From Fishing Fish to Fishing Data: The Role of Artisanal Fishers in Conservation and Resource Management in Mexico

  • Stuart FultonEmail author
  • Arturo Hernández-Velasco
  • Alvin Suarez-Castillo
  • Francisco Fernández-Rivera Melo
  • Mario Rojo
  • Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo
  • Amy Hudson Weaver
  • Richard Cudney-Bueno
  • Fiorenza Micheli
  • Jorge Torre
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 19)


Although, the involvement of artisanal fishing communities in conservation and management is now commonplace, their participation rarely goes beyond providing local and traditional knowledge to visiting scientists and managers. Communities are often excluded from ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making, even though these measures can have tremendous impacts on their livelihoods. For the past 17 years, we have designed, tested, and implemented a community-based monitoring model in three key marine ecosystems in Mexico: the kelp forests of Pacific Baja California, the rocky reefs of the Gulf of California, and the coral reefs of the Mesoamerican Reef System. This model is intended to engage local fishers in data collection by fulfilling two principal objectives: (1) to achieve science-based conservation and management decisions and (2) to improve livelihoods through access to knowledge and temporary employment. To achieve these goals, over 400 artisanal fishers and community members have participated in a nationwide marine reserve program. Of these, 222 fishers, including 30 women, have been trained to conduct an underwater visual census using SCUBA gear, and, to date, over 12,000 transects have been completed. Independent scientists periodically evaluate the training process and standards, and the data contribute to international monitoring efforts. This successful model is now being adopted by both civil society and government for use in different parts of Mexico and neighbouring countries. Empowering community members to collect scientific data creates responsibility, pride, and a deeper understanding of the ecosystem in which they live and work, providing both social and ecological benefits to the community and marine ecosystem.


Citizen science Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) Community participation Small-scale fisheries 



First and foremost, we would like to thank all the fishers who made this work possible. Without the proactive, positive thinking of the fishers throughout Mexico who participated, who foresaw the need to create marine reserves in and around their fishing grounds, we would never have had the opportunity to put into practice a marine monitoring model on this scale. We thank The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Sandler Supporting Family Foundation, the Oak Foundation, The Summit Foundation, and the Walton Foundation; without their support this work would not have been possible. We also thank the Alianza World Wildlife Fund-Fundación Carlos Slim, Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, and The Nature Conservancy. Finally, over the years we have had logistical, financial, and strategic support from the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca (CONAPESCA), and Instituto Nacional de Pesca (INAPESCA).


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart Fulton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arturo Hernández-Velasco
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  1. 1.Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C.GuaymasMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Conservación de la BiodiversidadEl Colegio de la Frontera SurSan Cristóbal de Las CasasMexico
  3. 3.Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá A.C.La PazMexico
  4. 4.The David and Lucile Packard FoundationLos AltosUSA
  5. 5.Hopkins Marine StationStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA

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