Maiken Bjorkan’s Blog: Who are stakeholders?

From November 2013 until March 2014, Maiken, a social anthropologist based in Norway, will be living and working in Spain. Working with fishermen and scientists involved in the Red Shrimp case study, Maiken will be studying how management plans are implemented from a “people perspective”. You can read all her blog posts here.

In my last post, I told you about my experiences from my week in Palamos interviewing fishers. Now, I am trying to get the perspective of the others stakeholders, namely policy makers and scientists. Last week I interviewed Giulia Goreli, who is doing her PhD on the red shrimp, and two policy makers that have been involved in the LTMP process from the beginning.

This brings me to an important methodological aspect, namely who we define as stakeholders. I think this is important for all of us that are working with GAP2, since it affects what “glasses” we use to see the world. Hence, let’s take a little tour into stakeholder theory.

Stakeholder Theory

As mentioned in my introductory post, a key assumption is that stakeholders’ participation will make fisheries management more democratic and hence legitimate, ensuring compliance and sustainability in the long run. This body of literature also discusses important questions such as who can be stakeholders and how to empower stakeholders.

When you think about it, there has been quite a big change in who are considered stakeholders in fisheries over the last few decades. For instance, environmental organizations such as WWF were not automatically seen as having a stake in fisheries, but now their role is well established and their interests are considered as urgent and important. So, it is easy to just take for granted who we consider stakeholders, which is why I want to address that we should take a moment to consider both who we consider as legitimate stakeholders and if you consider yourself as a stakeholder.

As we have been working on the Methodological Tool Box, I have noticed that for some reason, we (aka GAP2) often refer to fishers as stakeholders and scientists as scientists. But is that correct – I mean, doesn’t that affect how we think: Don’t scientists have a stake? Are we (biologist, sociologists, ecologists or whatever) by definition objective and neutral? How do we get a salary? Do you consider yourself as having a stake or not?

It may be practical to talk about ourselves as stakeholders and scientists, and an easy way to categorize and address “stuff”. Still, I think it is important to reflect on how we use categories ourselves in GAP2, since it affects the GAP we are hoping to bridge. Hence, I suggest we take a moment to consider: who are stakeholders and why? If you are more interested in these issues, these two articles are from the fisheries context:

Petter Holm (leader WP2 and WP4 and my PhD supervisor) is visiting this week. So, in my next post I will tell you more about the trip we are taking to Girona and Palamos.


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