Policy Briefing 4: GAP2 International Symposium

'Mutual benefits' -­‐ one of the images featured in an original photographic exhibition, which had its first showing at the GAP2 symposium.

‘Mutual benefits’ -­‐ one of the images featured in an original photographic exhibition, which had its first showing at the GAP2 symposium.

During February 2015, over 180 fishers, scientists and policy makers from around the world descended upon the city of Barcelona, for three days of discussion and interaction on the theme of ‘participatory research and co-management in fisheries’. 

The event (24th – 26th February) marked and celebrated the upcoming conclusion of the European Commission-funded GAP2 Project.

The GAP team would like to thank everyone who took part in the symposium for their insightful contributions and participative approach across the three days.

This brief shares some of the overall messages from the GAP2 symposium, as well as key agreed points relating to the challenges and opportunities arising from participatory research – structured session by session. Key quotes and comments from speakers are also included.

  • Access further materials from the event, including presentations, GAP2’s ‘Participatory Research Handbook’ and event videos here. Watch panel sessions from the event here.
  • Further information on the ‘Co-Management in the Mediterranean’ workshop will shortly be circulated by our colleagues at the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar, and the WWF Med Programme.

Take home messages from GAP2 Coordinator, Dr Steven Mackinson.

  • There is an appetite for continued transition towards collective, bottom-up action, whereby stakeholders share responsibility for developing solutions to problems.
  • Solutions are warmly received by the policy world. We need to be creative in finding solutions that fit into constitutional frameworks, but that are adaptable to change, and perhaps also a catalyst for change.
  • Co-management arrangements are a powerful tool for establishing the sense of rights required for change. We need to look for the opportunities to create conditions in which co-management can flourish.
  • We heard repeatedly that there are no boundaries where there is a (collective) will.
Delegates stand to show unanimous agreement with the statement "Involving stakeholders in research and management is essential to fisheries sustainability"

Delegates stand to show unanimous agreement with the statement “Involving stakeholders in research and management is essential to fisheries sustainability”

  • The future is embedding participatory approaches (research and management) in the management framework. There are five layers to this, moving at different speeds: local government, regional government, national government, the European stage, and EU + other international structure (eg. EU- Norway, RFMOs, GFCM etc).
  • Fishers’ roles are changing from observers in regulation-making processes, to protagonists. This will develop alongside fishers taking increasing responsibility for managing their own fisheries.
  • The fact that we are all in silos, between which we need to bridge the GAP, is a weakness but also a strength. The silos also contain our disciplinary expertise, which we need.

What is ‘participatory research’ and why does it matter?

Facilitated by Dr Martin Pastoors, Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association

Panellists: Dr Steven Mackinson, GAP2 Coordinator, CEFAS; Dr Robert Stephenson, CFRN; Antonio Scarafino, DG Research & Innovation; Christian Olesen, Danish Pelagic Producers’ Organisation.

Overview: A moderated conversation between panelists and audience, exploring the nature of participatory research and its relevance today.

Agreed points:

  • A ‘gap’ remains, where policy makers need to be more involved in and invested in participatory research processes. Governance could be more responsive.
  • In Europe, the number of different layers of governance involved, and different countries, can make implementing change difficult.
  • Participatory research can bring about greater compliance with policy, due to the sense of ‘ownership’ created by directly involving fishers in research design and processes.
  • Incentives for participation in research, for all parties, need to be addressed for both the short and long term. This may be a case of better educating all parties as to the possible benefits and challenges. Alternatively, more concrete incentives in the short term may be required to ensure participation, leading to improved results in the long term.

Further comments from the panel:

  • Ideally, participatory research should be part of a wider movement to make scientific research more accessible to the public. Research papers [on this topic] should be made open-access.
  • NGOs have an important role to play in participatory research projects, but have been missing from many. Don’t ignore them– they have specific role to play and funding to offer.

Why collaborate? A fisher’s perspective.

Facilitated by Benoît Guerin, fisher & international consultant

Panellists: Jan Andersen, SFA Norway & GAP2 Steigen Case Study; Alan Steer, Fishing into the Future & GAP2 Devon Case Study; Mart Undrest, Estonian Fishermen’s Association, & GAP2 Estonia Case Study; David Stevens, Crystal Sea Fishing.

Overview: A fishers-only panel, in which the benefits of, and obstacles to, participatory research were discussed.

Scientist Saša Raicevich encourages participants in an activity as part of a workshop on social science methods for incorporating fishers into research.

Scientist Saša Raicevich encourages participants in an activity as part of a workshop on social science methods for incorporating fishers into research.

