Open Science Repository Anthropology

doi: 10.7392/Anthropology.70081926


Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria


Adeyinka W. Olarinmoye [1]Oluwatosin M. Olarinmoye [2]

[1] Department of Sociology, Lagos State University, P.M.B. 1087, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria

[2] Department of Fisheries, Lagos State University, P.M.B. 1087, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria


Abstract

Artisanal fisheries remain an important source for the supply of fin and shellfish in Nigeria. With increasing levels of overfishing and a consequent reduction in numbers of certain species in fish markets, a partnership for the conservation of endangered fish species was conceived between scientists (social and life) and fisher folk. As a first line of action, it was decided to investigate the local ecological knowledge (LEK) of ethnic production and sale “professionals”, to establish the breadth and depth of their recognition of species and seasonal abundance of selected species. Attempts at investigating some of the linguistic considerations which could serve as basis for the melding of folk descriptions of local species with existing scientific nomenclature for harmonious and ultimately useful cooperative fisheries management are discussed.

Keywords: LEK, Ethnoicthyology, qualitative research, Nigeria.



Citation: Olarinmoye, A. W., & Olarinmoye, O. M. (2013). Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria. Open Science Repository Anthropology, Online(open-access), e70081926. doi:10.7392/Anthropology.70081926

Received: January 7, 2013.

Published: February 8, 2013.

Copyright: © 2013 Olarinmoye, A. W., & Olarinmoye, O. M. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Contact: research@open-science-repository.com



Introduction

The description of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about fishery resources should include a folk taxonomy of fishery resources (Birkes et. al., 2001), gathered and collated with the target population as primary sources. In the aquatic context, the potential for the use of TEK is particularly relevant/great given the current drift in conservation science towards ecosystem approaches and a lack of antiquarian marine ecological data (Bolster, 2006; Jackson et al., 2001). TEK is not a single body of knowledge, but is rather a construct representing knowledge gained by long interactions with local ecological niches through traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, plant gathering, etc. (Drew, 2005). The management/conservation of small scale fisheries requires the application of “unconventional” methods, incorporating a more diverse information base than is usual in conventional fisheries resource management. This information and the thematic approaches employed are directed more towards an assessment of the fisheries as a whole rather than of the resource itself, singularly. This paradigm incorporates the local stakeholder knowledge which has been discovered to be quite deep and detailed based on the antiquity of co-existence between the fisheries resource and the primary exploiters of the resource.

Anthropological methods including interviews and participant observation, where feasible and ethical, are required for adequate investigation and documentation of such information and material (Hamilton and Potuku, 2007). Also it is more interested in a deeper qualitative study of target fisheries, rather than numerate analysis, towards which established assessment techniques are biased. This new approach, rather than discarding conventional fisheries assessment techniques, recognizes the need for the skills possessed by both social and natural scientists in acquiring good quality fisheries data, and, incorporates qualitative social research methods into the toolkit of assessment methods, pushing a multidisciplinary approach. Some of the applicable methods include such ethnographic enquiry methods, as semi-structured interviews, key informant, focus group interviews and local and oral histories combined with snowball sampling, to identify local “experts”; they have been used with considerable success by earlier investigators (Huntington, 1998; Weitzner and Fonsecca Borras, 1999).

Studies into the ethnoicthyological taxonomic knowledge of the downstream (sale) sector of artisanal fisheries are less numerous than for the upstream, this becomes apparent with a perusal of literature in this area of endeavour.  This could probably be due to an underestimation of the potential utility of local fish sale experts as stakeholders in integrated multi-stakeholder fisheries conservation and management efforts. Vertical approaches to fisheries conservation and management are generally regarded as non inclusive of all important groups on which the success of such, no matter how well meaning are pivoted. With the latter realization, and, recognition of the limitations to the effectiveness of fisheries departments in the developed world (Baird, 1999; Cunningham, 1998), horizontal/decentralized co-management models recognizing the value of the inclusion of communities and local fisheries “experts” were proposed.

