Since Warren Morrill’s 1967 article addressing the knowledge of the Caribbean fishermen about fish behavior, scientists have studied fishermen’s ecological knowledge on the marine environment. And that is for a good reason, several studies have shown since then that fishermen have detailed historical and current information on ecological, behavioral processes, size and distribution of fish stocks. Fishermen have also provided insights on best ways to manage fisheries. However, the recognition of such knowledge has not been a smooth process by the academia, and the topic is still hotly debated.
The article "Matching fishers' knowledgeand landing date to overcome missing data in small-scale fisheries" shows an important use of fishermen's knowledge: it could potentially provide fishing data for data poor areas. Such areas are predominantly tropical developing countries, where small-scale fisheries usually prevail. Such type of fisheries has a multi-species nature, with many scattered landing sites, which hinders the registration of fishing information.
In this article, 82 fishermen ranked the abundance of fish species, which allowed the calculation of Capture Per Unit Effort (CPUE) for 2013, 2003 and 1993. These CPUE were contrasted to other available data sources: scientific sampling of fish landing (2013) governmental statistics (2003), and information provided by expert fishers (1993), respectively. Even though fishermen were really good at providing information about their best catches, their memory was a bit sloppy when it came to remembering average catches, which are those that do not stand out in their daily catches or in their daily chats. Besides showing that fishermen’s knowledge has some caveats, these findings also have implications for management. Even though management is based on official data, fishermen will continue believing in their own perception of CPUE, threatening the success of any management action, unless such action is followed by some close education work at the fishing community. As a conclusion, this study also suggests that, despite the shortcomings, fishermen’s knowledge is still relevant, especially when there is no other information available for comparison, as long as we bear in mind that fishermen will be more likely to remember their best moments.
Morril, W.T. Ethnoichthyology of the Cha-Cha. Ethnology, 1967.
by Ludmila de Melo Alves Damasio