A cybernetic future for small-scale fisheries
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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This article discusses the future of indigenous Sami fisheries in cybernetic fisheries systems characterized by increasing effectivization and industrialisation. It empirically investigates the past and present development of a small-scale fjord fishery in Porsanger, northern Norway, which has been a major part of the material basis for indigenous Sami culture and settlements in the area. The article utilises historical vessel registries and fishers’ vessel career narratives from the post-war period to the present to analyse how relations between vessels, fishers, technology, ecology and the society at large have changed, and to what extent the small-scale fishery of the past seems to be disappearing in a fisheries system characterised by increasing cyborgization especially in the period after 1990. The main finding is an identification of diverse ways of organising the small-scale fishery in Porsanger in the past which had an influence on which types of vessels and fishers stayed put in the post-1990 period. This process was influenced not only by the introduction of the vessel quota system but also by ecological conditions and changing social and material relations in the local fisheries. In particular, the fishery with small open vessels with outboard engines experienced a golden age prior to the 1990s, but then abruptly decreased due to a combination of ecological conditions and management interventions. The fishery with decked, coastal fishing vessels however remained relatively stable throughout the period and continues to dominate the Porsanger small-scale fishery. The case study demonstrates diverse and flexible ways of organising relations in a coastal Sami community over time, thus implying that a cybernetic future may be possible also for small-scale fisheries.