabs are showing up this week. He
depends on his own knowledge and at some point, the knowledge of others. In return, a
Biscayne fishermen will tell other members what he knows, albeit only under
circumstances of medium-level success. Desire to maintain the secrets of real success
keep fishermen from transmitting everything they know to one another. In this way they
fulfill the assumption of selfishness, but at the same time, limit the fishery as a whole by
not crowding prime locations.
The other aspect is cultural response to change or difficulty. Typically, the
Biscayne National Park fishermen are affected individually, but respond culturally. The
following example describes the Black Point shrimpers' preparation and response to a
Hurricanes are a part of life for the fishermen of Biscayne National Park. Prior to
a hurricane, they move the boats into the canal where there is a windbreak [the
informants reported that the marina will not allow them to move the boats into the
recreational dock, which is a more protected area]. All loose items are removed from the
deck of each boat and they are tied together to secure them. Following a hurricane, the
fishermen move the boats back out onto the dock and assess any damage.
Extreme weather alters the habitat in the bay, and typically the shrimpers will not
immediately be able to locate the shrimp after a storm. When Hurricane Dennis passed
on the west, none of the Black Point shrimpers made significant catches for a week. One
informant told me that the drivers, who are paid daily regardless of quantity, often lie to
the shrimpers about others' catches. For example, if a shrimper refuses to fish one night
because the catch will not be worth the while financially, the driver will tell him that
another shrimper had a success the night before. However, one phone call verifies or
disproves the claim; this would not happen without the tight-knit network of the
shrimpers. Furthermore, word travels quickly when a shrimper locates the target and
within days all the fishermen are updated on the status of the shrimp.
However, some boat owners and captains are not so fortunate following a storm,
and damage to boats might cause a delay in the return to fishing. Because each boat
supplies only one wholesaler, a lack of supply could mean an unfilled order. When this
occurs, other shrimpers will either catch extras or provide leftovers to wholesalers
without working boats.
Do the Biscayne fishermen meet the assumption of selfishness? In some ways the
answer is no. They rely too heavily on one another for information and for assistance
following a disturbance. In other ways, the answer is yes. Perhaps information is
transmitted in hopes of receiving information as well, and it is possible that help is given
with the expectation that the favor will be returned.
However, there is one other aspect that appears to be overlooked in most studies:
the fishermen are humans. They have names, faces, families, stories, hopes and fears.
Ramirez-Sanchez (2006) wrote that emotion plays a heavy role in cooperation within
social networks of fishermen-the binds that tie are more important than 'winning'.
Likewise with the Biscayne National Park fishermen, there are ties that no social network
analysis can show. Sometimes, it is not lack of selfishness or any other kind of cultural
force at work. Sometimes, it is simply because the fishermen are friends.
Overexploitation and Limited Resources
In many cases regarding a marine resource, it is hard to determine if a stock is
overfished. Typically a lack of insufficient data to provide an actual number of the
animals leads to the need for a model to estimate population, but limitations on harvest,
based on models do not always produce an improvement in stocks, which might indicate
a flaw in the model. The situation is similar in Biscayne, although current records of
commercial landings and information from the fishermen show that at this time there is
not a decline in target species. This is most likely due to the small number of fishermen
working in the bay and at such a small scale.
Common Property and Open-access
Biscayne National Park is considered a common property resource, as federal
lands are considered to be owned by the people. Likewise, it is open to all users,
recreational and commercial alike. Recreational visitors participate in diving, boating,
and fishing, and until recently (due to moratoria on licenses) anyone could become a
It is the open-access concept that is not as easy to apply to this situation. Clearly
the park is available to commercial fishermen if they meet the government regulations,
which play the most significant role in limiting access. Without proper permits,
endorsements and tags, there might be more participants than the fishery could sustain.
At this time, the government provides restriction to the resource.
However, exactly how much do federal and government regulations maintain that
restriction? From the outside, Biscayne National Park is more of a state-regulated
property regime than open-access with myriad rules and regulations in place for the
fishermen. Feeny et al. (1996) distinguishes between two types of regimes, dejure and
defacto, which also apply to Biscayne National Park. The government (state and federal)
regulate resource use on paper. However, because there is little enforcement of
regulations that directly affect the fishermen's behavior and fishing effort (such as gear
specifications and harvest size restrictions), the situation is defacto more likely to be
open-access. In this case the behavior of the fishermen will dictate fishing effort moreso
than government regulations. According to this, I am presenting a discussion on the
open-access nature of the Biscayne National Park fisheries with little regard to
government regulations. The two sides to the debate are discussed below, the first from a
single-species approach, and the second from an ecosystems approach.
