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The tower of Babel: Different perceptions and controversies on change and status of North Sea fish stocks in multi-stakeholder settings
Verweij, M.C.; Van Densen, W.L.T.; Mol, A.P. J. (2010). The tower of Babel: Different perceptions and controversies on change and status of North Sea fish stocks in multi-stakeholder settings. Mar. Policy 34(3): 522-533.
In: Marine Policy. Pergamon: Guildford. ISSN 0308-597X, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

    Fish stocks; Management; Stocks; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Verweij, M.C.
  • Van Densen, W.L.T., more
  • Mol, A.P. J.

    Fishermen, scientists, national policy makers, and staff of environmental NGOs (ENGOs) hold different perceptions about temporal patterns in fish stocks. Perception differences are problematic in multi-stakeholder settings, because they elicit controversies and unbalanced disputes. These hinder effective participation, a prerequisite for ‘good governance’ and effective management of sustainable fisheries. This study shows that perceptions of change (‘does the stock increase or decrease?’) and of current status of a fish stock (‘is it doing well or not?’) are influenced by the capturing and processing of information, rather than by interests alone. We focused on the Dutch North Sea fishery on plaice and sole and examined (1) availability and accessibility of information on temporal patterns of these stocks and (2) perception differences between all parties. A first explanation for these differences is the use of different parameters as a measure for stock size. Fishermen focus on catch rates or catch-per-unit-effort (relative stock size), whereas scientists, policy makers, and ENGO-staff mainly use scientific assessments of spawning stock biomass (absolute stock size). Between-group perception differences are further explained by spatial aggregation levels of information, lengths of time series evaluated, and by modes of comparison to qualify the current status of fish stocks. Awareness of information differences and the development of shared information use and processing may release some of the tensions in multi-stakeholder settings debating fisheries management. However, comprehension problems amongst all parties on how spawning stock biomass is reconstructed and how it relates to catch rates in the fishery may pose an enduring barrier.

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