Toothfish: when the network creates the resource

Camille Mazé, Faure Chloë, Chauvac Nathalie


The history of toothfish fishing in the Antarctic Ocean is short and recent, toothfish having been identified as a potential resource when fishermen from other continents could no longer rely on other species (cod, lobster) to fill their holds. It takes place in a territorial area not populated by humans, but visited and defended by several countries for strategic, geopolitical and economic reasons. Social groups with different stakes, different rules, will share an interest in a resource and a policy will be built to manage the region that hosts it, taking the form of a EEZ, then a reserve. The SPA project (CNRS / Interdisciplinary Mission), conduct by Camille Maze from 2017 to 2020, which is located at the interface between science, politics and industry (Knowledge/Power/Asset), uses an innovative interdidisciplinary approach to explore the decision-making process for the management of coastal and marine socio-ecosystems, by analysing the use of different types of knowledge (scientific, indigenous, secular, scholarly) and the interplay of interests in the decision-making process from a dynamic perspective to explore power relationship in social-ecological governance. In particular, it mobilizes the sociological analysis of networks to understand decision-making processes, and the emergence of particular forms of governance of coastal socio-ecosystems but it includes ecological criteria through a strong interaction in the project between social and natural scientist. The aim is to go towards an adaptive management way, using social-ecological netwoks conceptualization as a decision-tool at the interface between managers (marine reserve), scientist and fishermen’s corporation . As Claire Lemercier (2008) points out, if not everything is a network and network analysis is not a miracle tool, it can help "to conclude on hypotheses that must be developed in advance and from traditional sources". Analysing the collaboration and cooperation links between the various actors involved in TAAF at three key stages in the history of toothfish fishing is interesting in this respect but also highlights the close links of a territory presented as dedicated to research and environmental protection with economic and political circles that defend strategic interests that go beyond preservation issues. This ongoing work is similar to the analysis of multi-level networks developed in particular by Bodin et al (2017) in the Caribbean region, but also borrows, for historical, economic and social dimensions, from other analyses on the business world, interlocks (Comet et al. 2010), social (Diani 2003) or cultural (Crossley 2015) movements that require analysis of various qualitative sources to identify individuals, structures and relationships in order to understand a given social world. These elements make possible to validate hypotheses on relationships of knowledge, power and markets within these social worlds, but do not necessarily shed light on the way in which these balances have been constructed. We have chosen to focus on three key moments : the creation of the Taaf reserve, the creation of the EEZ, and its extension, analysing the networks of actors present at these three stages, but also by trying to understand how these key stages were negotiated between the actors.

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