Abigail Bennett, Ph.D.

Abigail Bennett

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Assistant Professor
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife


Areas of Expertise:

Fisheries governance; institutional analysis; political economy of fish trade; political ecology and discourse analysis; food security


Ph.D., Marine Science and Conservation, Duke University, 2016
B.S., Environmental Science and Policy, University of South Florida – St. Petersburg, 2009


Abigail Bennett is assistant professor of global inland fisheries ecology and governance. 

She studies the role of fisheries in livelihoods and food security around the world. Her research examines how Bennett_Net_Castprocesses such as governance and trade shape the connections between fisheries and human well-being. For example, what kinds of governance arrangements can mitigate negative social and ecological impacts of global trade pressures? How important are fisheries for addressing hunger and malnutrition globally? And, how can we enhance fish value chains to increase access and benefits to women and the rural poor?

Empirically, she employs innovative approaches to confront the challenges of inadequate data, given that substantial global fish catch is unreported and post-harvest activities are often undocumented. To bring fisheries to the forefront in policy dialogues on sustainable development goals such as reducing poverty and addressing global hunger, she works closely with organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other international organizations in the design, implementation, and dissemination of research.

Research Interests:

  • The role of inland fisheries in livelihoods and food security
  • The political economy of fisheries trade and value chains
  • The emergence and evolution of informal and multi-level governance institutions
  • The representation of inland fisheries in scientific, policy, and development discourses
  • Qualitative and mixed-method data collection and analysis methods
  • Fieldwork and ethnographic methods

Case Study: Mapping Lake Malawi fish value chains

Inland fish make crucial contributions to food security and livelihoods. But in many places – like Lake Malawi in east Africa – fine-scale spatial data on where fish goes after being harvested is scarce, which limits our understanding of who reaps the nutritional and economic benefits from fisheries. Our project, Mapping Lake Bennett _ Lake MalawiMalawi Fish Value Chains, combines survey and GIS data to understand where fish goes, who consumes it, and the economic benefits that accrue along the value chain.

The analysis will contribute to a more precise understanding of inland fisheries’ contributions and allow us to answer questions such as: which fish species are available in rural areas and affordable to the poor? How does the role of women vary across value chains for different species? And what kinds of policies can enhance the contributions of fisheries to food and nutrition security in Malawi and beyond?

Bennett _ Lake_Malawi_Women



  • FW 181 Introduction to Science, Technology, the Environment and Public Policy, Fall 2018 (co-taught)
  • FW 481 Global Issues in Fisheries and Wildlife, Spring 2019 (co-taught with Dr. William Taylor)

Selected Publications:

Bennett, A., P. Patil, K. Kleisner, D. Rader, J. Virdin, and X. Basurto. 2018. Contribution of Fisheries to Food and Nutrition Security: Current Knowledge, Policy, and Research. NI Report 18-02. Durham, NC: Duke University.

Bennett, A. and Basurto, X. 2018. Local institutional responses to global market pressures: The sea cucumber trade in Mexico. World Development (102), 57-70.

Bennett, A. 2017. The influence of neoliberalization on the success and failure of fishing cooperatives in contemporary small-scale fishing communities: a case study from the Yucatán, Mexico. Marine Policy (80), 96-106.

Epstein, G., Bennett, A., Gruby, R., Acton, L., and Nenadovic, M. 2014. Studying power with the social-ecological system framework. In Manfredo, M. J., Vaske, J. J., Rechkemmer, A., and Duke, E. (Eds.), Understanding society and natural resources: Forging new strands of integration across the social sciences (111-136). New York: Springer Open.

Basurto, X., Bennett, A., Weaver, A. H., Van Dyck, S. R., and Bueno, J. S. A. 2013. Cooperative and non-cooperative strategies for small-scale fisheries self-governance in the globalization era: Implications for conservation. Ecology and Society 18(4): 38.