A core issue in investigations into TEK concerns methods by which local knowledge “experts” are identified. Davis and Wagner (2001) explore in detail the considerations involved in such assessments and the choices made based on them. A certain evolutionary process and a changing/amendment of stock terms occurred, all predicated on the scope of inclusivity as seen by their individual proponents. The latter include the terms co-management (CM) and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) (Baird, 2003). Local ecological knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge according to (Berkes, 1999) are "a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment" . This definition explicitly recognizes the synergy between indigenous populations with their immediate environment.

Investigations into the demographic and language spread of fisheries stakeholders, both up and downstream in Lagos state, revealed the fact that four major language groups are involved in upstream artisanal fisheries production. The fishermen, being predominantly of Yoruba, Ijaw, Ilaje and Egun extraction, as well as migrant Ghanaian fishermen, and downstream, fish market women, who are mainly of the Yoruba ethnic group. Long term associations between these language and cultural groups, through trade and economic exchange, have resulted in the emergence of some commonality in language used for transactions and description/nomenclature of commodities. It thus becomes probable that the fish market folk are likely to possess lore, which, if not as profound as that of the primary catch experts in terms of detail attributable to their occupational proximity to the fishing fields and habitats, could be a good source of establishing a temporal trend in the abundance/scarcity and possibly decline of fish species of culinary and commercial importance. This latter point underscores the impetus for this study, which seeks to document local taxonomic knowledge resident in the fish markets among other things and to establish congruences or deviations from that obtainable from the fishermen, who traditionally, in conservation studies documenting TEK, are the main local expert base tapped into.

The fisheries of Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the southern gulf of Guinea are exploited by artisanal fisheries and a number of industrial trawler fleets, the former divided into the brackish water fisheries, with fishing effort in the creeks and estuaries in which fresh and saltwater mixing is tidally mediated, and the coastal inshore artisanal fishery, with fishing done in waters of less than 40 meters in depth (Ssentongo et.al., 1986). Lagos state, the location of this study, has a coastline of about 180 kilometers with fishing villages strung along the coastline. Water is the most significant topographical feature in the state, and fish protein remains the cheapest animal protein form available to the residents of the state. The artisanal fisheries are vibrant providing more than 90 per cent of fresh water fish and other seafood’s for local consumption. In the last few decades, there has been a decline in the supply of fish to fishing markets in the state, due to several factors, chief among them are poverty and lack of funding, which prevent maximization of catch, and over exploitation; because the nearby coastal waters are usually over-exploited and therefore depleted (Akanni, 2008), fisher men need to go farther into the sea for better catches. The latter factor is the basis of the appropriateness of a conservation effort to preserve and actively manage popular overfished species to ensure a recrudescence of numbers, variety and quality. In this study we present local fish names in two languages gathered from fish markets in Lagos, Nigeria, successfully listing 21 species in the process.


Materials and methods

In our introduction we emphasized that effective small scale fisheries management would entail assessments of the entire fishery rather than the resource exclusively, as is the case in conventional fisheries management, and that such evaluations, as planned, would entail the incorporation of more qualitative social research methods, especially ethnographic, better suited to investigating the human content of target fisheries, an approach which emphasizes the incorporation of stakeholder/traditional knowledge in fisheries management initiative.


Area and fishing communities’ descriptions

The study is restricted to fish landing sites/markets situated in the Badagry division of Lagos, in Lagos state, Nigeria, and included Ajido (6° 25' 0" North, 3° 1' 0" East.), Agbalata (6° 25' 0" North, 2° 53' 0" East), Gbetrome (60 23’ 08.58” North, 20 46’ 13.59” East), Ojo (60 28’ 0” North, 30 11’ 0” East) and Ibeshe (6° 24' 44” North, 3° 15' 22” East), locations where artisanal fisheries is the mainstay of economic activity. The study was conducted over a period of six months in 2010 and involved preliminary survey visits followed by interview visits for each location.


