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Applications of Fishers' Local Ecological Knowledge to Better Understand and Manage Tropical Fisheries

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Small-scale and local fisheries are difficult to manage. This is due to the diversity of fishing resources exploited by fishing communities spread over a large region, coupled with the scarcity of funding and people to conduct fisheries surveys. However, local fishers usually posses detailed local ecological knowledge (LEK), which is a potentially useful, but undervalued, tool to improve fisheries management in tropical developing countries. The goal of this chapter is to provide a review of current literature, addressing three major approaches. First, fishers have provided useful and original data about fish biology and ecology, including aspects less known by scientists, such as reproduction, migration and trophic interactions. Such local knowledge may provide guidelines and hypotheses to advise biological studies. Second, although most studies have addressed fishers' LEK about fish or other exploited resources, fishers also often interact with other aquatic animals, such as cetaceans (whales and dolphins), which prey on fish, sometimes resulting in cetaceans becoming entangled in fishing nets. Recent surveys show that fishers' knowledge about these aquatic mammals may be useful, not only to provide scientific data, but also to support dialogue between managers and fishers that may reduce the impacts of fisheries on cetaceans. Third, in many tropical fisheries, statistics on fish landings are either absent or from a short time scale and data are often incomplete. Therefore, scientists and managers usually have limited information about the dynamics and abundance trends of fish stocks. However, fishers, especially the experienced ones, are usually knowledgeable about fish abundance and catch trends from well before scientific data started to be collected. Such local knowledge may thus provide an invaluable (and perhaps unique) opportunity to reconstruct fish dynamics over the long term. These research areas indicate promising ways to apply fishers' LEK in fisheries and natural resources management before both local fishers and their exploited resources disappear.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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