Capturing local knowledge of beach seine fishers in the north-western province of Sri Lanka




Local knowledge of fishers is considered to be useful in establishing effective dialogue between fishers and fishery managers to foster the sharing of power and responsibility between the government and local resource users. However, fishers’ local knowledge is often considered anecdotal and consequently, these knowledge bases are largely underutilized for small-scale fisheries management. This study was an attempt to investigate whether local knowledge of beach seine fishers of the north western province of Sri Lanka could be used to assist in optimizing their harvests, to scientifically validate anecdotal local knowledge and to recognize this knowledge base as an important means for defining fisheries co-management strategies.
The beach seine fishers in nine fishing communities use their local knowledge to predict the occurrence of fish schools based on some indicators such as sea surface colour due to the presence of fish schools, turbulence of surface water in the presence of schools of larger fish species and behaviour of sea birds. Fishers were also aware that local weather conditions influence the occurrence of certain fish species. Accordingly, fishers select the appropriate cod end type to catch predicted species. Spatial and temporal variations of species composition were found to be in accordance with the fishers’ local knowledge. Level of accuracy of fishers in all nine beach-seine fisher communities under the present study in selecting the appropriate cod end to be fixed to catch target species was high (64.9% - 82.9%). Psychometric approach adopted has shown that the mean harvest and mean daily income of fishing communities had significant positive correlations with fishers’ knowledge about management-related aspects. Results of this study have shown that fishers’ local knowledge is reasonably consistent and should therefore be incorporated for defining effective fisheries co-management.
Keywords: Likert scale; Local ecological knowledge; small-scale fisheries, fishers’ perceptions; indigenous knowledge; folk oceanography


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