Testing fisher-developed alternatives to fishery management tools for community support and regulatory effectiveness
This research develops a methodology to evaluate public support for fishing regulations, comparing existing regulations designed without much public input, to possible alternative regulations based fishers' ecological knowledge (FEK) and preferences. First, a survey and open-ended interview was completed with 42 fishers in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (33% of the total number of currently registered commercial fishers on island) regarding general matters of fishery health and productivity, with heightened focus on the management of a mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) spawning aggregation. The interview results suggest that fishers view management tools in terms of spatial and temporal parameters, and how much those regulations influence gear selection. Fishers respond primarily to socioeconomic pressures, but recognize and support ecological goals of regulations, particularly those that provide protections to important stocks throughout their spawning season. A Discrete Choice Model (DCM) was developed based on the results of the fisher surveys and was administered to 182 individuals, including 54 residents of St. Croix and all 42 fishers interviewed. Eight DCM options were presented to respondents who selected their regulatory preference in a pair-wise fashion. In seven of eight pairs, public respondents selected fisher-preferred, FEK-based regulatory frameworks. These results suggest FEK can be used to develop fishery regulations that will meet management goals, and be broadly supported by both members of the fishing community and the general public. In this manner, ecosystem-based management frameworks can be improved by incorporating fishers and their FEK, particularly for small-scale fisheries.