First Meeting for Norway’s Fishermen & Scientists

Scientists from the Institute for Marine Research (IMR) and local fishers met to discuss how best to estimate the coastal cod, and how to draw on both fishers experience based knowledge and science.


As presented at the GAP2 kick off meeting in London (2011), they agreed upon using acoustic equipment, together with biological sampling (otoliths, length and weight, see also pictures below). In order to ensure that the quality of the data is good enough and in the same format that the other data that the IMR collects throughout the year, it was decided that the acoustic gear should be the same as the research vessel (ES70).
This echo sounder produces a video (rather than just snapshots) that can be analysed by scientists or any other trained person. In combination with biological sampling, fishers can collect data that can flow into the knowledge production for stock assessment, since it is a) same format (quantitative and fits the Regfisk program used by the IMR) b) fishers have been trained by the authorized expert institution c) data is produced according to scientific principles (i.e. can be traced back to where and how it is generated).

What is the role of fishers’ experience based knowledge and science?

There is not, at least at the outset, a basic difference between scientific and other forms of knowledge. Science is a type of local knowledge that utilizes a few mundane tricks – counting, writing and the utilization of a bunch of material devices – to make itself harder and stronger: Scientists are explicitly and intensely preoccupied with refining and testing their knowledge claims, fishers are more interested in fishing. With the support of the laboratory (where knowledge chains can be constructed) and methods for testing and authorizing knowledge (like peer review) scientists get to be empowered. If stakeholders with experience based knowledge adopted the same type of strategies, it could also empower them. This means, as suggested by several scholars, that there is no unbridgeable gap between science and non-science. If we want to engage stakeholders in knowledge production and advice, there are many possible ways to ensure their participation.
So how are the Steigen fishers included with GAP 2? Fishers have been a part of asking questions in the early stages of the project, making hypothesis and formulating research questions. During several meetings, fishers and scientists has discussed what methods would be best to achieve what they want. While the first idea was to use CPUE data, the fishers preferred the acoustic methods suggested by the IMR scientists. Normally, such acoustic data/biological sampling is collected during surveys, and in the case of the coastal cod in the Steigen area, this entails one survey a year, covering only a small portion of the coastal area in Steigen.
In this project, the fishers are collecting acoustic data/biological samples every time they go out to fish, in the areas where they know where to find fish. In addition to using their experience based knowledge, the fishers will also collect data once or twice a year following a survey route defined by scientists. In the case of the coastal cod (and the NEA cod) the role of spawning areas is crucial, and fishers use their experience based knowledge about where to find fish and where these spawning areas are.
Fishers have generations of experience based knowledge that they can draw on, and the IMR has been doing data collection since 1900. The IMR are experts at setting up reliable knowledge chains that makes it possible for data to flow in to this Centre of Calculation (the IMR, the ICES) from anywhere: the Barents Sea, the entire Norwegian Coast and of particular importance here – from Steigen. The data collected by the fisher is sent to the IMR (the acoustic data is recorded on a USB pen, and the biological samples are punched into the Regfisk program), where scientists does a quality check and it is stored in the IMRs data bank.

The big question is: will the data be put to work by science?


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