Sample selection, respondent profiles and interview details

A composite method approach including purposive/judgment and the snowball techniques was used for the identification and selection of respondents for the study. This involved visits to the locations during which selection of individuals on the basis of their recognized expertise was done, in collaboration with contact persons occupationally situated in the target markets. This exercise led to the identification and selection of a core group in each location, who were then asked to suggest others who, they felt, met the expressed criteria for inclusion in the study. Elders and older subjects were preferentially selected over younger ones because they were likely to have first-hand knowledge of the subject matter spanning longer periods. Women were especially included as they are the most active population involved in fish sales and dispensing. Individuals resident in the five communities selected were selected according to the following criteria: age not less than 40 years, residence in study areas for not less than 10 years, with fish sales as primary economic activity for at least 10 years. 5 individuals per location were thus selected. No conscious segregation on the basis of indigence or native status was done. The interview teams usually included two interviewers working in tandem. Twenty five (25) interviews were conducted in Yoruba using partially structured individual oral interviews between May and October 2010. 


Data collection and analysis

Using unlabelled figures and photos, fish market women were asked to identify and give local names of fish. This process was repeated at least three times for each specimen to crosscheck the veracity and commonality of these identifications, and attempts were made to find out whether respondents knew of other names by which fish specimens were called. Because of colour imbalances in photo plates due to age, which made identification of certain species by respondents dubious, live/freshly caught specimens were used for identification where possible. All interviews were taped for post field analysis. Post field, the interviews were transcribed, with care taken to reproduce conversations as accurately as possible using the precise words and phraseology used by the respondents. The individual transcripts were analysed soon after concluding each interview for recurrent thematic content, coded and analysed. Definitive affirmation of scientific and English common names was done using the online fisheries resource Fishbase.


Results

Fish taxonomy, locational and spatial distribution results

A total of twenty-one (21) species were definitively identified with the highest species diversity recorded for location 3, i.e. Gbetrome. The generality of identified species were members of the order perciformes with 14 species (67%) occurring. Taxonomically important families discovered during this investigation are the families Carangidae, Cichlidae, and the Sciaenidae, with two species each. A total of 42 local identifiers (names), 21 each in Egun and Yoruba were recorded, with three species having common identifiers in both languages (B. soporator, E. bippinulata, and I. Africana). In the case of T. mariae and T. zilli, the same local identifiers were used to type these species in both languages (Table 1). Folk names based on morphology were recorded for 2 species, P. lascaris (Cyclops sole), and P. senegalus (Gray birchir). Composite identifiers were considered binomial when one constituent of the identifier stands alone, with the other being a modifying element. Binomial identifiers were recorded for 2 species, P. lascaris (Cyclops sole), and P. senegalus (Gray birchir). Table 2 shows the spatial distribution of identified species during the study period with occurrences recorded as percentages of total number of species (n=21), per locations (n=5). E. fimbriata was most widely distributed occurring in 4 out of 5 locations (80% occurrence). Table 3 gives details of habitat species occurrences. The majority of species occurred in more than one habitat type (16 species). Three (3) species were found exclusively in marine environments (C. browni, E. bipinullata, and M. angolensis), and two (2) in freshwater environments (C.nigrodigitatus and S. melanoptera). 


Table 1: Listing of definitively identified fish species discovered during the study

Switch to horizontal view, desktop or tablet to see this table.




Order

Family

Scientific names
(Genus+species)

Common names

Local names

Yoruba

Egun

1.

Perciformes

Gobiidae

Bathygobius soporator

Frill fin Goby


Orombo

Orombo

2.

Perciformes

Carangidae

Caranx hippos

Crevalle jack

Owere

Ajakun

3.

Siluriformes

Clarotidae

Chrysichthys nigrodigitatus

Silver catfish

Obokun

Ojan

4.

Pleuronectiformes

Cynoglossidae

Cynoglossus browni

Nigerian tongue sole

Abo

Fohome

5.

Perciformes

Carangidae

Elagatus bipinnulata

Rainbow runner

Sardine

Sardine

6.

Elopiformes

Elopidae

Elops lacerta

Lady fish

Igbun

Ogban

7.

