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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Freshwater Fishing Strategies in Early Modern Sami Households

Larsson, Jesper; Päiviö Sjaunja, Eva-Lotta


Fish were absolutely necessary for survival for many households in preindustrial societies. Because fishing waters are considered a common-pool resource, it is difficult to exclude users, and the catch is subtractable. To learn what strategies were in place to avoid fish-stock depletion and secure continuous harvests, we investigated how Indigenous Sami households in Lule lappmark, Sweden, used low-productive freshwaters between 1660 and 1780. Our aim is to show how they conducted fishing and how it was linked to rules for fishing. Our sources are contemporary 17th- and 18th-century accounts and local court rulings. Rules for fishing were developed in a self-governance context. Users and fishing areas were well defined, and users often had exclusive rights to fish. Inheritance was important but not a sufficient prerequisite to obtain access. Our research covers a period during which abundant but low-yield fishing waters per household declined, making it more difficult to survive.

Published in

Arctic Anthropology
2020, Volume: 57, number: 2, pages: 197-211