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Policy, practice and perceptions: understanding governance of aquarium fishing in the Philippines

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

  • Rebecca Turley
Publication date2018
Number of pages131
QualificationMasters by Research
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Philippines is one of the largest exporters of wild reef fish for the aquarium trade. As such, it provides livelihoods across the country. However, there are concerns that its overharvest and damaging fishing techniques have irreversible effects on ecosystems. Accordingly, there have been attempts to introduce policies which tackle damaging practices, such as cyanide fishing. Yet the success of these policies is variable. This project in Calatagan, in the Philippines, provides baseline information to understand and strengthen aquarium fishery management. Participatory techniques with aquarium fishers and government officials explore the de-facto practices in an aquarium fishery, and local perceptions of benefits and legitimacy in fishery management. Policy-practice gaps form as de-jure rules are translated into rules-in-use. Firstly, as national and local policies are implemented on-the-ground, and then through inconsistent enforcement. Other than cyanide bans, no rules specifically control aquarium fishing, this includes issuing special collection permits. Despite gaps at the local government level, fishers show high awareness and compliance to de-jure rules, thus reducing policy-practice gaps. Voluntary compliance can be explained through positive perceptions. For example, perceptions that cyanide bans yield benefits. Although a few positive perceptions exist, an overriding coercive incentive to comply is discovered. The threat of local government banning aquarium fishing creates compliance which may be less effective in the long-term. Aquarium fishers lack support from the local government and are rarely involved in de-jure fishery management. This indicates a lack of perceived legitimacy, and is also perceived as a limitation for future use of the aquarium fishery. However, aquarium fishers demonstrate an awareness of sustainable practices through use of their own social norms for collecting aquarium fish. By increasing aquarium fisher involvement in de-jure management, both social and environmental needs could be considered. Thus, creating effective management for future use of the fishery.