Local ecological knowledge, the benthos and the epistemologies of inshore fishing

  • Jeremy Anbleyth-Evans

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The thesis presents a re-theorisation of inshore fishers’ Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) of the benthos in Southern England. The benthos needs greater consideration as European Union and United Kingdom assessments of marine stocks continue only to quantify demersal stocks, rather than considering the benthic ecology of the seabed. There is also a gap in knowledge, concerning the changing nature of fisher LEK of inshore fishers.

    This doctoral research was initiated with participant observation of the fishing techniques of inshore fishers around the South of England. These revealed different approaches to learning about the seabed benthos, and the impacts of different fishing techniques. This informed the questions used in semistructured interviews with fishers in 24 fishing harbours located around Southern England. They were selected to ensure different influences were considered, including proximity to over 10m fishers, ports, industrial development activities and different conservation challenges. Sixty fishers were interviewed, including both skippers and crew members.

    Previous definitions of LEK have related to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). These TEK definitions have been based on the cultural transmission of knowledge in indigenous communities. Differently the critical realist framework applied in this thesis, facilitates a new understanding of fisher LEK by examining how actions are changed into outcomes through mechanisms which have influenced fisher LEK and / or combined fisher LEK with scientific knowledge.

    The originality of this thesis includes an examination of how broad mechanisms of scientific research, technology, and governance contribute to the development of fisher LEK of the benthos. Previous research has suggested that LEK is simply becoming universally available global harvesting knowledge (GHK). This research proposes the original view that recent interactions of fisher knowledge with scientific knowledge, through specific mechanisms including boundary spanners in conservation programmes, discarding assessments, new technologies and habitat mapping have transformed fisher LEK. Under a second broad mechanism of technology, the specific mechanisms shaping fisher LEK include more accessible techniques for sensing and recording the seabed, new telecommunication forms between fishers, and new social media.

    The third broad mechanism of changing governance includes an
    emerging social movement of fishers as a specific mechanism which influences fisher LEK. This specific mechanism has seen knowledge adapting to demonstrate its compatibility with scientific quota assessment, challenging the quota property rights assigned to the over 10m fleet. The broad mechanism of changing governance identifies that fisher LEK has also changed through threats to habitats and livelihoods, including industrial fishing, port development, aggregate dredging and wind energy, initiating responses from fishers and in some cases key stakeholders.

    The thesis sets out how the current system of marine governance could be improved to support the inclusion of LEK that affords an integration of fisher knowledge with scientific evidence. The findings of this doctoral research suggest that improved marine management outcomes require political changes and emancipatory mechanisms, in order to move towards a marine democracy and healthier seas through interactions between fishers, scientists and governance. This thesis has proposed new term for the epistemic rights of fishers, their Pescastemic Rights, the right to a way of knowing as well as a right to be included in research and governance processes.
    Date of AwardJun 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorAndrew Church (Supervisor), Vicky Johnson (Supervisor) & Judith Watson (Supervisor)

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