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© Camille Mazé

Investigating the social template of the Polycone project (WP1)


Focusing on the growing recognition of the need to “mainstream the social sciences” (Bennett et al., 2017) within marine ecological or resource management (Mazé et al. 2017) in order to avoid well-known pitfalls when of siloed research; Apolimer’s goal into the the PolyCone project’s first work package (WP1) will be to investigate the dynamic linkages between human and natural systems through politics and collective action (Bretagnolle et al. 2019) towards sustainable use of cones.

(c) Camille Mazé, French Polynesia, 2020

Within the PolyCone project, “sustainable use” implies the development and management of conotoxin extraction that does not endanger the wellbeing of human and natural communities. One that complies with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya protocol and the rules of access and benefit sharing (ABS) in accordance with international good practices (including legislative requirements) in terms of environmental and social impact assesment (ESIA) to implement the potential project outcomes .

Moreover the main objective of WP1 is to develop an adaptive co-management plan. It is divided into 3 sub-objectives :

1.1) Review and synthesis of prior marine resource management experiences in French Polynesia

The first objective of the WP1 will be to review and synthetize the art of knowledge about the development of shell industries (black pearl farming, trocus harvesting, giant clam aquaculture) in French Polynesia. We integrate theories of natural resource management (Ostrom 1990 and 2009, Folke and al. 2005, 2010 Armitage and al. 2009; Plummer, 2009; Österblom and al. 2010, Bennett and al. 2016, Bambridge and al. 2019; Mazé et al. 2019 specially in the field of marine resource management -e.g. research in marine filed at the SRC Stockholm).  

This analytical review will investigate the social and cultural drivers, dynamics, and linkages which played a role in the success of diverse challenges experienced in management of the black pearl farming (90% of world production) by national government, an industrial syndicate, and local farmers; the municipal management of harvest quota of trocus; and the aquaculture of giant clams (50% of world commercial production). A synthesis and recommendations will be produced.

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1.2) Anthropological representations and uses of cones

Under WP1.2 we will identify the diversity of cultural practices and uses of cones historically or currently harvested in Polynesia (e.g. crafts, collection, domestic, etc.) and quantify them within a comparative framework with respect to study site and sociocultural community. We will also conduct focused ethnography aimed at ascertaining the sociocultural linkages to marine resource management, and the perceptions of issues or challenges to cone use identified by local inhabitants.

Noting the historical role of women in shell exploitation, we will pay attention to the intersection of gender, ethnicity and post-colonial histories in order to depict how marine resource extraction is understood, how it has been experienced over time, and how the exploitation of cones may affect local communities in both expected and unanticipated, non-obvious dimensions. Using and an ethnographic toolkit and small group sessions, stakeholders and their institutions, we will seek to better understand the dynamics of interaction, coordination, and conflict in which this new uses of cones will emerge (link with WP4 Transfer process).

Finally, we will develop a focus on the gendered dimensions of stakeholder dynamics, which may differ from site to site, as a key facet of community level equity and concern

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1.3) Governance mechanisms and the politics of cones

Under WP1.3, we will investigate the pragmatic politics of the development of a new sustainable use of cones with sensitivity to local, territorial, national, and regional scales. We will identify and investigate existing governance dynamics and, through ethnographic methods we will research the development of innovative governance mechanisms well-suited to the diverse contexts of local communities. The key question which we seek to answer is what innovative governance mechanisms and institutional arrangements are needed to foster a sustainable use of cones under the prism of ABS and ESIA in French Polynesia. Therefore, the analysis will focus on public policy instruments, reference systems, and action registers available to orchestrate the use of conotoxins, by analyzing them against sustainability (questions of definition, of implementation within specific group contexts such as marine scientists, environmental managers, indigenous communities, and pharmaceutical industry actors). Similarly, fisherwomen(men), and administrators within municipal institutions such as mayors and their administrative staffs will be interviewed to grasp their adaptative capacity to develop and support new economic and administrative structures and practices necessary for the sustainable exploitation of cones. The themes of the interviews will deal with: learning, organizational interactions, leadership, responsibilities and incentives (Plummer and al. 2012).


WP1.3 integrates the results from WP1.2 and investigates the role of power (power balance, benefit and cost distribution mechanisms) and the knowledge / policy / industry interface (interest games). Through political ethnography, we will explore the blind-spot of social-ecological systems (SES) governance (Fabinyi, Evans, and Foale 2014; Mazé et al. 2019) relations of power within the historical dynamics of specific communities at local, state, national, and regional levels (Kofinas et al., 2013). We will, therefore, map the capacity of governance in SES to change or resist change.

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Link with WP4 : Impact, engagement and dissemination

The main objectives of WP4 are : 4.1) Integrating ecological and social data into a model for sustainable management scenarios and 4.2) The transfer of research results and scenarios to stakeholders as a foundation for developing local expertise and assessment/evaluation of a local cone acquaculture and to provide training for meaningful community participation in the emerging cones aquacultural sector.

4.1 Integrating ecological and social data into a model for a sustainable management scenario.

4.1.1) A marine managed areas scenario (size and quota) managed by the common “fisherwomen/men”

4.1.2) An aquaculture scenario

4.2) The transfer of research results and scenarios to stakeholders as a foundation for developing local expertise and assessment/evaluation of a local cone acquaculture and to provide training for meaningful community participation in the emerging cones aquacultural sector.