Development of tools, practices and institutions that facilitate participatory modeling and decision-making in fisheries policies.
The JAKFISH project offered opportunities for stakeholders and scientists to work together. JAKFISH is short for “Judgment and Knowledge in Fisheries involving Stakeholders”.
The European policies for the marine environment are rapidly changing. The policies of the past were characterized by single-sector approaches (e.g. shipping, fishing, environment, etc) and by top-down regulations. The policies of the future are characterized by multi-sector approaches, integrated thinking and stakeholder involvement.
The introduction of the Regional Advisory Councils (RAC) initiated greater involvement of stakeholder organizations in the fisheries policy process. But stakeholders organizations like RACs benefit from scientific inputs into their policy contributions.
Participatory modeling and case studies
Participatory modeling is the process whereby scientists and stakeholders jointly develop flexible and transparent models. This enhances a common understanding of the current biological, fishery and management issues. Risks for the stocks and socio-economic consequences for the fisheries can be addressed. The comparison of different scenarios helps in developing robust management approaches. These approaches were explored in four case studies:
- North Sea Nephrops fisheries: dealing with data-poor stocks and fisheries that generate bycatches of other species
- Herring in Skagerrak, Kattegat and the Western Baltic: dealing with stocks that mix and migrate over different management areas
- Herring in the Baltic Sea: assessing and using the different mental models of stakeholders and scientists on herring dynamics in a comprehensive Bayesian framework
- Swordfish in the Mediterranean: developing long term management plans for a stock that is shared over many countries with different interests.
In addition to these case studies, JAKFISH also carried out social science research on way (natural) scientists and stakeholders collaborate, for example in drawing the borders of the Dogger Bank Marine Protected Area.
From our experiences, we conclude that participatory modelling has the potential to facilitate and structure discussions between scientists and stakeholders about uncertainties and the quality of the knowledge base. It can also contribute to collective learning, increase legitimacy, and advance scientific understanding. To achieve these benefits, modelling should not be seen as the priority objective. Rather, the crucial step in is the joint problem framing and making sure that the modelling is addressing the relevant issues..
Uncertainty in natural resource management and decision-making is often portrayed as follows: scientists help other stakeholder better understand uncertainties after the uncertainties have first been identified. Our research has refuted those assumptions. Communication about uncertainty was clearly shown to be a two-way process and it already happened during the problem framing and research process.
Whether scientific uncertainty becomes an issue in a policy making context, not only depends on the amount of uncertainty, but also on the stakes involved and the burden of proof placed on the science. Research on boundaries for the Dogger Bank MPA showed that the legal requirement that boundaries should be based on scientific criteria only, placed heavy burden of proof on the science. This triggered disproportionate attention to scientific complexity and uncertainty, particularly where stakes were high.
The JAKFISH project has shown that participatory modelling requires an effective facilitation strategy where scientists, stakeholders and policy-makers actively connect and discuss. There is a need to train the participants in these processes. It needs the realization that participatory modelling both builds trust and is built on trust. This takes time and effort, but when succesfull, the outcome is larger than the individual parts.