MSc thesis Sophie Maxime Neitzel – Identifying reporting needs for fishermen

Already since a few years, the Indonesian NGO Masyarakat Dan Perikanan Indonesia is assisting traders and companies to organize traceability and collect catch and fishing effort data from small-scale tuna fisheries that are required to show that their operations are sustainable. Sampling small-scale tuna handline fisheries is for instance done around the Eastern Indonesian islands of Buru and Ambon, Maluku province. Fishers have cooperated for over two years in data collection, but have not yet received reports of results in return. My study is focused on the type of information and reports that these small-scale handline tuna fisheries in this region would need and understand.

Now, MDPI wants to return information to the fishers but it is still not known to what extent they can read and understand the scientific information produced. In my study, we focus on three main aspects: understanding, representation and value. For understanding, we question what fishermen can get from the information and what aspects of the presentation make understanding difficult. Representation relates to how the information produced represents the fishermen’s own experiences at sea. Do they recognize the patterns in the information displays? Lastly, we want to identify how valuable the information produced is and why fishers would like to receive this information. In the end the purpose of my study was to advice on what information can be presented in a report to Maluku fishermen and how it should be presented. I went to the island of Ambon and Buru for two weeks and interviewed 20 individual fishermen. First of all, fishermen were very thankful to be presented all the information we produced from their data. The information displays I showed included catch per month, fuel use per trip per month, catch compositions, total catch per month and catch per fishing grounds. It turned out that information about catch and fuel were among the most important graphical information displays, while fishers were less interested in catch composition. Some fishers had trouble in understanding and reading the information presented, but, with a little help, every single fisherman was able to read the information displays. Troubles in understanding mainly came from the fact that they never saw the kind of graphs and tables we presented before. Based on the research I can now make a selection of the most important and most valued information displays to be presented in a short report to the fishers of Maluku.  

Short my trip may have been, but it was a great experience to live with fishers in their community, enjoy the beautiful remote island and be part of their community. I learned a lot about the fishery, the fishers’ way of living, about the fishing community and about the value of returning information to fishermen. The people in both Ambon and Buru were very kind and thankful that I spent time in ‘educating’ and ‘teaching’ them something new. One of the greatest experiences I had was going out at sea as a crewmember with one of my respondents. That day, he taught me everything about handline fishing, showed me how to find a pod of dolphins and how to catch a tuna. I was very surprised to find myself on that small boat in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by spinner dolphins. Landing my first skipjack tuna, in that scenery, with all other fishermen watching me and clapping hands, was the best feeling ever.