ICES Annual Science Conference 2018

Theme session R

Towards a better understanding of human behaviour for improved fisheries science and management
Wednesday, 26 September
Lecture Hall B

Thursday, 27 September
Lecture Hall B


Despite the increase in the volume of fisheries science output, there are still major challenges in fisheries management. Sometimes monodisciplinary research approaches have contributed to highly fragmented management schemes, resulting in a multitude of unforeseen and unacceptable outcomes, ranging from gross overfishing and fishing down of marine ecosystems to increased unemployment rates and fishing rights confrontations. 

Because of this many scientists now agree that fisheries issues should be addressed under a new conceptual approach. As such, fisheries are now being referred to as “socio-ecological complex adaptive systems” (SECAS). Such an understanding, and a thorough understanding of the interdependencies between various system components (such as fish stocks, gear, and fisher and consumer behaviour), could give stakeholders the tools to take action in solving problems that compromise sustainable fisheries. 

Besides requiring the consideration of all aspects of fisheries processes, understanding fisheries in this way necessitates more cooperation between different disciplines, and between scientists and stakeholders. Improved science and management will, in part, mean better understanding human behaviour and linking the natural system with the social system. In this session the aim is to draw attention to the importance of achieving better understanding of human behaviour (including fishers) in science and management. This = is important as, even though human behaviour has been called the key source of uncertainty in management, many models of fisher behaviour, for example, continue to work with basic assumptions such as that of the rational agents acting to maximize their individual profit. This session is therefore dedicated to contributions that enable a better understanding of human behavior and eoncourages inter*- and transdisciplinary** efforts for furthering our understanding of fisheries as SECAS.

Contributions related, but not limited to, the following topics are welcome:

  • Improved/novel methods to study behaviour of fishers (or any other humans who are part of the fisheries system)
  • Projects in which a (better) understanding of fisher/human behaviour is central
  • Results of collaborations with stakeholders designed to create viable solutions to their decision support needs
  • Best practice for management/decision makers and or scientists working with stakeholders
  • Social norms and self-organization of fishers, and their influence on trust, culture, and fisher behaviour
  • Understanding how fishers deal with change such as displacement from fishing grounds, gear change, (improved) selectivity (including for the mitigation of vulnerable bycatch), policy change, and climate change
  • Simulations of all aspects of fisheries management, but particularly of social science/human dimension aspects, which would particularly benefit from greater quantification
  • Examples of methodologies using qualitative data to inform fisheries models
  • Public understanding of fisheries and fisheries management
  • Challenges and possibilities to adopt a SECAS approach to fisheries in fisheries/marine science and management/governance, requiring explicit consideration of ecological, economic, social and institutional aspects of both assessment and management
  • Methods of incorporating and integrating both strategic and operational aspects of ecological, economic, social and institutional objectives within an appropriate framework or governance process
  • Innovative ways to explore fisheries and management

Submissions are welcome from all disciplines or multi-, inter*-, transdisciplinary** combinations (e.g. fisheries, biology, ecology, and other life sciences, anthropology, sociology, ethnography, cognitive sciences, social psychology, history, geography, political sciences, education and learning, humanities, law, management, economics, including behavioural economics and marketing, food sciences, medical sciences, computer sciences, data visualization, mathematics, engineering and technology)

All contributions should address (if applicable): a) how they understand “human behaviour” or “fisher behaviour”, b) how they study it (including application of change management models), c) the questions they have, and (d) limitations or solutions.

* ‘Interdisciplinary’ refers to studies involving several unrelated academic disciplines (i.e. they have contrasting research paradigms) in a way that forces them to cross subject boundaries to create new knowledge and theory.

** ‘Transdisciplinary’ refers to studies that both integrate academic researchers from different unrelated disciplines and non-academic participants, such as managers or the public. Transdisciplinarity combines interdisciplinarity with a participatory approach.

This is a theme proposed jointly by the SAF21 project – Social science aspects of fisheries for the 21st Century, ICES Strategic Initiative on the Human Dimension, ICES - FAO Working Group on Fishing Technology and Fish Behaviour


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Melania Borit (Norway)
Bruce Edmonds (UK)
Marloes Kraan (Netherlands​)

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Theme session R

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