Saturday, 23 November 2019

Last of the hunters or the next scientists?


For years fishermen have decried the world of fisheries research because all too often their experience of scientific research has been frustrated by the perceived gulf between those that research and those that actually go down to the sea every day to fish. Huge research vessels using totally outdated trawls  fishing for species in areas known (by the fishermen) to be devoid of said species or at times when said species are less likely to be caught - compare your haddock catch by day and by night on the same grounds!

Ed Hinds just published thesis tackles tis issue and sets out a vision for how fishermen may play a significant role in fisheries research in the future - there a handful of UK fisheries research vessels and 5,400 fishing vessels - every one capable of [laying a role in research given the resources.


The concept of fishers’ knowledge is one that has largely been marginalised in mainstream fisheries management, often characterised by soft ecological narratives and social insights when the bias of fisheries managers is for hard quantitative data of a biological nature.

This thesis makes an original contribution firstly, by situating the debate on the contested concept of fishers’ knowledge within the political context of traditional fisheries science, which has been undergoing a paradigm crisis and demands for reform.

Secondly, I draw a broad conceptual difference between a reformist account of fishers’ knowledge and a more radical discourse which positions fishers’ knowledge as an alternative to scientific enquiry. It is argued that a radical approach would be misguided, because fishers’ knowledge is not as
effective as scientific data for assessing fish stocks. Instead, a case is made to continue to use fishers’ knowledge to explain remaining uncertainties in scientific stock assessment, and to explore important
aspects of a fishery that other research approaches cannot. Specifically, it should become one of the central information pillars for conducting ecosystem-based fisheries management. Additionally, I advance fishers’ strategies as a developing concept that if understood, could for the first time allow managers to comprehend not just ‘how’ fishing effort occurs, but ‘why’.

Through a detailed analysis of a rich case study on the west coast of Ireland, these arguments are fleshed out to show how and why the concept of fishers’ knowledge may be relevant for resolving serious problems in fisheries politics and policy. More broadly the thesis covers new ground in areas of study relating to local and experiential knowledge, ecosystem-based management and the political dimensions of environmental sustainability and natural resource management. It would be an interesting point of reference for professionals researching these topics.

Paper: Last of the hunters or the next scientists
Ed Hind from the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway.