Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
From the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, diver fishermen tell tales of sandy seafloors crawling with lobster, impenetrable schools of grouper, and fish so naïve they swim right up to the speargun. Such tales stem from the increasingly frequent trips made by diver fishermen across maritime borders into Bahamian waters, where – in contrast to the depleted and polluted waters of the Dominican Republic – the abundance of marine life is a fisherman’s dream. Depleted fish stocks, river runoff, and changing ocean temperatures along the coasts of the Dominican Republic have significantly curbed the income and options of many fishermen, pushing them into these illegal voyages, where many in recent years have been apprehended and incarcerated by the Bahamian Defense Force. Although these voyages are not new in the history of Dominican-Bahamian relations, the fishermen working these vessels have recently born the brunt of broader popular and political attention distinguishing them as criminals, poachers, and depredators. Marine conservation – alongside the politics and funding initiatives it brings – seems to be at the heart of moralized environmental relations bringing increasing infamy to poachers. How do poaching subjectivities take form at the crux of maritime borders, and how are they experienced by fishermen whose labor is increasingly criminalized in the Caribbean? This paper explores what changing environments and changing environmental regulations may mean for vulnerable populations of both fish and men, asking what role incarceration and militarization play in shifting structures of conservation.