Clupeiformes

Clupidae

Ethmalosa fimbriata

Bonga shad

Efolo

Iseke

8.

Clupeiformes

Pristigasteridae

Ilisha africana

West African Ilisha

Shawa

Shawa

9.

Perciformes

Sciaenidae

Miracorvina angolensis

Angola croaker

Opalamu



10.

Pleuronectiformes

Soleidae

Pegusa lascaris

Cyclops sole

Abo pelebe

Afofin

11.

Perciformes

Polynemidae

Pentanemeus quinquarius

Royal threadfin

Ofun

Efen

12.

Polypteriformes

Polypteridae

Polypterus senegalus

Gray birchir

Eja ejo

Gwando

13.

Perciformes

Haemulidae

Pomadasys jubelini

Grunter

Ikekere

Polosun

14.

Perciformes

Pomatomidae

Pomatomus saltatrix

Bluefish

Adan

Gangban

15.

Perciformes

Monodactylidae

Psettus sebae

Guinean finger fish

Apara

Akraba

16.

Perciformes

Sciaenidae

Pseudolithis elongata

Bobo croaker

Apo

Asoke

17.

Perciformes

Sphyraenidae

Sphyraena afra

Guinean barracuda

Kuta

Agban

18.

Siluriformes

Mochokidae

Synodontis melanoptera



Akokoniko

Sosoliso

19.

Perciformes

Cichlidae

Tilapia mariae

Spotted Tilapia

Epiya

Owe

20.

Perciformes

Cichlidae

Tilapia zilli

Red belly Tilapia

Epiya

Owe

21.

Perciformes

Trichiuridae

Trichiurus lepturus

Large head hair tail

Oje

Jaginradu


Table 2: Locational occurrence of identified species as a percentage of number of locations, n=5

Switch to horizontal view, desktop or tablet to see this table.

Key: AGB: Agbalata; Aj: Ajido; GBE: Gbetrome; IB: Ibeshe; OJ: Ojo.




Scientific names
(Genus+species)

Common names

% Occurrence (n=5)

1.

Ethmalosa fimbriata

Bonga shad

80% AJ. AGB. OJ. GB.

2.

Caranx hippos

Crevalle jack

40% AJ. OJ.

3.

Cynoglossus browni

Nigerian tongue sole

40% GB OJ.

4.

Elops lacerta

Lady fish

40% AJ. OJ.

5.

Ilisha africana

West African Ilisha

40% GBE. IBE.

6.

Pentanemeus quinquarius

Royal threadfin

40% GBE. OJ.

7.

Sphyraena afra

Guinean barracuda

40% AJ. OJ.

8.

Synodontis melanoptera



40% AJ. AGB.

9.

Tilapia mariae

Spotted Tilapia

40% AJ. AGB.

10.

Bathygobius soporator

Frill fin Goby


20% OJ.

11.

Chrysichthys nigrodigitatus

Silver catfish

20% AGB.

12.

Elagatis bipinnulata

Rainbow runner

20% IBE.

13.

Miracorvina angolensis

Angola croaker

20% GBE.

14.

Pegusa lascaris

Cyclops sole

20% GBE.

15.

Polypterus senegalus

Gray birchir

20% AGB.

16.

Pomadasys jubelini

Grunter

20% GBE.

17.

Pomatomus saltatrix

Bluefish

20% GBE.

18.

Psettus sebae

Guinean finger fish

20% AJ.

19.

Pseudolithus elongatus

Bobo croaker

20% GBE>

20.

Tilapia zilli

Red belly Tilapia

20% AJ.

21.

Trichiurus lepturus

Large head hair tail

20% IB.


Table 3: Habitat diversity table

Switch to horizontal view, desktop or tablet to see this table.




Scientific names
(Genus+species)

Common names

Habitat

1.

Ethmalosa fimbriata

Bonga shad

FW/BR/M

2.

Caranx hippos

Crevalle jack

BR/M

3.

Cynoglossus browni

Nigerian tongue sole

M

4.

Elops lacerta

Lady fish

BW/M

5.

