Do fishers know best when it comes to identifying areas with rare and depleted fish species? The global conservation crisis demands that managers marshal all available datasets to inform conservation management plans for depleted species, yet the level of trust placed in local knowledge remains uncertain. This study compares four methods for inferring species distributions of an internationally traded, rare and depleted genus of marine fishes (Hippocampus spp.): the use of (i) fisher interviews; (ii) government research trawls, (iii) scientific diving surveys, and (iv) citizen science contributions. We analyzed these four datasets at the genus and individual species levels to evaluate our conclusions about seahorse spatial occurrence, diversity of species present and the cost effectiveness of sampling effort. We found that fisher knowledge provided more information on our data-poor fish genus at larger spatial scales, with less effort, and for a cheaper price than all other datasets. One drawback was that fishers were unable to provide data down to the species level. People embarking on conservation endeavors for data-poor species may wish to begin with fisher interviews and use these to inform the application of government research, scientific diving, or citizen science programs.
Local or Traditional Knowledge
The Paranaguá Estuarine Complex (PEC), Paraná State, southern Brazil, has rich biodiversity and attracts the attention of researchers in several areas. In this region, there is a mosaic of protected areas that aim to maintain the natural heritage through regulation of the use of the area and natural resources and are also home to traditional extractive communities, such as fisherfolk. These coastal communities are dependent on local resources and are continually in contact with researchers working mainly on studies related to coastal environmental issues. However, the results generated in these studies realized in marine environment are rarely shared or discussed with these traditional communities before being taken to decision makers, which can result in conflicts between those involved, the acceptance of reduced management measures and the loss of research credibility. The objective of this article is to describe the perception of marine traditional fishermen from the village of Ilha das Peças (VIP) and the village of Ilha do Superagui (VIS), both located in the vicinity of the protected areas, regarding the scientific research conducted in the PEC. In 2012, ethnographic interviews were conducted through semi-structured questionnaires given to fisherfolk in the VIP (n = 40) and the VIS (n = 50). The level of education among the fishermen in the two villages is low, which can influence the perception of the research conducted in the region. All respondents in the VIP and VIS described not receiving reports from researchers regarding the results. Therefore, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction regarding the lines of research in general, which is extended to the funding agencies and the presence of researchers in the area, representing conflicts with the management of marine resources. According to the respondents, the research does not seek solutions to social and environmental problems but only evaluates and seeks to preserve the fauna and flora, excluding the human component of the broader ecological processes. Dialogue between scientific and traditional knowledge is essential in the joint search for effective solutions to social and environmental problems, especially in areas designated as priorities for biological conservation in the coastal environment.
The global decline of marine ecosystems may be partially ascribed to poor governance and to the lack of sustainable use and marine biodiversity conservation policy. Conservation success is strongly related to how people perceive marine biodiversity and those perceptions can change as a result of the accumulation of knowledge, the quality of the environment, and the appropriate and sustainable management of these areas. Engaging the targeted community in the process of promoting and planning safeguarding activities may also contribute to the acceptability and the dissemination of a shared culture of sustainability and a positive change in behavior.
This study investigates people's knowledge, perceptions and feelings toward the protection and improvement of marine biodiversity of coralligenous areas in the North Adriatic Sea in Italy. Several focus groups were conducted in the major towns of the targeted area (N = 107) to explore people's familiarity with marine biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to reveal their opinions and behaviours for certain protection strategies, such as the marine protected area (MPA).
We found that coralligenous habitats are not very well known among the general people; in fact, only 42% of respondents had previously heard about biodiversity in these habitats. However, participants agreed that they provide important environmental services that benefit human wellbeing. Moreover, we found that 80% of respondents had heard before of MPA, and the majority of them were in favor of supporting interventions and policies to protect these areas.
Sea level rise will have significant impacts on many coastal resources. Waves are an important resource in California, where they support the recreation of 1.1 million surfers who inject millions of dollars into local economies. The impacts of sea level rise on wave resource quality, however, are unknown. By examining the local knowledge of more than one thousand California surfers collected through an online survey, this study extrapolates their evaluations to estimate the susceptibility of California surf-spots to sea level rise based on the principle of tidal extrapolation. Vulnerability classifications are derived from the relationship between wave quality, tide effects, and sea floor conditions. Applying these classifications to 105 surf-spots in California evaluated by multiple respondents, we project that as a result of sea level rise by 2100: 16% of surf-spots are Endangered due to drowning; 18% are Threatened, but could adapt if natural shoreline processes are not impeded; and 5% might improve as rising sea levels increase the likelihood they will experience optimal conditions. These projections are significant not only for the many surfers who depend on surf-spots, but also for the coastal communities who rely on the availability of high quality wave resources. Results from this study also have important implications for when and how managers might take surf-spot quality and vulnerability into consideration through coastal adaptation. Lastly, this study establishes a baseline of wave resource quality in California and suggests that this baseline will shift as wave quality changes over the coming century.
We describe and analyse data on fishing effort collected by interviewing 1914 fishermen between 2007 and 2010. Combining socio-spatial data collected through a voluntary mapping project called “FisherMap” with UK and European vessel satellite monitoring data provides high resolution, national-scale maps of distribution and relative intensity of fishing for six gear types. The effort maps show, for the first time, a large scale and holistic approach to mapping fishing effort by including the under-reported, yet significant, inshore fishing fleet (85% of registered vessels,<15 m). The data from this study have been used to facilitate the planning, management advice and subsequent designation of 38 inshore Marine Conservation Zones. The authors conclude that, effective management of the inshore marine environment requires up-to-date, high resolution and holistic maps of fishing effort that can be obtained only through validated interpretation of inshore vessel monitoring system data.
