Bridging multi-level resilience and wellbeing: a study of small-scale fisher responses to change in Southeast Brazil

Thumbnail Image
Collier Ferreira Leite, Marta
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The primary purpose of this research was to investigate small-scale fisher responses to changes related to economic development and tourism, by exploring the relations between resilience at individual, household and community levels, and the interplay of resilience with wellbeing. Using a mixed methods approach, a case study was developed during one year of fieldwork (2014-2015) in a coastal community in Ubatuba, São Paulo State, Brazil. The findings indicate that the shocks and stresses related to social-ecological changes were multiple, ranging from fish scarcity, loss of land (and hunting, agriculture and fishing rights), to increased crime rates. At the same time, tourism, as a key driver of change, created new opportunities for livelihood diversification and wellbeing improvements. Nevertheless, opportunities were not available in the same way to all, crystallizing social stratification and unravelling community cohesion. Resilience to change varied within individual, household and community levels. Further, the relation among resilience at these different levels proved unpredictable. Adaptation and transformation were found to be simultaneously occurring processes, not conflicting processes, as fishers and their families built resilience. These findings highlight the complexities and challenges of dealing with a social-ecological system’s resilience broadly, and emphasize the need to connect social-ecological system resilience with social science-driven concepts and theories. Particular to this study, the Social Wellbeing approach proved to be a powerful tool for expanding and deepening the analysis of wellbeing priorities influences on fishers and their families’ behaviours and resilience strategies in times of change. Essential elements of wellbeing included health, faith, family, freedom and ties with friends and neighbours. These elements were considered central to what fishers described as “Vida Simples” (“simple life”). The embodiment of this lifestyle captures a major piece of the Caiçara fisher cultural identity, influencing in significant ways fisher behaviours, and more specifically, their lack of engagement with fisheries governance and non-cooperation with fisheries policies. The thesis concludes that combining resilience and wellbeing approaches produces new insights, and that a comprehensive view of fishing people’s wellbeing priorities is fundamental for the success of policies aiming for social-ecological resilience.
Small-scale fisheries, Resilience, Wellbeing, Brazil