The effects of job satisfaction on occupational change among fishers in a marine reserve: Transitions in the Galápagos Islands
High job satisfaction among fishers worldwide has raised hypotheses about the existence of a “psycho-cultural” attachment that generates resistance to exiting. How job satisfaction translates into job retention in fishing however, has never been fully tested and would ideally study retired as well as active fishers. In addition, the influence of job satisfaction in the context of a marine reserve is unknown but highly significant given frequent inclusion of alternate livelihood programs in environmental conservation. I strengthen knowledge in the above areas by conducting one of the first studies that directly measures job satisfaction across former as well as active fishers, within a developing country marine reserve. My case study is the transitioning artisanal fishing industry of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site whose fishing industry predates reserve establishment by thirty years. I used survey questions (N=165) to derive metrics of job satisfaction and transitions between different levels of fishing engagement (full-time, part-time, occasional, inactive) from 2009-2012, as well as measuring long-term, career-length transitions. I then used Pearson’s chi-square statistics to conduct bivariate associations of various metrics of job satisfaction with (a) current fishing status, (b) departure from fishing, and (c) fishing preferences.
Galapagos fishers report a high level of job satisfaction, with 98.7% liking the occupation and 84.5% who would still choose to go into fishing if they had their lives to live over. However, this attachment does not deter people from leaving fishing, with 61.5% and 46.3% of full-time and part-time fishers stating preferences to fish less, respectively. Although declining earnings and market size are given reasons, other reasons for wanting to leave include health, age, and growing bureaucracy. I find that processes related to leaving fishing are more strongly tied to wealth and the economic ability to do so, since both boat and home ownership were positively correlated. This study contributes added depth to scholarship on the role of job satisfaction in fishing industries, since it implies that despite engendering strong attachments, these attachments will not deter people from willingly leaving fishing in reserves, a common policy goal. By looking at some economic differences between “movers” and “stayers”, I deepen an important line of questioning around how and when fishers will leave despite high job satisfaction. This project has important implications for ecology through its linkage to environmental conservation, and the role of marine reserves as platforms for ecological research.