'Gear conflicts' and changing seascapes in Batanes

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Documents reveal that, in recent times, some of the most prominent conflicts in fishing on Batan Island in Batanes in northern Philippines stem from interest in new ‘driftnet’ technology for catching flying fish. On closer investigation, these in essence consist of challenges to the fishing calendar that is traditionally enforced by collectivities of fishers belonging to particular ‘ports’ or vanua. A vanua denotes a particular landing spot, as well as a port-polity, which is a group of fishers that is organized, and has laws and a leader, that is assembled by means of ritual at the beginning of the summer fishing season. If one sees ‘vanua making’ as a ritual technology for collective success, what is really at issue in the conflicts between ‘traditional’ and new or ‘modern’ technologies are distinct common property regimes and opposed landscapes: a traditional notion of community and a cooperative framework for the commons, on the one hand, coming into conflict with a modern view of atomized fishers and an ‘open’ sea, on the other.

Last updated on 11/24/2016