Fishermen learning exchanges for conservation: An examination of lessons learned
Overfishing, the leading social-ecological problem in the marine realm, has modified ecosystem functioning and is jeopardizing the well-being of the billion people that depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. Over the past decade, fisher learning exchanges, in which representatives from different fisher communities are brought together to share knowledge, have become key tools in improving fisheries management. Fisher exchanges are regarded as effective by both organizers and participants for a) sharing fisheries challenges and solutions (both between and within fleets); b) empowering fisher leaders; c) creating communities of practice and building social capital; and d) in developing conservation solutions. To date however, no comparative analysis of the effectiveness of fisher learning exchanges has been made, despite the large investments in them by NGOs and federal agencies, including NOAA Fisheries, The Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund. Given the urgency of fishery management challenges plus ever scarcer conservation and fisheries management resources, this team of fisheries scientists will conduct an interdisciplinary workshop to begin to objectively assess the effectiveness of fisher exchanges and to identify key attributes that can enhance their success of using methods, including focus groups, interviews, and reflexive discourses. We will synthesize these attributes into an actionable research plan to guide a subsequent two phase field research program on fisher learning exchanges.