Throughout the Pacific, “subsistence” fishing feeds not only individual fishers and their families but a much broader network of people through the noncommercial distribution, or sharing, of fish. This study evaluated the current importance of this sharing, through tracking subsistence fish catch and distributions (mahele) in one small Hawai'i fishery over an 18-month period. We found that the traditional and customary system of sharing fish, like subsistence activities in other mixed-economy settings, provides benefits beyond provisioning of food. These benefits include perpetuation of traditional and customary skills and practices, social status, social networks, reciprocal exchange, and collective insurance. Taken together these benefits enhance resilience of community-level social and ecological systems.
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Vol. 67 • No. 3