Although anyone person with fishing permits could participate in the commercial
fisheries at Biscayne National Park, he would still have to know the area fairly well to be
successful. Local ecological knowledge and familiarity with the gear are necessary and
only come with years of experience. In another context, if the target species was soup in
a can with no label and Biscayne Bay was a members-only warehouse (e.g., Costco or
Sam's Club), it would be a similar situation. A participant would have to pay to be a
member, and once he got in, would never find the soup can unless he knew where it in
the store, and along the way probably pick up a lot of cans he did not want (bycatch).
Only by trial and error or perhaps, if he knows the right person to ask, information he
received from other members. This is a simplified example, but representative of the
basics of how the fisheries work within the park. Without knowledge of the resource a
person would have little access, and the park becomes not as open-access as it appears on
On the other side, from an ecosystems approach, is that the resource is open to
other forms of exploitation. For example, any person can place a crab trap in any area of
the park. In doing so, even if he is not successful at catching a crab, he has potentially
made an impact on the resource. He has not affected the stock but he has affected the
habitat, which may eventually affect the crabs and other organisms living there. When
examining the assumption of open access, we must consider different means of access for
the users to determine if the situation could possibly become a 'tragedy'.
Could Biscayne National Park Become a "Tragedy?"
It is difficult to assess if the commercial fisheries of Biscayne National Park are
sustainable with the little information available, both as natural and cultural resources.
However, it is important to know that there are factors at work that limit exploitation of
the resource beyond existing government regulations.
The fishermen experience a variety of factors that affect their success and limit
their activities beyond the scope of formal management. Internal cultural limitations
include secrecy, knowledge, and community status. External limitations include
environmental and social factors, such as ecological seasonality, supply and demand, and
theft. It is important for marine resource managers to consider these components of the
fishery to make informed decisions on management.
The Future of the Fisheries at Biscayne National Park
Is conservation of marine resources an important goal for the fishermen of
Biscayne National Park? I would argue yes, although not nearly as important as
conservation of the fisheries and fishermen. Interviews and conversations revealed that
the fishermen are not particularly worried about the stocks but more concerned with the
possibility that they will no longer be allowed to work within the park. They do not feel
that they are overfishing and they do not consider their activities to have a major impact
on the habitat.
When asked about the future of the fisheries, specifically when discussing whether
or not their children would follow in their footsteps, most fishermen expressed doubt or
stated that did not encourage their children to become fishermen. This was mostly
because of their uncertainty that there would even be a fishery for the children to
participate in. The end of commercial fishing within the park is perceived as being a very
real possibility in the very near future, and often the fishermen mentioned options that
they had been contemplating should commercial fishing in Biscayne National Park no
longer be allowed.
Often the fishermen referred to how they feel that they are perceived as: the bad
guys. Also noted in Smith and Jepson (1993), they feel that small-scale fishermen are a
dying breed, even though they see themselves as hard-working good people. They also
believe that much of the opposition comes from scientific studies, which portray the
fishermen, especially the bait shrimpers, as obstructions to resource protection due to the
damage caused by fishing gear. Several mentioned that scientists conducting research on
the marine resources within the park were not to be trusted, and "will find whatever
results they are paid to find." Clearly, the fishermen are wary of the motives of the
scientific community, and most of all, concerned with the reactions of the public to the
results of these studies.
The uncertainty of the continuation of commercial fishing in Biscayne National
Park is valid. Similar to many other small-scale commercial fishermen in Florida, they
face public scrutiny and are unsure of how and if they can refute the viewpoints (Smith
and Jepson 1993). Without time, funds, and ability to come together as a group, they
have little means to provide a counter argument.
Although this thesis focuses on the commercial fishermen of Biscayne, I cannot
ignore the role of the recreational anglers that visit the park, and their relationship to the
commercial fisheries. A visitors' survey conducted in 2001 found fishing to be the
primary reason for visiting the park for 31% of the respondents (Simmons and Littlejohn
2001). The park's Ethnographic Overview and Assessment ( EDAW 2003) emphasized
user groups participating in recreational angling and its importance in how the general
public is linked to the area. Furthermore, the Miami Herald has a weekly fishing report
for the area and regularly publishes articles on recreational fishing, including coverage of
tournaments and other topics.
