METHODOLOGY

To understand complex fisheries, researchers must think outside their boxes

Two fishers walk on pier next to fishing boats

By continuously developing our method portfolios, researchers will be better equipped to treat fisheries as the complex, adaptive systems they are, researchers argue. Photo: P. Einerhand/Unsplash

Traditional approaches are insufficient, social-ecological systems thinking can better capture complex interactions between people and ecosystems

Story highlights

• Interactions between humans and marine environments have still not received adequate scientific attention

• In their paper, Lindkvist and her co-authors present a selection of analytical methods that add value in fisheries research

• Specifically, they showcase various aspects of statistical modelling, dynamic modelling, network analysis, qualitative analysis and controlled behavioural experiments, and how these methods may be combined in methods portfolios

MORE METHODS IN ONE BASKET: By expanding their methods portfolios, researchers will be better equipped to study the complex interactions shaping fisheries and thus contribute to finding solutions for sustainable fisheries management.

This is the conclusion from a paper recently published by centre researcher Emilie Lindkvist and colleagues Kara Pellowe, Elizabeth Drury O’Neill, Blanca González-Mon, Caroline Schill, Nanda Wijermans, Örjan Bodin, together with several other collaborators from around the world.

The paper, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, argues that research that combines quantitative and qualitative analytical methods are necessary to understand, develop and achieve sustainable fisheries.

Collaborations among researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and other stakeholders are essential to better understand and support the fisheries communities.

Emilie Lindkvist, lead author

Capturing interactions

Despite significant developments in understanding ecological and social aspects of fisheries, the interactions between humans and marine environments have still not received adequate attention.

This is where social-ecological systems research comes in. It includes approaches and methods that can capture those interactions. In their paper, Lindkvist and her co-authors present a selection of analytical methods to highlight their added value as well as their complementarity in fisheries research.

Specifically, they explain various aspects of statistical modelling, dynamic modelling, network analysis, qualitative analysis and controlled behavioural experiments. These aspects are the methods involved, objectives, type of data input, outputs, strengths and weaknesses.

Conceptual figure of a small-scale fishing community with a selection of relevant variables and interactions.

Start with what you know best

The paper also emphasises the importance of reflexivity and dealing with tensions when entering uncharted methods territory.

Reflexivity can be understood as the critical examination of how the researchers themselves shape and influence scientific processes and outcomes.

Tensions can arise from integrations or combinations of various data or methods that come with their own set of assumptions.

To deal with both aspects, the authors suggest that researchers start with the methods they know best and to be open about any biases, strengths and weaknesses that come with them.

Next, they may consider other methods that complement their primary methods in order to develop a more holistic lens through which to view their study system.

“By continuously developing our method portfolios, researchers will be better equipped to treat fisheries as the complex, adaptive systems they are,” co-author Pellowe concludes.

Read Untangling social–ecological interactions: A methods portfolio approach to tackling contemporary sustainability challenges in fisheries

Published: 2022-08-19