Condos and conflict: Sociopolitcal implications of condo use in the Bahamian spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery
Commercial fishing plays an extremely important social and economic role in The Bahamas and is the largest source of income on the majority of the outlying Bahamian Family Islands. Although many fish species are harvested for local consumption, the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is the primary export species. The majority of lobsters caught in The Bahamas are collected via the use of condos, small artificial habitats used to aggregate large numbers of the species for easier harvest. Despite the importance of the spiny lobster to The Bahamian economy, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the health of the lobster population and its habitat, much of which is due to the increasing use of condos as a method of P. argus collection. Through informal interviews and semi-structured surveys, I examined the use of condos by Bahamian lobster fishermen, including the number of condos fishermen set, how heavily fishermen rely on them for lobster harvest, and how the `open access' nature of the habitats influences these decisions.
Results of qualitative and quantitative analyses show a very strong correlation between ‘poaching’ and beliefs about property rights (poaching ≈ 0.028 + .38*(property rights)), as well as strong links between beliefs about property rights and the home island of individual fishermen. Wealthier fishermen are slightly more likely to set condos (condos per dinghy ≈ 1087 + 17*(wealth indicators)), but there is no relationship between the number of condos set by a fishermen and the percent of catch collected from condos, demonstrating the propensity of fishermen to ‘poach’ from other fishermen’s condos. My research uncovered a substantial amount of condo-related conflict between fishermen, which has important management implications. This talk will consider the links between condo use, community, conflict, and cooperation in the Bahamian lobster fishery, and provide policy recommendations for more effective long-term management of Panulirus argus.