In the summer of 2001 a fisherman approached Stefan Dorondel in a bar in Jurilovca, a village located in south-east Romania at the border of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (hereafter the Biosphere Reserve). Co-villagers told the man a researcher from Bucharest was asking around about fishing practices. After some small talk the fisherman offered Dorondel his services. To the fisherman, ‘a man from Bucharest’ with supposedly national connections was a potential ‘fishing partner’ who could help him sell his catch. ‘I know other people who can help us too. In a few months we will be rich; I know the best places for fishing and they [the authorities] would never catch us’, he assured Dorondel. The fisherman’s proposal should be understood in the context of wider complaints about restraints imposed by the state on the rights of people living in the Biosphere Reserve: ‘We have always explored and maintained the delta for the advantage of the state’, claimed the fisherman, ‘now they [the state authorities] forbid us to enter certain channels and to fish even for our families. Tourists who visit the Delta will end up having more rights than we locals do.’ 1 The fisherman’s proposal reflected some of the persistent peculiarities that shape fishing activity in this huge wetland, not least the restrictions imposed on locals by the enlargement of protected areas in the Delta. In response, fishermen attempt to bypass state-imposed restrictions out of frustration with state conservation policies that clash with their knowledge of the Delta as a natural ecosystem shaped for centuries by human activity. 2