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Assessing Changes in Fisheries Using Fishers’ Knowledge to Generate Long Time Series of Catch Rates: a Case Study from the Red Sea

Dawit Tesfamichael, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia; Department of Marine Science, University of Asmara
Tony J. Pitcher, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia
Daniel Pauly, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia


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The data requirements for most quantitative fishery assessment models are extensive, and most of the fisheries in the world lack time series of the required biological and socioeconomic data. Many innovative approaches have been developed to improve data collection for fisheries. We explored the use of data from fishers’ interviews to estimate time series of approximate “best” catch rates. A total of 472 standardized interviews were conducted with 423 fishers along the southern Red Sea coast recording the best catch recalled and the change in average catch rates throughout the fishing career of interviewees. The results showed a decline of best catch rates in all fisheries, ranging from 4% to 10% per year for more than 50 years. The estimated rates of decline of the typical catch were higher for fishers who started fishing in recent years, suggesting that the resource base is declining, in concordance with other indicators. It is suggested that analysis of approximate data, quickly acquired at low cost from fishers through interviews, can be used to supplement other data-recording systems or used independently to document the changes that have occurred in the resource base over a lifetime of fishing. The results can be used to guide the assessment and management of resources to conserve ecosystems and livelihoods.

Key words

assessment; catch rates; fishers’ knowledge; interview; Red Sea; small-scale fishery; time series

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087