IJMS Editor’s Choice – are fisheries scientists best utilizing research based on knowledge of fishers?

A selected Editor’s Choice article from the latest issue of the ICES Journal of Marine Science is now freely available. This month read more about whether research on the knowledge gathered from fishers is being adequately considered in fisheries science.
Published: 3 October 2014

A review of over 500 research outputs analysing fishers’ knowledge shows that their experience is not regularly being given due consideration by fisheries scientists. This is despite a growing number of researchers believing that referencing fisher experience might help them to facilitate improved ecological and socio-economic outcomes for marine and freshwater fisheries.

For nearly a century, amateur and professional researchers with experience in ethnography, applied social science, and fisheries biology have conducted research with commercial and artisanal fishers from Canada to Kiribati in order to understand how their knowledge of marine ecosystems and fishery operations could supplement or complement the work of practicing fisheries scientists.

These researchers have disseminated what they consider to be the important knowledge acquired by fishers on the status of fish stocks and marine habitats – including fisher-generated ideas for ensuring fishery sustainability – in books, at conferences, and via peer-reviewed academic journals.

However, they have found that mainstream fisheries scientists rarely integrate the fishers’ knowledge that they champion. Even when they do, it is generally a partial engagement limited to the analysis of log book data or brief quantitative surveys. Fishers’ qualitative anecdotes have primarily been ignored by the mainstream even though a number of publications have showcased how they have or could have been referenced in order to prevent high-profile declines in fish stocks.

This paper is an entry point for interested readers to decide for themselves whether fishers’ knowledge and its research should be part of the fisheries science mainstream. For fisheries scientists and fishers’ knowledge researchers however, it is a wake-up call. The former must decide whether they can continue to ignore unfamiliar data, even where it might help them arrest fishery declines. The latter need to assess whether they can make fishers’ knowledge more easily accessible for their colleagues.

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​Artisinal fishers; © Marianne Teoh, Blue Ventures

Article title: A review of the past, the present, and the future of fishers' knowledge research: a challenge to established fisheries science

Author: Edward J. Hind

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IJMS Editor’s Choice – are fisheries scientists best utilizing research based on knowledge of fishers?

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