At a simple glance, there should be little conflict between recreational and
commercial fishermen, at least from a competition point of view. Although the number
recreational trap fishermen is much higher than that for commercial fishermen, there does
not appear to be a problem with competition between the two user groups. This is
perhaps because fishermen harvesting crab or lobster recreationally are allowed too few
traps to compete with commercial trap fishermen. Shrimpers are targeting species not
pursued by the recreational anglers, and they work only at night as recreational anglers
typically fish during the day.
However, a broader viewpoint could reveal other forms of competition. In a
study on competition between recreational and commercial fishermen on Lake Erie,
Berkes (1984) mentioned the effect on the food web by each fishery as a more likely
problem than overlapping territory or competing for a single species. In the case of
Biscayne National Park, the competition, at least on the surface, seems to be on who
should take the blame for decline in quality of the bay.
Many of my informants are concerned with the recreational anglers, mostly
stating that they are not educated on regulations and enforcement is difficult. Also, some
commercial fishermen note that recreational anglers do not depend on the resource for
their livelihoods, and are less likely to think about conservation when they are only in the
park for a brief period. Finally, the overall viewpoint on impact from recreational use in
the park is that the number of anglers in the park far outweighs the number of commercial
fishermen, and therefore should be the focus in management plans.
Biscayne Fishermen in the National Park Service Context
The National Park Service defines a cultural resource as:
an aspect of a cultural system that is valued by or significantly representative of a
culture or that contains significant information about a culture. A cultural resource
may be a tangible entity or a cultural practice. Tangible cultural resources are
categorized as districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects for the National
Register of Historic Places and as archeological resources, cultural landscapes,
structures, museum objects, and ethnographic resources for NPS management
purposes (National Park Service 2001).
In 1998, the service created a management plan for cultural resources that covered
six types of cultural resources and provided guidelines for research, planning and
stewardship. Included in the plan was information for ethnographic resources, which are
physical attributes (e.g., a site, landscape or natural resource feature) assigned
significance by a cultural group.
Ethnographic data on the traditional use and management of culturally important
natural resources helps inform ecosystem management, programs of consumptive use, the
Man and the Biosphere program, and global climate change research about relationships
between environmental issues and local resource uses.
The National Park Service knows the value of ethnographic studies for both sides.
Why are there not more conducted, especially prior to development of management
plans? One obstacle is lack of funding for staff or contracting external researchers to
complete the studies. Management and budget would have to be modified to make
ethnographic studies a priority for funding. Additional staff would be required to assess,
plan and manage cultural resource studies. Management of cultural resources is an
important goal for the National Park Service, even if natural resources remain superior in
priority. Half of the annual budget allocated to natural resource management is assigned
to management of cultural resources, and many parks only have one or two members of
the staff assigned to cultural resource management (Gamble 2003). Of the four south
Florida parks (Biscayne, Everglades, Big Cypress, and Dry Tortugas), Biscayne has the
only cultural resource manager. Despite shortcomings in natural resource management
staff as well, cultural resource management is hardly represented in park units with such
rich cultural history.
Still, if the National Park Service truly wants to provide an interdisciplinary
program and satisfy its requirements for management of natural and cultural resources, a
new approach must be developed in which resource management can be combined. The
Ethnographic Overview and Assessment for Biscayne National Park (EDAW 2003)
emphasized the importance of fishing as a cultural activity of the park users (commercial
and recreational), and my study provides more information of the commercial fishermen
working in the park. However, my study is only skimming the surface. Imagine an
ongoing effort of documenting local ecological knowledge and information about the
commercial fisheries from the participants' point of view. What park management
knows about the resource would greatly increase, and the fishermen would be involved in
the process. A well-rounded approach to collecting data and planning would be a
significant contribution to both types of resource management.
Biscayne should press for more funding for ethnographic research and, if that fails,
develop creative ways to combine forces-for example, recruit fishermen for assistance
with research projects. Through this, park staff will develop relationships with park users
and be collecting ethnographic data through participant observation. It would also
involve the fishermen in the research and planning process.