Ilisha africana

West African Ilisha

BW/M

6.

Pentanemeus quinquarius

Royal threadfin

BW/M

7.

Sphyraena afra

Guinean barracuda

BW/M

8.

Synodontis melanoptera



FW

9.

Tilapia mariae

Spotted Tilapia

FW/BR

10.

Bathygobius soporator

Frill fin Goby


FW/BR/M

11.

Chrysichthys nigrodigitatus

Silver catfish

FW

12.

Elagatis bipinnulata

Rainbow runner

M

13.

Miracorvina angolensis

Angola croaker

M

14.

Pegusa lascaris

Cyclops sole

BW/M

15.

Polypterus senegalus

Gray birchir

BW/M

16.

Pomadasys jubelini

Grunter

FW/BR/M

17.

Pomatomus saltatrix

Bluefish

BR/M

18.

Psettus sebae

Guinean finger fish

FW/BR/M

19.

Pseudolithus elongatus

Bobo croaker

BR/M

20.

Tilapia zilli

Red belly Tilapia

FW/BR

21.

Trichiurus lepturus

Large head hair tail

BW/M


Discussion

A wealth of local descriptions and names was discovered during the course of this experiment. Also gathered were relevant accounts of the seasonality of occurrence and availability of species enumerated in this work. Physical descriptors were discovered to be quite congruent between the two languages groups most involved in fish sales, however descriptive binomials are reported only for the Yoruba populations investigated.

The search for temporally relevant scientific data through investigations into the sometimes complex interactions between human populations and their environments should be a high priority undertaking for understanding and tackling the earth’s many pressing environmental problems. In the latter context, and especially in the context of fisheries management, in face of rapidly declining stocks and catch, it has become urgent that concerted efforts be made to expand the existing information through interactions with populations which directly interact with the marine environment (Haggan, Neis and Baird, 2007).

Another argument for the pursuance of local ecological knowledge of the marine type is the realization that modern ecological studies give snapshot/immediate scenarios or, at best, post 1950 situations, with scientists assuming that this information gathered about situations being studied was/is “normal” while not adequately addressing the past (Jackson, 1997) and not generating useful information for sustainable management (Neis and Kean, 2003) . There is a need to have information about what the situations were initially, forms of information which may realistically only be available from local end user populations of the concerned resource.

Jackson et al. (2001), stated that “overfishing and ecological extinction predate and precondition modern ecological investigations and the collapse of marine ecosystems in recent times” emphasizing the need for local lore and recollections to broaden ecological information.  Alluding back to the previously mentioned scientific purists, such information is derogatorily referred to as anecdotal.   Fishermen’s lore has been demonstrated by earlier investigators to be quite profound and revealing of their long term occupational intimacy with fished species, fishing grounds and habitats (Begossi, 1995; Begossi and Garavello, 1990), and has great innate value for marine conservation research, despite its poor acceptance by scientific purists.  Its continuing relevance in fisheries co-management endeavors worldwide (Baird, 2005; Olsson and Folke, 2001) serves to illustrate its contemporary importance to fisheries management.

There is a strong, even if not yet mainstream, trend in the social sciences and broad humanities of paying close attention to indigenous taxonomies and even indigenous metatheories in relation to nature and aspects of practice in the lived world as well as in relation to the diverse metaphysics of experience and ideation deployed by people outside the confines and conclaves of academia. The theoretical perspectives in these attentive schools of thought range from ethnoscience (Sturtevant, 1964) through ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1967) to Actor-Network-Theory (Latour, 2005). In 1972, Oswald Werner opened an article of his by noting that ‘After the first flurry of successes at discovering folk classifications by relatively rigorous eliciting techniques, few major advances have been made in the direction of a better understanding of lexical/semantic fields’ (1972: 271). It is important that we cross check this statement in terms of what now obtains in the mainstream practice of academia so many decades after,  in order to measure the level of progress, or, otherwise, that has been achieved in our (that is, academics’) grasp of the utility and insight of what is sometimes pejoratively tagged ‘folk science’. In the situation report that Latour (2005) provides us, we get to see how mainstream academic research persists in disparaging the taxonomies and theories of classification employed by actors not encumbered by the restrictive translation apparatus of ‘normal’ science, natural, biologic and social.

