New directions for Indigenous and Local Knowledge research and application in fisheries science: Lessons from a Systematic Review

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Benjamin Lawrence Hopper Jones , Rolando Santos, W. Ryan James, Sophia Costa, Aaron Adams, Ross Boucek, Lucy Coals, Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, Samuel Shephard, Jennifer Rehage


Social-ecological systems like fisheries provide food, livelihoods, and recreation. However, lack of data and its integration into governance hinders their conservation and management. Stakeholders possess site-specific knowledge crucial for confronting these challenges. There is increasing recognition that Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) is valuable, but structural differences between ILK and quantitative archetypes have stalled the assimilation of ILK into fisheries management, despite acknowledged bias and uncertainty in scientific methods. Conducting a systematic review of fisheries-associated ILK research (n = 397 articles), we examined how ILK is accessed, is applied, is distributed across space and species, and has evolved. We show that ILK has generated qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative information for diverse taxa across 98 countries. Fisheries-associated ILK research mostly targets small-scale and artisanal fishers (70% of studies), and typically uses semi-structured interviews (60%). We revealed large variability in sample size (n = 4 – 7638), predicted by the approach employed, and the data generated (i.e., qualitative studies target smaller groups). Using thematic categorisation, we show that scientists are still exploring techniques, or ‘validating’ ILK through comparisons with quantitative scientific data (20%), and recording qualitative information of what fishers understand (40%). A few researchers are applying quantitative social science methods to derive trends in abundance, catch, and effort. Such approaches facilitate recognition of local insight in fisheries management, but fall short of accepting ILK as a valid complementary way of knowing about fisheries systems. This synthesis reveals that development and increased opportunities are needed to bridge ILK and quantitative scientific data.



Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Social and Behavioral Sciences


aquatic systems; fisheries management; fisheries science; fishers’ knowledge; local ecological knowledge; stakeholder participation, aquatic systems, fisheries management, fisheries science, fishers' knowledge, local ecological knowledge, stakeholder participation


Published: 2024-03-29 11:49

Last Updated: 2024-04-12 19:16

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare no conflict of interest.