Alternative livelihoods

John McManus jmcmanus at
Mon Nov 5 16:07:04 EST 2001

In considering the pros and cons of the aquarium industry, tourism, etc. as
means of alleviating fishing pressure, it is important to have some idea of
the magnitude of the problem. There is a rule of thumb that in a fishery in
which most fishers are barely making a living (and a few other but common
criteria), the reduction in fishing effort necessary to achieve a reasonable
effort target (the Maximum Economic Yield, MEY) is about 60%. Thus, if you
have a reef with 1,000 impoverished fishers, you should try to find
alternative livelihoods to get 600 of them out of the fishery, or to reduce
the fishing time across a larger percentage of them to achieve the same
reduction in effort. Coastal coral reefs often have tens to hundreds of
fishers per square mile. In more crowded and hence more desperate
situations, children often fish, or gather, and thus do not spend much time
in school. This lowers the trainability for alternative livelihoods. There
is also often a strong social/personal drive, such that small-scale fishers
often continue fishing while suffering a net loss, subsidized by income from
offspring working in cities. 

Finding alternative livelihoods is a very frustrating task, but a vital one.
The best approach often involves a variety of approaches and various types
of reorganization in coastal communities as part of integrated coastal
management. Because the coastlines are so long and the problem so daunting
(there may be 30 million people dependent on coral reef fisheries), we hope
for crude improvements over large areas more than major successes in a few
sites. The International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) includes an
emphasis on improving community to community transfer of improved coastal
management, via means including transporting people to learn from
demonstration sites.  Note that this is an example where the science may be
sufficient but the organization and development funding may not be. Better
science (biophysical and socioeconomic) will help immensely, but we
concurrently need to implement what we know. We need to  scale up both the
science and the on-the-ground action. 

So, there is a scramble to find ways to reduce fishing on reefs, and many
concurrent approaches will be necessary.

For more on the 60% rule, see: 

McManus, J.W. 1996. Social and economic aspects of reef  fisheries and their
management. Chapter 10. p. 249-181. In: N. Polunin and C. Roberts (eds.)
Coral Reef Fisheries. Chapman and Hall. 477 p.

For more on community-oriented ICM, try:

Talaue-McManus, L. Integrated Coastal Management. The Philippine Experience,
pp. 213-227 In: B. von Bodungen and R. K. Turner (eds.) Science and
Integrated Coastal Management. Dahlem University Press, 2001, 378 p.

Talaue-McManus, L., A. C. Yambao, S. G. Salmo, P. M. Aliño. 1999.
Participatory planning for coastal development in Bolinao, Philippines. In:
D. Buckles (ed.) Conflict and Collaboration In Natural Resource Management,
pp. 148-157. International Development Research Centre/ World Bank, Ottawa,
Canada, 273 p.

For more on the ICRAN, see:




John W. McManus, PhD
Director, National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE)
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS)
University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149. 
jmcmanus at 
Tel. (305) 361-4814
Fax (305) 361-4600

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