Lessons Learned from Reconstructing Interactions between Local Ecological Knowledge, Fisheries Science, and Fisheries Management in the Commercial Fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

By Murray, Grant; Neis, Barbara et al. | Human Ecology, August 2006 | Go to article overview

Lessons Learned from Reconstructing Interactions between Local Ecological Knowledge, Fisheries Science, and Fisheries Management in the Commercial Fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada


Murray, Grant, Neis, Barbara, Johnsen, Jahn Petter, Human Ecology


Published online: 13 April 2006

Questions centered on the development of local and traditional ecological knowledge and the relationship of that knowledge to the development of conservation and management practices have recently attracted critical attention. We examine these questions with respect to the dynamic commercial fisheries of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The knowledge of fish harvesters coevolves with fishing practices and is embedded in a dynamic socioecological network that extends into and beyond the fisher, fishery households, and communities to include management, technologies, markets, and marine ecological conditions. Changes in these networks have moved knowledge and practices related to fishing in directions defined by policy, science, economic rationality, and new ecological realities. We characterize this movement as a shift along a continuum from local ecological knowledge (LEK) towards globalized harvesting knowledge (GHK) as harvesters become increasingly disconnected from socioecological relationships associated with traditional species and stocks. We conclude with a discussion of how LEK/GHK have interacted over time and space with other knowledge systems (particularly science) to influence management, and suggest that contingent, empirical evaluations of these interactions will provide a fruitful avenue for future interdisciplinary research.

KEY WORDS: local ecological knowledge; fisheries management; Newfoundland and Labrador.

INTRODUCTION

In the context of a growing lack of confidence in centralized, scientific fisheries management some researchers and policymakers have called for an increased role for fishers in the production of knowledge used in management decisions, and for a movement toward collaborative management arrangements that involve mixtures of collective, state, and for some advocates, private control over marine resources (Apostle et al., 2002; Felt et al., 1997; Grafton, 1993; Mansfield, 2004; Neis and Felt, 2000; Neis et al., 1999; Pinkerton, 1990, 1994). In the period following the collapse of the Northern cod stocks off the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) wants to increase the participation of fishers in management and to include their knowledge in assessing cod stocks and designing management regimes. Related to these initiatives, an important emerging research focus is the ways that fishers' (and other natural resource users) knowledge is created and how it develops in a society. Another emerging area of interest involves questions that center on how conservation and management practices develop in a society (see the other contributions to this issue).

This paper addresses these issues in the context of the commercial fisheries of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These fisheries, with dynamic, international, commercial histories stretching back over 500 years, are significantly different from many of the fisheries that have been the focus of research concerning resource users' local or traditional ecological knowledge (LEK, TEK). Studying knowledge production and change in these fisheries provides an opportunity to explore local knowledge creation and development and their relationship to conservation and management where fishing as a livelihood is tightly woven into the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the community, yet where heterogeneous fisheries have become increasingly market-driven, technologically intense, 'scientifically managed,' capital intensive, and are operating in the context of dramatic and rapid ecological change. (4)

We start from the premise that fisheries are best approached as socioecological networks within which such different knowledge systems as local knowledge, natural science, governance and social science, and many different groups of human and natural actors have interacted at different spatial, temporal, and organizational scales to shape the history of fish and fisheries (Murray et al. …

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