Among other things, the present study tries to go beyond the methodological approaches of Actor-Network-Theory and even ethnoscience, the latter a term which notoriously falls into and recovers from disfavour every now and then (see Amundson, 1982; Franklin, 1995). The thinking here is that what is needed is not the valorization of one nomenclature over another. What is needed is understanding between languages of classification and their underlying metatheories or metaphysics. We demonstrate here that translation is possible between the classifications of ‘science’ and those of ‘ethnoscience’, while ensuring that the respect that the one owes the other is kept intact. More is the urgency because we are concerned about the pursuit of science and ethnoscience both for the sake of knowledge qua knowledge as well as for the sake of ecological survival as an integral aspect of our human adaptive capacity.

The current paper is sited at the confluence where fisherfolk understandings of the resources they exploit for a living are brought into contact with the classifications constructed by scientists who also earn a living by studying the same resources. Fishery resources are not as abundant as they used to be. There is the need for collaboration between the two groups of resource exploiters, fisher folk and fish scientists — collaboration to delineate commonalities and divergences in their views of these resources, with the ultimate goal of devising joint action plans for conservation. Our research goes further to examine the commonalities and divergences in the taxonomies constructed by different fishing communities in the Lagos fishery region. Our methodology seeks to adhere to the principles which Callon (1986) invokes in his study of the translation process between a group of marine biologists and fishermen, especially the two principles of ‘agnosticism (impartiality between actors)’ and ‘generalised symmetry (commitment to explain conflicting viewpoints in the same terms)’. However, we, unlike Callon, do not assume that the taxonomic universes we attempt to bring together in the course of our researching in the field have been utterly separate and have had no means of communication until our intervention. That would be to harbour certain presumptions about the relationships — or, indeed, lack of any relationship — between domains in the larger society which we and these communities of fisherfolk inhabit. And yes, like Callon, we seek to unify these universes the more and make them more intelligible to one another.

To put it simply, it is our reasoning that we and the fisher folk have to know what we and they are talking about and be sure that we and they are talking about the same things before we and they can act together. We want to change what we do and we want to change what others do — again more is the urgency because the activities of these fisher folk as well as our own scientific activities are changing the world's fisheries.  


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Cite this paper

APA

Olarinmoye, A. W., & Olarinmoye, O. M. (2013). Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria. Open Science Repository Anthropology, Online(open-access), e70081926. doi:10.7392/Anthropology.70081926

MLA

Olarinmoye, Adeyinka W., and Oluwatosin M. Olarinmoye. “Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria.” Open Science Repository Anthropology Online.open-access (2013): e70081926.

Chicago

Olarinmoye, Adeyinka W., and Oluwatosin M. Olarinmoye. “Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria.” Open Science Repository Anthropology Online, no. open-access (February 8, 2013): e70081926. http://www.open-science-repository.com/aspects-of-ethnoichthyological-taxonomy-of-fish-species-on-sale-in-fish-markets-of-lagos-nigeria.html.

Harvard

Olarinmoye, A.W. & Olarinmoye, O.M., 2013. Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria. Open Science Repository Anthropology, Online(open-access), p.e70081926. Available at: http://www.open-science-repository.com/aspects-of-ethnoichthyological-taxonomy-of-fish-species-on-sale-in-fish-markets-of-lagos-nigeria.html.

Science

1. A. W. Olarinmoye, O. M. Olarinmoye, Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria, Open Science Repository Anthropology Online, e70081926 (2013).

Nature

1. Olarinmoye, A. W. & Olarinmoye, O. M. Aspects of Ethnoichthyological Taxonomy of Fish Species on Sale in Fish Markets of Lagos, Nigeria. Open Science Repository Anthropology Online, e70081926 (2013).


doi

Research registered in the DOI resolution system as: 10.7392/Anthropology.70081926.


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