Tora Johnson’s exhaustive look at the issue of cetacean entanglement and fisheries management is just as accurate and relevant today as it was when she first began her research. While some of the players have changed, the issue remains largely unresolved. Her insights lend remarkable depth and understanding to anyone wishing to navigate the complexities of change within our vital coastal communities.
“Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.” –Carl Gustav Jung
Civic engagement and communication are the most vital link to understanding those factors that drive successful policy change. Immersing oneself in local cultural activities can work to promote the position of all scientists working in marine conservation. Cerebral comprehension of issues that concern fishing communities when faced with change is not enough to inform decision makers, instead, having a “finger on the pulse” of that which makes a community strong is. Often, understanding comes from rapport that develops through identifying shared interests and commonalities.
Spending quality time with those lives you will affect through suggested policy changes ensures that you have the opportunity to not only study the economic impacts these policies can and do have on these communities, but also the cultural implications and experiences that are realized.
Sustainable fishery practices that are “ecosystem-based”
have been identified by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
(FAO) as a top priority for the next century. Industry, including both small and
medium-scale operations (i.e., family-operated fisheries and artisanal fisheries)
as well as commercial powerhouses, have been slower to acknowledge and adopt measures
which are viewed as “sustainable” by FAO standards. These sustainable practices
include measures that assist in the reduction of unintended bycatch and entanglements
of marine mammals. With the European Union’s commitment to sustainably produced
foods and their dedication to exploration and implementation of research and policy-making
that is informed by science as well as industry, their successful measures serve
as an excellent guide for US-based managed fisheries partners.
With an ecosystem-based approach to management of fisheries, the EC requested that “research…should address the social aspects of the seafood sector, which is essential for the cohesion of the social fabric in the European coastal areas”. This research has led to the development of policies and programs designed not only to produce a sustainable fisheries economy but to engage with coastal communities and artisanal fishermen in working groups that ensure all stakeholders have equal voice and engagement. Additionally, these EC-funded, EU-supported policies and voluntary stewardship collaborations and working groups serve as a viable model for overcoming many of the challenges we face in the US. These fisheries management programs should be comparatively examined not only on a policy level but through qualitative means, with a focus on cultural acceptance of initiatives through interviews and hands-on interactions with fisherman in their communities.