Baleen whale populations have increased around the world after the end of commercial whaling in the 1980s. Anecdotes from local inhabitants of the Falkland Islands tell of an increase in whale sightings after an almost complete absence. However, no long-term monitoring exists to assess such recovery. With increasing maritime activities around the Islands, local managers need to understand the status and distribution of baleen whales to avoid impeding the potential recovery process. In the complete absence of scientific data, harvesting local ecological knowledge (LEK) from residents could provide means to assess whether whale numbers are increasing. We collected historical knowledge and mapped historical observations through structured interviews with 58 inhabitants and filtered observations for the highest reliability. We also collated existing historical catch and sighting data to compare species composition in inshore and offshore waters. A total of 3842 observations were compiled from the 1940s to 2015. This collation of information provided first-time evidence on the return of the whales in the Falkland Islands' waters. There was a clear increase in numbers of whales sighted, from no observations in the 1970s to 350 observations between 2010 and 2015 for similar effort, mostly of endangered sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus). We mapped contemporary whale sighting hotspots to inform current marine spatial planning efforts. The use of LEK is highlighted here as a useful way to gain a better understanding of changes in the status of threatened species when no scientific monitoring has been conducted.
Ecosystem modeling applied to fisheries remains hampered by a lack of local information. Fishers’ knowledge could fill this gap, improving participation in and the management of fisheries.
The same fishing area was modeled using two approaches: based on fishers’ knowledge and based on scientific information. For the former, the data was collected by interviews through the Delphi methodology, and for the latter, the data was gathered from the literature. Agreement between the attributes generated by the fishers’ knowledge model and scientific model is discussed and explored, aiming to improve data availability, the ecosystem model, and fisheries management.
The ecosystem attributes produced from the fishers’ knowledge model were consistent with the ecosystem attributes produced by the scientific model, and elaborated using only the scientific data from literature.
This study provides evidence that fishers’ knowledge may suitably complement scientific data, and may improve the modeling tools for the research and management of fisheries.
In the Philippines, very high fishing pressure coincides with the globally greatest number of shorefish species, yet no long-term fisheries data are available to explore species-level changes that may have occurred widely in the most species rich and vulnerable marine ecosystem, namely coral reefs. Through 2655 face-to-face interviews conducted between August 2012 and July 2014, we used fishers’ recall of past catch rates of reef-associated finfish to infer species disappearances from catches in five marine key biodiversity areas (Lanuza Bay, Danajon Bank, Verde Island Passage, Polillo Islands and Honda Bay). We modeled temporal trends in perceived catch per unit effort (CPUE) based on fishers’ reports of typical good days’ catches using Generalized Linear Mixed Modelling. Fifty-nine different finfish disappeared from catches between the 1950s and 2014; 42 fish were identified to species level, two to genus, seven to family and eight to local name only. Five species occurring at all sites with the greatest number of fishers reporting zero catches were the green bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), African pompano (Alectis ciliaris), giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) and mangrove red snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus). Between the 1950s and 2014, the mean perceived CPUE of bumphead parrotfish declined by 88%, that of humphead wrasse by 82%, African pompano by 66%, giant grouper by 74% and mangrove red snapper by 64%. These declines were mainly associated with excess and uncontrolled fishing, fish life-history traits like maximum body size and socio-economic factors like access to market infrastructure and services, and overpopulation. The fishers’ knowledge is indicative of extirpations where evidence for these losses was otherwise lacking. Our models provide information as basis for area-based conservation and regional resource management particularly for the more vulnerable, once common, large, yet wide-ranging reef finfish species.
Fishers' knowledge research (FKR) aims to enhance the use of experiential knowledge of fish harvesters in fisheries research, assessment, and management. Fishery participants are able to provide unique knowledge, and that knowledge forms an important part of “best available information” for fisheries science and management. Fishers' knowledge includes, but is much greater than, basic biological fishery information. It includes ecological, economic, social, and institutional knowledge, as well as experience and critical analysis of experiential knowledge. We suggest that FKR, which may in the past have been defined quite narrowly, be defined more broadly to include both fishery observations and fishers “experiential knowledge” provided across a spectrum of arrangements of fisher participation. FKR is part of the new and different information required in evolving “ecosystem-based” and “integrated” management approaches. FKR is a necessary element in the integration of ecological, economic, social, and institutional considerations of future management. Fishers' knowledge may be added to traditional assessment with appropriate analysis and explicit recognition of the intended use of the information, but fishers' knowledge is best implemented in a participatory process designed to receive and use it. Co-generation of knowledge in appropriately designed processes facilitates development and use of fishers' knowledge and facilitates the participation of fishers in assessment and management, and is suggested as best practice in improved fisheries governance.
Habitat suitability (HS) of target species is assessed in the coastal region of Seno de Corcubión, including Os Miñarzos Marine Protected Area (MPA) in west Galicia, NW of Spain. Current MPA was outlined using local environmental knowledge (LEK). Our objective is to test whether maximization of HS of 12 species would select the same MPA as fishers' LEK. A detailed capture database and 13 layers summarizing ecogeographic variables (derived from bathymetry, satellite data and sea bottom classification map) have been used and several Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA) Species Distribution Models (SDM) have been tested to find the best HS prediction (according to a nonparametric index due to Boyce). Our SDM results show that the LEK defined MPA (comprising 20% of the total area) is over 70% more suitable than the rest of the region for all species but one (European seabass, only 40%). We conclude that stakeholders LEK methodology correctly identifies local species habitats, and that SDM, and in particular ENFA models, can be used to validate and keep track of the MPA boundaries.