Mosquito Net Fishing as a Normal Accident and the Roles of Traditional and Bureaucratic Authority

Rick Welsh, Elizabeth A. Pickard, Sadie J. Ryan, Joseph H. Bisesi, Joseph Makaure, Donald J. Stewart, David A Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 1980s, malaria researchers experimented with treating mosquito nets with pyrethroids chemicals to kill mosquitoes (insecticide-treated net or ITN). In the mid-2000s, world health agencies determined that ITNs should be distributed freely. Since then more than two billion ITNs have been distributed throughout malaria-endemic countries. In regions where fishing is an important economic activity the ITNs have been repurposed for fishing. The practice has been found to have very negative effects on fisheries. Using Perrow’s Normal Accident Framework (NAF) we explain how interest-driven parties ignore local conditions to cause ‘accidents’ such as mosquito net fishing (MNF). In addition, we employ Weber’s concepts of bureaucratic and traditional authority to understand how local actors address an ‘accident’ not of their making. Then, using two focus group interviews with Traditional Leaders and Zambian Government Fishery Personnel we shed light on how local sociohistorical conditions interact with imposed, massive, and complex sociotechnical systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-188
Number of pages19
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • authority
  • fisheries
  • malaria
  • normal accidents
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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