The Chilika Lagoon Social-Ecological System: An Historical Analysis

Dr. Prateep K. Nayak


ABSTRACT:  Innovations in social-ecological research require novel approaches to conceive change in human-environment systems. The study of history constitutes an important element of this process. First, using the Chilika Lagoon small-scale fisheries in India, as a case, in this paper I reflect on the appropriateness of a social-ecological perspective for understanding economic history. Second, I examine here how changes in various components of the lagoon’s social-ecological system influenced and shaped economic history and the political processes surrounding it. I then discuss the two-way linkages between economic history and social-ecological processes to highlight that the components of a social-ecological system, including the economic aspects, follow an interactive and interdependent trajectory such that their combined impacts have important implications for human-environment connections and sustainability of the system as a whole. Social, ecological, economic, and political components of a system are interlinked and may jointly contribute to the shaping of specific histories. Based on this synthesis, I offer insights to move beyond theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary boundaries as an overarching approach, an inclusive lens, to study change in complex social-ecological systems.








Canadian Association of Geographers – Annual Meeting, May 26-30, 2014 LCC Presentation





Resource degradation, marginalization, and poverty in small-scale fisheries: threats to social-ecological resilience in India and Brazil


Prateep K. Nayak, Luiz E. Oliveira and Fikret Berkes


ABSTRACT: In this study we examine poverty in local fisheries using a social-ecological resilience lens. In assessing why “fishery may rhyme with poverty”, Christophe Béné suggests a typology of impoverishment processes, which includes economic exclusion, social marginalization, class exploitation, and political disempowerment as key mechanisms that accelerate poverty. We extend his analysis by exploring these four mechanisms further and by intertwining them with processes of environmental change and degradation. Our goal is to understand poverty in local fisheries as a process rooted in social and institutional factors as influenced by ecological dynamics. We argue that understanding poverty will require a focus on the social-ecological system (SES) as a whole, and addressing poverty will mean rebuilding not only collapsed stocks but the entire social-ecological system, including restoring relationships between resources and people. Information from two cases, the Chilika Lagoon on the Bay of Bengal in India, and the Paraty region on the southeastern coast of Brazil, is used to understand how fishery social-ecological systems come under pressure from drivers at multiple levels, resulting in a range of impacts and pushing the system to a breaking point or collapse. We analyze elements of what it takes for the whole system to break down or collapse and push fishers into poverty and marginalization. The Chilika SES has already broken down, and the Paraty SES is under pressure from multiple drivers of change. The two cases help contrast key dynamics in the social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental spheres, for lessons on system collapse and recovery. Rebuilding fisheries may be examined as a process of building and strengthening resilience. The challenge is to make the fishery social-ecological system more resilient, with more flexibility and options, not only within fishing activities but also within a range of other sectors.