Information access and knowledge exchange in co-managed coral reef fisheries
Effectively managing ecosystems is an information intensive endeavour. Yet social, cultural, and economic barriers can limit who is able to access information and how knowledge is exchanged. We draw on social network theory to examine whether co-management institutions break down these traditional barriers. We examined the factors that predict information access and knowledge exchange using interview and knowledge sharing network data from 616 Kenyan coral reef fishers operating in four communities with formal co-management institutions. For access to fisheries management information, we found disparities in fisher's age, leadership status, and wealth. Yet once we accounted for formal engagement in the co-management process, only wealth disparities remained significant. In contrast, knowledge exchange was insensitive to whether or not we accounted for engagement in co-management. We found that community leaders and external actors, such as NGO representatives, were primary sources of fisheries-related knowledge. Among fishers, knowledge exchange tended to occur more often between those using the same landing site. Fishers engaged in the co-management process and community leaders were likely to transfer knowledge widely (acting as ‘central communicators’), yet only leaders bridged disconnected groups (acting as ‘brokers’). Ethnic minorities and those with higher levels of education were more likely to fall on the periphery of the knowledge exchange networks. Taken together, our results suggest that co-management can break down traditional social and cultural – but perhaps not economic – barriers to information access; while social, cultural, and economic factors remain important for structuring knowledge exchange.