Agreed points:

  • All productive collaboration starts with good personal contact, and time invested to build a working relationship.
  • Fishers’ involvement in participatory research projects is rooted in a genuine desire to preserve stocks, and to make policy able to do this via data and knowledge exchange.
  • Fishermen have confidence in data that they have provided.
  • Collaboration requires a ‘common language’ – this helps to build trust and inclusivity.
  • The main obstacle to collaboration for fishers is often their ability to contribute time from a busy schedule, where they are often away from land.

Further comments from the panel:

  • Many fishers see it as their duty to be data collectors for their fisheries, but others now see their roles as much more complex than this, and want to be involved in all aspects of research. Fishers want to provide real-time data, but the time delay between data delivery and operational management can be frustrating.
  • The panel agreed more policy makers need to be involved in participatory research processes, and policy needs to be more responsive and adaptive. A query raised by the panel was how to bridge this gap to policy makers and achieve this, given that much policy is made across borders, and by the EC.

Overcoming barriers – participatory research for policy makers.

Facilitated by Antonio Scarafino, DG Research & Innovation

Panelists: Allan Gibb, Sea Fisheries Operations, Scottish Government; Joost Pardekooper, DG Maritime Affairs & Fisheries; Nicola Ferri, General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, FAO; Rosario Puyuelo, Director General of Fisheries for Catalonia.

Overview: A policy-makers only panel session in which national, regional, and international policy officials offered their perspectives on what participatory research has to offer to management, and how.

Agreed points:

  • In order to build constructive dialogue, the interests of all parties need to be clearly stated at the outset of the research project.
  • The slow pace of change can be disheartening: explaining and setting expectations can help ameliorate this.
  • Through FAO voluntary guidelines for sustaining food security and poverty eradication, we have a legal (non-binding) framework for fishers’ participation and co-management, which can be used on a national scale. This embodies a basis from which to start.
  • Policy makers have a duty of care to form a rounded perspective – being aware of vulnerable areas of the fishing fleet, and understanding social dynamics.
  • Mobile technology may offer opportunities for greater stakeholder participation, and should be explored innovatively.
Further comments from the panel:
  • Fishing is a complex policy area, with several different policy frameworks: this may create a barrier to forwarding any solution, especially as fishers already have to abide by a complex set of rules day to day.

From the horse’s mouth – personal experiences of participation.

One of the key messages from Dr Pablo Pita Orduna's presentation.

One of the key messages from Dr Pablo Pita Orduna’s presentation.

Facilitated by Dr Sasa Raicevich, ISPRA

‘Data collection by fishers is not rewarded with financial compensation, but by the sampling itself…collaborating with scientists provides the scientific support to make fishing sustainable, thus ensuring the viability of fishers’ communities in the long term’ – Kevin Squires, Canadian Fisheries Research Network

‘Policy makers were involved in the process from the very beginning of the [research] activities, especially at local level, whilst the involvement of the national level was slower. [It] is now being effectively used to collaboratively address emerging issues, such as the contamination of fish’ – Dr Alfred Sandström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

The secret is to get in touch with fishers with an open mind, and adjust technical solutions according to the fishing strategies and techniques of each single vessel, getting onboard and discussing all the problems with the skipper and the crew’ – Rory Crawford, Birdlife International

‘Mutual learning events were a key to progress in this field, because they allowed the sharing of knowledge and the establishing of a common ground and understanding of problems and possible solutions’ – Dr Robert Aps, University of Tartu

‘Fishers are themselves stakeholders, like other institutional entities. Providing fishers with these [assessment] tools enables them to better track the status of the resources they are exploiting, and to secure this source of food and income in the future’ – Dr Jeremy Prince, Biospherics

‘There is a need to construct stable systems for collaboration to be effective. Working together is a time-consuming and long-term process – without securing financial support for allowing collaboration to obtain tangible results, it is difficult to ensure a long-lasting collaboration’ – Dr Pablo Pita Orduna, A Coruña University

Widening participation in the event.

Understanding that not everyone, and particularly active fishers, could make it to the event in Barcelona, we wanted to ensure as many people as possible could participate in the symposium online – it wasn’t just those in the room who attended!

Twitter: Over 500 tweets were sent with the hashtag ‘#GAP2IS’, generating over 144,000 impressions on Twitter.

Facebook: Do visit our page to see photos from the event, and for information on where you can access post-event materials over the coming weeks.

Bambuser: We live-streamed all panel sessions and presentations from the GAP2 symposium via Bambuser. Total views for the symposium footage are now over 650. You can still view the event ‘on demand’ here.


If you have any queries relating to the event, contact Lauren Weir or Katrina Borrow.

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