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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special issue - July 2005   
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FISHERIES
Title  Integrating traditional know-how

The 19 partners from Europe, Africa and Asia working on the Knowfish project are looking to draw on the local knowledge of fishermen as regards managing fisheries resources. RTD info reviews this successful example of co-operation between the natural and human sciences at work in Vietnam.

Nam Dinh – In Vietnam, sea produce, whether consumed locally or exported, is the sole source of revenue for 8 million people. © Do Thi Minh Duc
Nam Dinh – In Vietnam, sea produce, whether consumed locally or exported, is the sole source of revenue for 8 million people.
© Do Thi Minh Duc
With a coastline of over 3 400 km and a maritime area of a million square kilometres, much of the Vietnamese economy is based on fishing. Whether consumed locally (11 kg per inhabitant per year) or sold abroad (Vietnam’s second export), sea produce is the sole source of revenue for 8 million Vietnamese. It is small wonder therefore that the Vietnamese fishing fleet has developed to the point – especially over the past decade – where the exploitation of aquatic resources has reached its limits, not only along its coasts but also in the deeper offshore waters. The question now is how to reduce or avoid overfishing.

Sociologists and biologists
Can participatory management provide a solution? That is the question the 19 partners from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia working on the Knowfish (Knowledge in Fisheries Management) project are seeking to answer. Launched in January 2002 with EU funding of €1 400 000 (out of a total cost close to €2 000 000), Knowfish is studying seven fisheries in Africa and Asia, two of them in Vietnam: one in the south, in the Dam Doï area (Mekong Delta), the other in the centre, in Khanh Hoa Province. 

"The aim is to identify a knowledge base that can be shared by the fishing communities and managing agencies as a means of establishing the kind of participatory management that is seen as necessary for effective action. This requires a multidisciplinary approach and one of the project’s most interesting aspects is that it enables social scientists and natural scientists to co-operate at each site,” stresses Poul Degnbol, Knowfish scientific coordinator and director of the Institute of Fisheries Management (Denmark). For Khoa Hoa Province, for example, sociologists from the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research (Norway), the Hanoi Pedagogical University (Vietnam) and the Institute for Fisheries Economics and Planning (Vietnam) worked alongside biologists from Wargeningen University (the Netherlands), the Danish Institute for Fisheries Research (Denmark), and the Research Institute for Marine Products (Vietnam).

Shared indicators?
Port of Thanh Hoa (Vietnam) – "A series of indicators for sustainable fisheries development was identified, reflecting the traditional know-how of fishermen and the knowledge borne of research.”
Port of Thanh Hoa (Vietnam) – "A series of indicators for sustainable fisheries development was identified, reflecting the traditional know-how of fishermen and the knowledge borne of research.”
© Do Thi Minh Duc
"In Khoa Hoa Province, as elsewhere, the task was to identify a series of indicators for sustainable fishery resources reflecting the traditional know-how of fishermen and the knowledge borne of research,” continues Poul Degnbol. To achieve this, the biologists first made an inventory of the indicators that could be used on the spot (analysis of cohorts, catches compared with fishing effort, etc.). With the assistance of the social scientists, they then asked the fishermen how they assessed resources – the relative abundance of certain species was shown to be one of the elements they took as a basis. The job of the sociologists was then to consider to what extent the perceptions of these fishermen matched the indicators coming from the research.

When asked, for example, “Are there factors that suggest to you that this fish was more or less abundant last year?”, the fishermen and fishery managers gave different replies. The former linked falling stocks to increased demand and a growing number of professionals while the latter called into question fishing practices. For improved management of this sector of the economy, it is better to have a consensus of all the interested parties – including women who are traditionally very much in evidence at the ‘post-catch’ stage. 

"We hope to make it easier for fishermen and other local players to be involved in management decisions and to make government agencies aware of the benefits of such an approach. By selecting a list of indicators recognised by all, we are giving these agencies the means with which to increase awareness among the population.” The results of this work were presented in Cape Town (South Africa) at the end of 2004 at a congress marking the end of the project and have subsequently been published.


Printable version

Features 1 2 3 4
  Health report on Chinese cities
  Suburban fields
  Integrating traditional know-how
  Lessons from the Red River

  READ MORE  
  Monitoring stocks in Laos

The Mekong River and its tributaries are the principal fishery resource in Laos, representing over 60% of the total catch. To monitor stock development as part of the Knowfish project, researchers from the University of Bergen (Norway) and the Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre  ...

 

  TO FIND OUT MORE  
 
  • Aarhus university, Institute of biological sciences
  • Social Science Methods for the KNOWFISH Project PDF icon
  • Knowledge in co-management PDF icon
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  • Poul Degnbol
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    Features 1 2 3 4
      Monitoring stocks in Laos

    The Mekong River and its tributaries are the principal fishery resource in Laos, representing over 60% of the total catch. To monitor stock development as part of the Knowfish project, researchers from the University of Bergen (Norway) and the Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre   (Laos) tested the use of echo sounders. These devices enabled them to confirm the importance of the deep pools in the Mekong. These act as refuges or nurseries that are recognised by fishing communities who have identified them as fish conservation zones where fishing is banned or restricted during certain periods. It is to be hoped that this new knowledge will be used to heighten protection of ecosystems at a time when increased fishing in other parts of the river has greatly reduced the biomass and resulted in falling catches in recent years.

    TO FIND OUT MORE

    CONTACTS