Fishermen and scientists working closer together –

Fishermen and scientists working closer together Published:  05 September, 2011

An important change is underway in the relationship between fishermen and fisheries science with closer collaboration between the two , says the NFFO.

It concedes that even in the recent past it was not uncommon for the fishing industry to utterly reject the validity and worth of fisheries science and fish stock assessments in particular.

At the same time fisheries scientists tended to view the fishing industry, at best as uneducated about the intricacies of their work or, at worst, a toxic mix of naive short-term self-interest and belligerence. While strands of these attitudes remain in both camps, it is now more common to find fishermen and their organisations working in close collaboration with fisheries scientists, arriving at shared conclusions about the state of the stocks and jointly developing solutions to the challenges facing fisheries.

So what has underpinned this change? Ever since the international marine and fisheries body, ICES, was established in Copenhagen in 1902 to provide objective, impartial, scientific advice to the governments which funded it, close dialogue and collaboration with the fishing industry was perceived to risk the very impartiality and objectivity that was part of its founding ethos.

This mindset led to a very distant relationship between fishermen and scientists for a very long time. Any contact with the fishing industry was through very long and formal lines of communication; as a result scientists, policy makers and fishing industry heavily compartmentalised.

The NFFO says: “While the fishing industry still enjoys robust exchanges with fisheries scientists on the quality of the stock assessments. The difference is that these now take place within the context of a widespread system of collaboration and dialogue.

“These are constructive, purposeful discussions from which both parties benefit. They mark an evolution within the fishing industry but equally they have required fisheries scientists to move away from their customary distant relations with the fishery towards a more collaborative approach. These developments have taken time and contain a number of different strands.”

The Federation adds: “The past decade has seen important progress in the development of a high level of dialogue and collaboration between the fishing industry and fisheries scientists. After reaching rock bottom at the turn of the century,with the effective collapse of many aspects of the management and assessment systems, both groups are now working within a range of different initiatives to strengthen the evidence base on which important policy decisions are made. This has involved abandoning an outdated compartmentalisation which has been a barrier to communication and collaboration in the past. The media presentation of omniscient scientists and fishermen as pantomime villains departs from reality and does no justice to either group – and certainly doesn’t help us deal with the challenges that we jointly face. Hopefully this article will go some way to redressing that imbalance.”

“Although much progress has been made already, the NFFO has high ambitions for the future. Much has been achieved but equally there is much more to be achieved in travelling down this road together.”