The importance of qualitative social research for effective fisheries management

K Barclay, Michelle Voyer, Nicole Mazur, Anne Maree Payne, Senoveva Mauli, Jeff Kinch, Michael Fabinyi, Graeme Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Over recent decades it has become widely accepted that managing fisheries resources means managing human behaviour, and so understanding social and economic dynamics is just as important as understanding species biology and ecology. Until recently, fisheries managers and researchers have struggled to develop effective methods and data for social and economic analysis that can integrate with the predominantly biological approaches to fisheries management. The field is now growing fast, however, and globally, researchers are developing and testing new methods. This paper uses three divergent case studies to demonstrate the value of using qualitative social science approaches to complement more conventional quantitative methods to improve the knowledge base for fisheries management. In all three cases, qualitative interview and document review methods enabled broad surveying to explore the research questions in particular contexts and identified where quantitative tools could be most usefully applied. In the first case (the contribution of commercial fisheries to coastal communities in eastern Australia), a wellbeing analysis identified the social benefits from particular fisheries, which can be used to identify the social impacts of different fisheries management policies. In the second case (a gender analysis of fisheries of small islands in the Pacific), analysis outlined opportunities and constraints along fisheries supply chains, illuminated factors inhibiting community development and identified ecological factors that are typically overlooked in conventional fisheries management. In the third case (sea cucumber fisheries in Papua New Guinea), an interactive governance analysis assessed how well fisheries management tools fit the ecological, social and economic reality of the fishery and the trade in its products, including market influences and stakeholder values. The qualitative approach adopted in these three case studies adds a new dimension to understanding fisheries that is not possible with a focus solely on quantitative data. With the development of new policies on release programs (stock enhancement, restocking) and artificial reefs, and the momentum to use these interventions from recreational fishing groups, the qualitative approach will provide an important contribution to understanding their wider costs and benefits
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)426-438pp
    JournalFisheries Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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