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Understanding Cooperation and Coping Behaviors of Small-scale Fishers to Enhance Management

Ignacia Rivera, PhD Candidate, Bren School

Feb 23 2024 | 9:00 am PT MSI Auditorium / Online

Headshot of Ignacia Rivera
Ignacia Rivera



Advisor: Steve Gaines
Committee: Kelsey Jack, Robert Heilmayr, Stefan Gelcich


Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) are critical to global food security, livelihoods, and cultural heritage. Representing one of the oldest forms of wild harvesting, SSFs have the potential to support sustainable practices through the self-organization of fishers. However, global market integration and environmental change are reshaping fishers' incentives, affecting behaviors that are essential for sustainable use including cooperation and coping. My dissertation employs social science methods to quantitatively investigate these behaviors in SSFs. My first chapter applies experimental economics to investigate how different game experiment designs can more accurately measure cooperation among fisher groups in real-world settings. In my second chapter, I evaluate a pioneering co-management policy in Chile that engages fishing communities in coastal resource management, using the durability of these co-management projects across varied social and ecological conditions as a success metric. In the third chapter, I examine fishers' coping responses to fisheries closures caused by a massive harmful algal bloom in Southern Chile, analyzing how mobility across space and resources is shaped by market dynamics and management regulations. This research aims to contribute to more informed and effective fisheries management by understanding the interplay of incentives, behaviors, and policy outcomes in SSFs.


Ignacia is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Gaines Lab, where she leverages a blend of social and natural sciences to understand how social and ecological conditions influence sustainable marine resource use among communities dependent on these resources for livelihood and subsistence. Her research aims to contribute to sustainable and equitable development by tailoring management strategies to the unique challenges, realities, and incentives of coastal communities. Focusing primarily on small-scale fisheries in Latin America, Ignacia employs an interdisciplinary approach that includes lab-in-the-field experiments, surveys, causal inference techniques, and fisheries modeling. Prior to her Ph.D., Ignacia earned a Master of Environmental Science and Management, specializing in Coastal Marine Resources Management, from UCSB. She also holds a Master of Social Complexity Sciences from Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile and a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Her work at UCSB was supported by the National Research and Development Agency of Chile and the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship Program.

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