A review of the past, the present, and the future of fishers' knowledge research: a challenge to established fisheries science
Fishers' knowledge research is an approach to fisheries research that has a relatively long history, yet has generally failed to become integrated into the fisheries science mainstream alongside approaches that rely primarily on the knowledge of professional scientists. Its continued position on the margins of fisheries science has not however stopped fishers' knowledge researchers from publishing an expanding literature, which they often use to advocate for the greater consideration of fishers' knowledge by fisheries scientists and managers. They believe that the unique and often highly qualitative knowledge of fishers could inform better decision-making, resulting in improved socio-ecological outcomes for fisheries. This review first outlines the scope of the fishers' knowledge literature, before outlining five waves of fishers' knowledge research that have developed over the last century. For each wave, the nature of the fishers' knowledge documented during it is noted, as is the research and dissemination approach taken by its practitioners. The impact of that wave on mainstream fisheries science is then assessed. Overall, it is found that only one wave of fishers' knowledge research is beginning to have consistent success integrating with mainstream fisheries science, a wave that omits the research of many of the unique elements of fishers' knowledge. Other waves have died out, or are in danger of dying out, either because they have failed to be noticed by mainstream fisheries scientists or because mainstream fisheries scientists have not welcomed their outputs. It is summarized that fishers' knowledge research will only continue as a productive activity if mainstream fisheries scientists begin to open their discipline to other knowledge cultures and if fishers' knowledge researchers facilitate this action by disseminating their research so that it is more accessible to these scientists.