Friday, April 3, 2015

Locals knowledgable of ecosystem are more likely to conserve

A study by Sawchuck and colleagues (2015) published in the journal Marine Policy explores how angler understanding of the ecosystem and fishing practices affects their views on conserving Puget Sound rockfish (Sebastes spp.). Multiple species of Puget Sound rockfish were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2010 (Drake et al., 2010). The current study conducted by Sawchuck and colleagues (2015) found that fisherman with knowledge of the Puget Sound rockfish support conservation efforts, and individual preference on conservation efforts are influenced by where those individuals fish. Clearly, knowledge is power when it comes to conservation.

While this study is specific to conserving rockfish in Puget Sound, something I admittedly know little about, the results are applicable to many conservation biologists. Those who live closely alongside and act as part of the ecosystem are more likely to develop an attachment and appreciation of it. I know the more time I spend surrounded by nature, the more I both understand and love it. As wildlife increasingly comes into contact with humans, studies like this one that examine how people view conservation initiatives are important. They help us better understand what makes people want to conserve certain species.

Yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus
As the authors state in this paper, there are many factors (economic, social, cultural) that influence a person's beliefs, support, and compliance with conservation efforts. This holds true whether we're discussing fish, primates, or wild cats. Sawchuck and colleagues (2015) also state that while the Puget Sound rockfish has been studied previously, "...few have engaged recreational anglers in the recovery process and examined the underlying knowledge and perceptions that may ultimately affect support for recovery measures."

Scientists can declare that we need to protect a certain species and go through all of the hoops and bureaucracy associated with getting that species attention on a national or state level, but if there isn't local support and cooperation for conservation plans, it seems obvious to me that those plans will be less successful. People live alongside these animals and ecosystems and interact with them on a regular basis, something we're beginning to understand and appreciate more as scientists. Granek and colleagues (2008) found that commitment to conservation is higher when recreational fisherman are involved in protecting their fish from external threats to recreational fishing (commercial fishing or habitat destruction), which may simply be a matter of protecting self-interest but maybe not. The more recent study conducted by Sawchuck and colleagues (2015) shows that knowledgeable local stakeholders are more likely to support conservation.

Food for thought:

How do you think local knowledge should influence policy decisions?
When is it appropriate for scientists to include the beliefs and ideologies of locals? When might it not be appropriate or logical?

Drake JS, Berntson EA, Cope JM, Gustafson RG, Holmes EE, Levin PS, et al. Status of five species of rockfish in Puget Sound, Washington: Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis), Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger), Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus), Greenstriped Rockfish (Sebastes elongatus) and Redstripe Rockfish (Sebastes proriger). U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum; 2010. NMFS-NWFSC-108, 234 p.
E.F. Granek, E.M.P. Madin, M.A. Brown, W. Figueira, D.S. Cameron, Z. Hogan, et al. Engaging recreational fishers in management and conservation: global case studies Conserv Biol, 22 (5) (2008), pp. 1125–1134
Sawchuk, Jennifer Heibult, et al. "Using stakeholder engagement to inform endangered species management and improve conservation." Marine Policy 54 (2015): 98-107.

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