Fishing for Fairness

Fishing for Fairness

Poverty, Morality and Marine Resource Regulation in the Philippines

Authored by: Michael Fabinyi

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Fishing for Fairness develops an explicitly cultural perspective on environmental politics in the Philippines by analysing the responses of fishers to marine resource regulations. In the resource frontier of the Calamianes Islands, fishing, conservation and tourism provide the context where competing visions of how to engage with marine resources are played out. The book draws on data from ethnographic fieldwork with fishers, government and NGO officials, fish traders and tourism operators to show how the strategic responses of fishers to management initiatives are couched within particular cultural idioms. Tapping into broader notions of morality in the Philippines, fishers express a discourse that emphasises their poverty and the obligations of the wealthy to treat them with fairness. By deploying this discourse, fishers are able to reframe what are—on the surface—questions of environmental management into issues about poverty within particular social relationships. By using a cultural political ecology framework to analyse fishers’ responses to regulation, the book emphasises the distinctive ways in which marginalised people in the Philippines resist and reframe resource management initiatives. Fishing for Fairness will appeal to both academics and policy makers interested in marine resource management, political ecology, anthropology and development studies particularly throughout the Asia-Pacific.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Jan 2012
Asia-Pacific Environment Monograph 7
ANU Press
Asia-Pacific Environment Monographs
Arts & Humanities: Cultural Studies; Science: Earth & Marine Sciences, Environmental Sciences; Social Sciences: Development Studies, Social Policy & Administration
Southeast Asia: Philippines


Writing for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Laura Jeffery has praised Michael Fabinyi’s Fishing for fairness: poverty, morality and marine resource regulation in the Philippines as ‘an engaging ethnography of debates about fishing, poverty, morality, environmental degradation, and marine resource regulation in the Philippines’.

Jeffery summarises the main themes explored by Fabinyi in his book and states the ‘development of his argument here resonates strongly with two other monographs that will be familiar to many of his readers: Christine Walley’s Rough waters: nature and development in an East African marine park (2004) and Celia Lowe’s Wild profusion: biodiversity conservation in an Indonesian archipelago (2006)’.

She finishes by saying that ‘[w]ith its clear theoretical framework and accessible ethnographic description, Fishing for fairness will sit comfortably alongside these and other related texts on reading lists for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on conservation and development’.

(Laura Jeffery, review of Fishing for fairness: poverty, morality and marine resource regulation in the Philippines by Michael Fabinyi, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 2015, p. 222)

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