Returning information back to fishers: Graphical and numerical literacy of small-scale Indonesian tuna fishers

Neitzel, Sophie; Zwieten, P.A.M. van; Hendriksen, A.; Duggan, Deirdre; Bush, S.R.


Developing world fishers are often assumed unable to comprehend fisheries management information because of their poor numerical and graphical literacy. This study questions this assumption by assessing the extent to which small-scale tuna fishers in Indonesia engaged in enumeration programs are able to understand, interpret and find value in the data collected from them when presented in graphical and numerically-aggregated forms. The analysis was based on structured interviews held with twenty tuna hand-line fishers on Buru Island, Maluku, Indonesia. We found that scientific displays such as graphs, tables and maps are understandable even for semi-literate fishers. Different forms of displays have more or less relevance and value for them in reflexive way. The sequence in which scientific displays are presented also matters, indicating that displays should be presented and explained in gradations from simple to more complex forms. Overall, however, the results show that face-to-face explanation remains necessary when communicating graphical and numerical information to fishers. Further attention should be given to forms of communication with fishers that allow for more reflexive decision-making and a shift to user-centric information systems. The ongoing development of mobile technologies aimed at incentivizing fishers to engage with and contribute to data and information collection, would benefit from selecting suitable information displays, presenting these in a guided sequence, and monitoring how fishers use this information to make decisions on the water.