Small-scale fisheries are an important source of food and livelihoods to coastal communities around the world. Understanding temporal and spatial variability of fisheries catch and composition is crucial to fisheries management, particularly in the context of changing environmental and socioeconomic conditions. While seasonal variability directly impacts the lives of fishers, most fisheries studies focus on longer-term change. In this study, we examine seasonal variability in the small-scale fisheries of Baja California Sur (BCS), Mexico based on 13 years of government fisheries data. We investigate how four fisheries indicators with direct relevance to ecological resilience - magnitude and variance of landed fish biomass, taxon richness and the proportion of top-trophic-level taxa in total catch - vary within and among years and at multiple spatial scales. We hypothesize that: 1) the four variables listed above exhibit spatial variation within the state of BCS; and 2) these potential indicators of ecological resilience also vary seasonally (within years) at the scales of BCS and local fishing offices (LFOs).
We find that the four resilience indicators varied both seasonally and spatially. For the 13 years of landings data used in this study, we found that the magnitude and variance of landed biomass; taxon richness of reported catches and the proportion of top-trophic-level taxa in reported catches all varied spatially within BCS. Moreover, there was significant seasonal variation in magnitude of landed biomass, taxon richness of reported catches, and the proportion of landed biomass made up of top-trophic-level taxa. These trends were not evident from state-level analyses. LFO-specific trends in the four resilience indicators we assessed varied considerably. Our results highlight the importance of LFO-level dynamics in understanding how place-specific trends in fisheries impact both the ecological and human dimensions of these coupled systems. Further, our results shed light on the importance of conducting such studies at time scales relevant to fishers’ experiences. BCS fisheries are currently managed at the level of the state, ignoring significant spatial variability in fishing offices with differing ecological conditions and fished assemblages. Our results suggest the value of finer-scale monitoring and management for BCS and other data-poor fisheries.