Dr. Alfredo Giron-Nava details how to harness GeoPower to inform policy and alleviate poverty.
In 2014 when I started my Ph.D. at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I was convinced that many of the fisheries sustainability issues that we face today could be addressed with technical solutions. I thought we needed more data on fish growth and reproduction, a better understanding of how environmental variability affects fish populations, and better models to make better predictions and set sustainable quotas. During the course of my studies, I realized that although we need technical solutions, many big problems are caused by how people interact with nature and their daily decisions and habits. I understood that fisheries management is more about people than about fish.
After many years of working with fishing communities, I made a disheartening finding: even if we had a perfect solution for sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico, 80% of fishers would still live under the rural poverty line. In a situation like this, how could we as researchers and/or fisheries managers ask fishers to follow rules and regulations to ensure sustainability? What would be our guarantee for them in the longer term? How can we have healthy ecosystems if we don’t have healthy human communities?
The prevalence of poverty in fishing communities necessitates us to think about fisheries management from a holistic perspective. We need to consider social structures and economic context. How can we inform economic development and sustainable resource use strategies for these communities if we often don’t know where they are and the conditions they live under? My proposal as an EthicalGEO fellow is to create a global map of the prevalence of poverty in fishing communities. This GeoPower tool will support the development of targeted strategies to reduce poverty in these communities, particularly in developing nations and Small Island Developing States where fisheries are abundant, fecund, and integral to cultural identity.