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Reviewed by:
  • Asia-Pacific Fishing Livelihoods by Michael Fabinyi and Kate Barclay
  • Fiona McCormack
Asia-Pacific Fishing Livelihoods, by Michael Fabinyi and Kate Barclay. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. isbn hardcover, 978-3-030-79590-0; e-book, 978-3-030-79591-7; xv + 112 pages, color illustrations, index. Hardcover, us $69.99; free download from

Asia-Pacific Fishing Livelihoods is an exemplary book that cements the critical role of the social sciences in fisheries research, an area that in the past was dominated by the disciplines of economics and marine science (both of which still tend to dominate in fisheries governance). In the last few decades, interest in fisheries, and ocean-related research more broadly, has also proliferated in the humanities and Indigenous studies as the sea has become a transformative medium for environmental imaginings and postcolonial critique. Social scientists have long advocated for the centrality of culture, history, social relations, kinship, property regimes, and the broader political economy in any understanding of marine ecosystems. Weaving these strands together, Michael Fabinyi and Kate Barclay have produced a holistic account of fishing livelihoods in the Asia-Pacific region and their connection to global processes, and they suggest an astute approach for future governance and research. The authors have a long track record of academic and applied research in fisheries, the combination of which is evident throughout the book.

The first of the book's five chapters, "Fishing Livelihoods and Fisheries Governance," introduces the central arguments underpinning the research: that fishing livelihoods should be understood as relational phenomena, as informed by the field of political ecology, and that relationships of poverty should be incorporated into this analytical framework. While deceptively simple, this is also a political reading of fisheries wherein fisher and fish, nature and culture, human social relations and marine ecosystems, history and development, governance, local ways of life, and institutional regimes are brought into critical conversation. Fishing livelihoods are described as characteristically diverse, flexible, dynamic, and responsive to changing environmental, climatic, and economic conditions. These can be small-scale or large-scale (with distinctions between these sectors being hard to maintain in practice), inland, inshore, offshore, or aquaculture. They can also be in the diverse work that makes up the different nodes in fisheries value chains—seafood processing, marketing, and trading, boat and gear construction, servicing, and so on. All have been impacted by historical change, particularly the intensification of globalization since the second half of the twentieth century, a development explored in chapter 2, which conceptualizes globalization as centered on capital accumulation. The authors' field research in the western Philippines and Papua New Guinea points to globalization's nonlinear trajectory.

Using a relational approach, the authors examine how fisheries livelihood activities have been shaped and reshaped by global and local forces over time. Chapter 3 focuses on social diversity through concepts such as class, status, cultural values, kinship, [End Page 502] ethnicity, power relations, hierarchies, and gender and explores how these come into play in particular contexts. Fabinyi and Barclay provide an overview of social science research on local fisheries, mindful of the contested and nonhomogeneous nature of "community," and then situate these insights by drawing on ethnographic data from the western Philippines and Oceania. An issue explored in Oceanic contexts is the invisibility of women in fishing, an absence that exemplifies a worldwide trend. Across Oceania, the proportion of women fishing for food or livelihood purposes ranges from around 20 to 50 percent. In Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands, around 80 percent of women engage in fishing. The absence of women in official data may be methodological—surveys typically do not capture part-time, nearshore, or invertebrate-focused fishing. This oversight has implications for sustainable resource management, as it fails to account for human effects on ecosystems, such as those resulting from women's production of shell money in Langalanga Lagoon, Solomon Islands. It also impacts women's opportunities to participate in consultative processes, such as those around establishing marine protected areas, and to receive training and funding for fishing-related livelihoods. Fabinyi and Barclay suggest that careful project design can empower women in fisheries. Importantly, recognizing social...