Another suggestion is to not only solicit or recommend information from the
fishermen, but to require it. In addition to licenses to work in the park, include a rule that
fishermen must attend meetings, report to park staff on the status of the target species, or
make recommendations for improvement of management on a regular basis. Even simple
informal conversations once or twice a year (such as when they renew the pending
special permit licenses to fish in the park), during which they could inform park staff of
problems or concerns that they have noticed, would at the very least open up a dialogue
between the managers and the fishermen.
The park is a unique and beautiful area that faces increasing pressure for potential
loss of its natural resources. All information that can contribute to knowledge about the
bay and how it is affected by human activities is important--scientific and local
knowledge alike. Biscayne must be willing to accept help and knowledge from the
fishermen, who depend on the resource for their livelihoods and of whom many
expressed deep connections to the bay. Perhaps with different motives, the fishermen
and managers share the same goal: conserving the resource.
Table 6-1: Some comparisons of scientific knowledge and local ecological knowledge of
the biology and ecology of the target species.
Species and concept Scientific Knowledge Local Ecological
spawning males carry females until occurs year-round
eggs are released, spawning
occurs year-round but most
age of sexual sexual maturity at about 1 legal harvest size in 4
maturity/harvest size yrs. months
spawning April to September, peaks occurs during the closed
in August and September season (May 16-October
14), but has been observed
during the open season also
age of sexual sexual maturity at 2 yrs. legal harvest size in 1-2 yrs.
'.\h1 11 l
spawning occurs offshore in the offshore, inshore,
summer months throughout the bay [no
age of sexual sexual maturity in about 10 preferable size in 3-9
maturity/harvest size weeks months
FISHERMAN INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
How old are you?
How long have you been fishing?
What do you fish for commercially?
How did you learn how to fish?
Have you taught anyone else how to fish?
What kind of boat and motor do you have?
What kind of gear do you use? How does it work?
Do you use GPS or other technology?
Who do you sell to?
Do you know anyone else who fishes commercially in Biscayne?
Do you have any other sources of income?
Local ecological knowledge
What time of year do you fish? Why?
What time of day do you fish? Why?
What do you use for bait (trap fishermen)?
Where do you get the bait?
How old are the shrimp/crabs/lobsters that you catch?
What kind of habitat does a shrimp/crab/lobster live in?
What does a crab/shrimp/lobster eat?
What eats a crab/shrimp/lobster?
How does a crab/shrimp/lobster defend itself?
Has there ever been a problem with predators affecting catch?
What is the strangest thing you ever caught in your trap/trawl?
How does weather affect crabs/shrimp/lobsters?
How does tide affect your catch?
Have the populations of crabs/shrimp/lobsters changed?
What other problems have you noticed in the bay?
Are there places in the bay with pollution?
Are there places in the bay with too many boats?
How do you know where to fish?
Do you tell other fishermen about your catch?
How do you maintain your own fishing spots?
Is there conflict with other fishermen?
LIST OF REFERENCES
Abel, T., and J.R. Stepp.
2003 A new ecosystems ecology for anthropology. Conservation Ecology
7(3): 12. http://www.consecol.org/vol7/iss3/art12 [10 May 2006].
1981 The anthropology of fishing. AnnualReview of Anthropology 10:275-316.
1988 The lobster gangs ofMaine. Hanover: University Press of New England.
Acheson, J.M., J.A. Wilson, and R.S. Steneck.
1998 "Managing chaotic fisheries," in Linking social and ecological systems:
Management practices and social mechanisms for building resilience.
Edited by F. Berkes and C. Folke, pp. 390-413. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
Acheson, J.M., and J.A. Wilson.
1996 Order out of chaos: The case for parametric fisheries management.
American Anthropologist 98(3):579-594.
Adams, C., S. Jacob, and S. Smith.
2000 What happened after the net ban? FE 123, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
Alden, P., R.B. Cech, R. Keen, A. Leventer, G. Nelson, and W.B. Zomlefer.
1998 National Audubon Society field guide to Florida. New York: Alfred A.
1995 An update to the surface water improvement and management plan for
Biscayne Bay. South Florida Water Management District, West Palm
Aswini, S., and M. Lauer.
2006 Incorporating fishermen's local knowledge and behavior into geographical
information systems (GIS) for designing marine protected areas in
Oceania. Human Organization 65(1):81-102.