Small-scale fisheries (SSF) around the world face many challenges. They are a highly dynamic, important sector for coastal communities in developing nations, playing a critical role in poverty alleviation and food security. SSFs generally have few resources to ensure their long-term sustainability. They are often fished and managed locally and may have limited commercial value, primarily providing subsistence for the community. As such, they may be a low priority for national fisheries management. SSFs are about 50% of the world’s fisheries by harvested volume, but in most cases, they are data-poor. To meet these challenges for sustainability, SSFs need access to tools that can help them assess the status of the resource and monitor the specific characteristics of the fishery to evaluate the health and sustainability of local fish stocks.
In this research, I integrate the biological and ecological dimensions of small-scale fisheries assessments with the local knowledge of the communities that use the resources. This dissertation is an effort to assess different aspects of data-poor fisheries: the quantity and quality of knowledge of the life-history parameters of the stock, the importance of spatial scale in the stock risk assessments, and the potential for a synergy of scientific data and local knowledge to improve the assessment of coastal fisheries.
My first data chapter explores the incorporation of local stock condition information into a risk assessment technique: Productivity and Susceptibility Analysis (PSA), an expert opinion-based model that combines information about the productivity of a stock with its susceptibility to fishing activities using a semi-quantitative scoring system. My goal was to assess how spatial scale and incorporation of fishermen’s knowledge affects the vulnerability assessment of data-poor fisheries in Oregon, USA. I gathered local information on nearshore fishes in Oregon and combined biological data for ten nearshore species with information obtained from fishermen. I found some key differences between coastwide vulnerability ratings and those obtained for the same species but in different parts of the Oregon coast, reflecting the influence that local information can have on the results of the model. I found that our results generally matched those generated for a previously published coastwide PSA, but with somewhat lower vulnerability scores provided by the local productivity and susceptibility estimates. PSA can be useful to identify important local differences in stock susceptibility to fishing or other impacts that may be lost when stocks are monitored at the coastwide level.
The remainder of my dissertation focuses on SSFs in Colombia. In chapter 3, I present a gap analysis of the life-history parameters of commercially important stocks in the Colombian Pacific. I conducted a literature review of 23 biological and ecological parameters of 37 marine species and found a lack of basic life-history characteristics for the species fished. I found that the species information is scattered throughout the country, only a small amount of information is published in peer-reviewed journals, and a high amount of the research and knowledge available exists in “grey literature”. To offer recommendations for future assessments, we provide a review of data-poor fisheries assessment tools that could be employed with the country data-availability and data-needs for each species.
In chapter 4, I introduce a modified Productivity and Susceptibility Analysis (PSA) that integrates scientific knowledge with information from local fishermen to address the lack of data for Colombian Pacific coastal fisheries. I assessed the vulnerability to overfishing of 15 local stocks and used participatory surveys in 12 fishing communities to elicit local fishermen’s knowledge of susceptibility parameters. My results revealed a general lack of life history data for the species that are necessary to assess the productivity of the stocks. I collected information from 113 fishermen, and increased the number of susceptibility parameters to reflect the local conditions of the study area and scored those based on the information provided. All the species assessed received high susceptibility values, and the PSA prioritized three species as vulnerable to overfishing. Our adaptation of the PSA provides a first attempt to assess and prioritize the data-poor fisheries in the Colombian Pacific, integrating local fishermen knowledge into the risk assessment and making it specific to the conditions of the study area. Our approach allows a comparative evaluation of stocks in a local area when little or no susceptibility information is available, especially in cases in which scientific expertise is difficult or impossible to get.