//
you're reading...

Coastal Management

Beyond word of mouth: How local knowledge can fill fisheries data gaps

Journal source:

Eckert, L. E, N. C., Ban, A. Frid, and M. McGreer.  2017.  Diving back in time: Extending historical baselines for yelloweye rockfish with Indigenous knowledge.  Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst 2017:1-9. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2834

Fisheries declines, a global concern

A commercial fishing boat. Photo credit: Wiki Commons.

Many culturally and commercially-important fish species, including tuna and mackerel, are experiencing dramatic population declines, some by as much as 75%. However, the extent of such declines is not fully understood, as this is limited by the availability of biological survey data. Although the majority of marine fisheries studies rely on quantitative data to give concise estimates of population declines, unconventional data sources are increasingly used to estimate baselines of data-poor fish species. Unconventional data sources include traditional and local ecological knowledge (TEK and LEK, respectively). LEK refers to a lifetime of accumulated ecological observations, while TEK is composed of similar observations, passed inter-generationally, and woven into the fabric of Indigenous peoples’ culture, practices, and beliefs.

Integrating past with present

TEK and LEK are recognized for their ability to complement ecological data and improve fisheries management. Because of their geographical, cultural, and subsistence ties to marine resources and coastal ecosystems, Indigenous and local communities possess valuable knowledge about species that are scientifically data-poor. Many of these people have been fishing their entire lives, and their accounts of “good and bad” years for certain fish species represent a crucial perspective for assessing long-term changes in fisheries. You may have experienced TEK or LEK if you’ve talked to fishermen or people whose lives are closely tied to coastal ecosystems; these people may share invaluable insight about changes in the landscape that scientific surveys may overlook.

Why is this important?

Due to the interwoven aspect of culture, tradition, and fisheries, TEK and LEK from fishers and Indigenous knowledge holders can expand current understanding of changes in species and inform fisheries conservation goals.

The study

Archaeological evidence indicates that First Nations of coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada, have harvested Yelloweye Rockfish, an important cultural and economic resource, consistently for at least 1800 years. This fish species is very long-lived (up to 118 years!!), and adults of the species inhabit deep waters and rocky outcrops. Recently, First Nations of BC’s Central Coast have observed declines of Yelloweye Rockfish and other rockfish, which they attribute primarily to over-exploitation by commercial and recreational fishers.

Yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus. Photo credit: Wiki Commons.

While Yelloweye rockfish are important resources of the First Nations, this species is also targeted by commercial fishers. They are also vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow life history traits and their susceptibility to barotrauma when they are brought to the surface by fishers. As part of their slow growth, their reproductive potential increases with size and age; since fishers tend to target larger individuals, Yelloweye Rockfish likely suffer reduced population productivity. Because of these factors, this fish is listed as a species of special concern in Canada.

Map of the study area, the coast of British Columbia. Photo credit: Wiki Commons.

The authors’ goal was to use the Central Coast of BC as a case study to illustrate the use of TEK and LEK to establish historical baselines that extend farther back in time than modern scientific surveys. To do this, the authors interviewed Indigenous fishers of the First Nations of British Columbia. Interviewees were asked about changes in yelloweye rockfish catch size, abundance, body length, and perceived causes of changes to rockfish populations. Most participants provided information about their earliest and most recent years of fishing experience, which aided the authors’ analysis of changes in rockfish over time. Responses of the participants were compared with current biological survey data to determine if these two distinct data sources presented similar trends in yelloweye rockfish populations.

Results

Of the 42 First Nations community members that participated in the interviews, most observed a decrease in individual yelloweye rockfish length since the 1980s. Nearly 98% of respondents also reported that they noticed a substantial decrease in abundance of yelloweye and other rockfishes since the 1950s.

As the authors expected, the information provided by Indigenous fishers aligned with scientific surveys that have reported declining yelloweye rockfish body sizes. This illustrates just how valuable it can be to take into account local knowledge when assessing changes in species over decadal timescales.

Participants were asked what they thought were the major stressors responsible for observed decline in yelloweye rockfish populations. Nearly 50% of respondents said that commercial trawling was a major driver in yelloweye rockfish abundance declines. Others reported the longline fishery, sports fishing, forestry impacts, earthquakes, and climate change as important factors.

About 90% of participants told the authors that they had noticed the impacts of climate change over their lifetimes, mainly in the form of less snowpack during milder winters, and hotter and drier summers. Though it is difficult to attribute declines in rockfish abundance strictly to changing climate, respondents acknowledged that changing water temperatures could have impacts on rockfish in the foreseeable future. Speaking of the future, nearly one-third of respondents expressed concerns about fisheries stock depletions, which would lead to loss of cultural traditions, diet, and language.

The bigger picture

This study illustrates how TEK and LEK can be gathered and used to establish historical baseline estimates that reach back further in time than scientific surveys. We live in a time in which our oceans are increasingly threatened by a growing number of stressors, it is important to call back to the past, to integrate local societal observations of changes in marine resources with ongoing research.

A snapshot of the coast of British Columbia, highlighting the development of coastlines. Featured image. Photo credit: Wiki Commons

An important implication from this study is that the future of yelloweye rockfish may be compromised if larger individuals that have higher reproductive potential continue to be collected by commercial fishers.

The methods used in this study can be applied to other fisheries around the world. In addition, by interviewing Indigenous community members, the authors provided an opportunity for increased community engagement and potential for fisheries management to uphold Indigenous rights.

Hopefully, this study will inspire other local and tradition-based knowledge to be incorporated into the framework of scientific marine surveys and conservation planning.

Discussion

One Response to “Beyond word of mouth: How local knowledge can fill fisheries data gaps”

  1. Great points. If there was a easy to use, and also available for these costal communities website to accumulate data like this im sure we could cover much of those grey areas. In Fiji I always speak with the local fishermen from all across Oceana and their responses always vary, but they do not record the information at a data base. Im sure such initiatives could be created with a push or two from local community administrations if not government intensives among the fisheries.

    Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Fredrik Aspestrand | December 6, 2017, 6:37 am

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 3 weeks ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com