Iñupiaq, Yup'ik, and Cup'ik hunters in 14 Alaska Native communities described a rapidly changing marine environment in qualitative traditional knowledge interviews conducted over the course of a decade with 110 individuals. Based on their observations, sea ice conditions are the most notable change, with later freeze-up, thinner and less reliable ice, and earlier and more rapid break-up. Marine mammal populations in northern and western Alaska have been affected by changes in the physical environment, with alterations to migratory timing and routes, distribution, abundance, health, and behavior. Despite these changes, marine mammal populations in the region remain generally healthy and abundant. For hunters, access is the biggest challenge posed by changing conditions. Sea ice is less safe for travel, particularly for more southerly communities, making hunting more dangerous or impossible. Rapid break-up has reduced the time available for hunting amid broken ice in spring, formerly a dependable and preferred season. Social change also affects the ways in which hunting patterns change. Increased industrial development, for example, can also alter marine mammal distribution and reduce hunting opportunity. Reduced use of animal skins for clothing and other purposes has reduced demand. More powerful and reliable engines make day trips easier, reducing the time spent camping. An essential component of adjustment and adaptation to changing conditions is the retention of traditional values and the acquisition of new information to supplement traditional knowledge. Our findings are consistent with, and add detail to, what is known from previous traditional knowledge and scientific studies. The ways in which hunters gather new information and incorporate it into their existing understanding of the marine environment deserves further attention, both as a means of monitoring change and as a key aspect of adaptation. While the changes to date have been largely manageable, future prospects are unclear, as the effects of climate change are expected to continue in the region, and ecological change may accelerate. Social and regulatory change will continue to play a role in fostering or constraining the ability of hunters to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Local or Traditional Knowledge
The spawning dynamics of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals are not well understood. To address this uncertainty, we combined Fishermen’s Ecological Knowledge (FEK) with traditional scientific data to develop a more holistic understanding of cod spawning on Georges Bank. Data from historical reports, trawl surveys, fisheries observers, and ichthyoplankton surveys were used to describe the spatial and temporal distribution of cod spawning activity. We also collected FEK regarding cod spawning dynamics through semi-structured interviews (n = 40). The fishermen had detailed knowledge of the spatial and temporal distribution of cod spawning, and identified persistent fine-scale (i.e. <50 km2) spawning grounds that were often associated with specific habitat features, including spawning grounds that were previously unreported in the scientific literature. The spawning seasons and locations identified by fishermen generally agreed with information from traditional scientific data, but it was evident that seasonal scientific surveys lack the spatial and temporal resolution needed to fully characterize the distribution of cod spawning activity. Our results will help inform management measures designed to promote the rebuilding of Georges Bank cod, and also provide a basis for further investigations of cod spawning dynamics and stock structure.
Knowledge of the extent and intensity of fishing activities is critical to inform management in relation to fishing impacts on marine conservation features. Such information can also provide insight into the potential socio-economic impacts of closures (or other restrictions) of fishing grounds that could occur through the future designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). We assessed the accuracy and validity of fishing effort data (spatial extent and relative effort) obtained from Fishers’ Local Knowledge (LK) data compared to that derived from Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data for a high-value shellfish fishery, the king scallop (Pecten maximus L.) dredge fishery in the English Channel. The spatial distribution of fishing effort from LK significantly correlated with VMS data and the correlation increased with increasing grid cell resolution. Using a larger grid cell size for data aggregation increases the estimation of the total area of seabed impacted by the fishery. In the absence of historical VMS data for vessels ≤15 m LOA (Length Overall), LK data for the inshore fleet provided important insights into the relative effort of the inshore (<6 NM from land) king scallop fishing fleet in the English Channel. The LK data provided a good representation of the spatial extent of inshore fishing activity, whereas representation of the offshore fishery was more precautionary in terms of defining total impact. Significantly, the data highlighted frequently fished areas of particular importance to the inshore fleet. In the absence of independent sources of geospatial information, the use of LK can inform the development of marine planning in relation to both sustainable fishing and conservation objectives, and has application in both developed and developing countries where VMS technology is not utilised in fisheries management.
Fisheries policy and management processes for federal waters off western Alaska currently lack consistent and considered integration of traditional knowledge (TK), TK holders, social science of TK, and subsistence information. The incorporation of these into fisheries work can lead to more informed, equitable and effective policy and management practices. This paper includes information and recommendations derived from previous work by the authors as well as from two community workshops with indigenous TK holders and fisheries experts. Discussions of TK and related concepts, TK research in the Bering Strait and Yukon River regions, and Alaska federal fisheries management-related institutions and processes as pertains to TK are presented. Substantive recommendations are provided for improving processes, increasing tribal representation, capacity building, effective communication, outreach and relationship-building, the incorporation of indigenous concerns and values, and regarding the development of a Fisheries Ecosystem Plan for the Bering Sea.
Bycatch mortality is a significant driver of marine mammal population declines. However, there is little information available on patterns or magnitude of bycatch mortality in many heavily fished Asian marine systems such as the South China Sea (SCS). To address this limited knowledge base, we conducted interviews with fishers to gather local ecological knowledge on marine mammal bycatch around Hainan Island, China. Gillnets were the primary fishing gear used in local fisheries, and were also responsible for the majority of reported marine mammal bycatch events in recent decades. Bycatch events were reported from all seasons but were most frequent in spring (38.4%), which might relate to seasonal variation in fishing activities. The spatial pattern of relative bycatch densities for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises and unidentified small dolphins varied around Hainan and neighbouring waters. A substantial proportion of informants (36.1 and 9.2% respectively) reported that they have eaten or sold marine mammal meat, demonstrating the continued existence of cultural practices of consuming marine mammals on Hainan. Responses of fishers to bycatch events were dependent both on their existing attitudes and perceptions towards marine mammals and on other sociocultural factors. Almost half of informants agreed that marine mammal populations in the SCS have decreased. Declines were thought by informants to have been caused by overfishing, water pollution and vessel collisions, with bycatch responsible for further declines in dolphins.
Fishing experience and skills are not commonly considered in recreational fishery studies. To analyse potential different biological/ecological impacts of three experience levels of spearfishers (novice, intermediate and experienced), access point surveys were conducted over a period of 10 months in São Miguel Island (Azores archipelago). Groups differed in terms of catch rate and composition, species size and vulnerability (i.e. intrinsic vulnerability index of fishes to fishing). Experienced spearfishers explored different areas along the island coast, fished deeper and farther off shore, were more selective regarding fish size and target species, reached higher catch weights and had catches with a higher mean index of vulnerability. Results suggest that catch composition and rate not only depend on fish community and ecosystem health, but also on the expertise of the fishers who operate in a given area. Consequently, scientific studies should consider fishers’ experience in the survey design and data analysis to not over- or underestimate their potential impact.
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.
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.