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Keywords:

  • fish farming;
  • globalization;
  • interdisciplinary;
  • resilience;
  • sustainability;
  • wild salmon

Abstract

Sustaining natural resources is regarded as an important component of ecological resilience and commonly assumed to be of similar importance to social and economic vitality for resource-dependent communities. However, communities may be prevented from benefiting from healthy local resources due to constrained economic or political opportunities. In the case of Alaskan wild salmon, the fisheries are in crisis due to declining economic revenues driven by the proliferation of reliable and increasingly high-quality products from fish farms around the world. This stands in contrast with many of the world's wild-capture fisheries where diminished biological abundance has led to fishery collapse. Furthermore, increasing efficiency of salmon farm production, globalization, and dynamic consumer preferences, suggests that the wild salmon industry will continue to be challenged by the adaptability, price and quality of farmed salmon. Conventional responses to reduced revenues by the wild-capture industry have been to increase economic efficiency through implementing a range of entry entitlement and quota allocation schemes. However, while these mechanisms may improve economic efficiency at a broad scale, they may not benefit local community interests, and in Alaska have precipitated declines in local ownership of the fishery. To be viable, economic efficiency remains a relevant consideration, but in a directionally changing environment (biological, social or economic), communities unable to procure livelihoods from their local resources (through access or value) are likely to seek alternative economic opportunities. The adopted strategies, although logical for communities seeking viability through transformation in a changing world, may not be conducive to resilience of a ‘fishing community’ or the sustainability of their wild fish resources. We use a theoretically grounded systems approach and data from Alaska's Bristol Bay salmon fishery to demonstrate feedbacks between global preferences towards salmon and the trade-offs inherent when managing for the resilience of wild salmon populations and human communities at different scales.