Written by Nereus Fellow Julia Mason,
Fisheries are complex social-ecological systems and as such cannot be effectively understood or managed without consideration of their human dimensions in combination with their ecological dynamics. In particular, research that centers fishers’ knowledge, perceptions, and values is critical for more accurate and complete conclusions and legitimate and equitable conservation interventions. In this dissertation, I explore the challenges and opportunities presented by multiple stakeholder perceptions in fishery management in the United States and Peru. First, I survey US marine and coastal policymakers and ocean resource users on their ocean research priorities and find broad agreement but a clarion call from ocean resource users to incorporate more of their local knowledge in science and decision-making. I then evaluate the community-level ecological consequences of a conservation process that did not address fishermen’s values, revealing that a controversial time-area closure was one of many management actions contributing to overall declining catch and participation in the California swordfish fishery. The fishery is no longer economically or politically viable, an arguable conservation success but a failure in social and procedural terms. For a similar fishery in Peru, I examine opportunities for incorporating fisher knowledge and increasing fisher policy participation in conserving vulnerable juvenile hammerhead sharks. Fishermen demonstrated local ecological knowledge that corresponded well with a biophysical statistical model and strong understanding of and motivation for conserving the species. However, they objected to perceived unfairness in the implementation of a seasonal hammerhead ban, emphasizing the importance of and potential for a more participatory process. This dissertation educed a profound appreciation for trust, listening, and collaboration as essential tools for conservation scientists and practitioners.