Analyzing the Santa Maria Bay through the Social-Ecological System Framework: Identifying leverage points for sustainability in La Reforma, Sinaloa

Small-scale fisheries are highly important in terms of economic productivity and environmental
relevance in Mexico’s Northwest. The Santa María Bay (SMB), in Sinaloa, México, is the largest bay in
the state and is highly productive in terms of fishing and the economic activities derived from it. It is
also home to endemic species and the region’s largest mangrove wetland. It faces environmental and
social threats and the communities that rely on the common-pool resource are vulnerable. La
Reforma, one of the four small-scale finishing communities in the bay, is the focus of this case study.
In this community a local NGO – SUCEDE – works toward sustainability in the Santa María Bay.

This thesis’ objective is to study and analyze the Santa María Bay as a social-ecological system to find leverage points to increase the system’s sustainability through SUCEDE’s work. I collect qualitative data by conducting 6 semi-structured interviews. I analyze my data by applying common-pool resource (CPR) theory and the social-ecological systems framework (SESF) as an analytical tool to find the most relevant variables in the system. I explain the implications of the variables’ interactions and outcomes and, focusing on the most relevant ones, I look for leverage points that can improve said them and advance sustainable development in the SMB.

I find three of SUCEDE’s existing projects that have high likelihood of improving the SES’s negative
outcomes and propose two new interventions that can further advance socio-economic and
sustainability. This study shows SUCEDE can increase a community’s likelihood to organize towards
socio-economic and ecological sustainability by intervening where change is most efficient.