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
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.
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