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The barracuda's tale: trawlers, the informal sector and a state of classificatory disorder off the Nigerian coast


The expansion of Nigeria's artisanal fisheries has been a rare economic success story during the 1980s. Without assistance from government agencies the canoe fishermen, many of them Ghanaian migrants, have responded successfully to the opportunities offered by the Lagos market. In recent years declining fish stocks and competition from trawlers have forced shore-based fishermen to adapt their operations to changing circumstances. In describing a number of such responses the article tackles a number of wider themes in economic anthropology and African studies. Contrasting the opposition and co-operation of industrial and artisanal fisheries throws an interesting light on the informal sector debates, while the role played by the marine police and the navy feeds into the discussion on the African state.


L'essor de la pêche artisanale au Nigeria fut l'une des rares réussites économiques des années 80. Sans assistance des agences gouvernementales, les pêcheurs en pirogues, migrants ghanéens pour une grande part, ont réagi avec succès aux opportunités offertes par le marché de Lagos. Au cours de ces dernieres années, la diminution des réserves de poissons et la concurrence des chalutiers ont forcé les pêcheurs côtiers à adapter leurs activités à cette nouvelle situation. En décrivant un certain nombre de ces réactions, l'article aborde plusieurs thèmes plus larges d'études économiques anthropologiques et africaines. Faisant ressortir le contraste entre opposition et coopération de la pêche industrielle et de la pêche artisanale, il jette une luniiere intéressante sur les débats qui ont lieu au sein du secteur informel, tandis que le rôle de la police maritime et de la marine alimente le débat sur l'état africain.

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L. Diamond 1988. Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria: the failure of the First Republic. London: Macmillan.

A. Le Sann 1998. A Livelihood from Fishing: globalization and sustainable fisheries policies. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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