Fishers - strategies and choices: feasibility study

This social research publication explores what influences the decision making of Scottish fishers. It presents findings from twelve interviews with fishers. The main findings are focused on the social, economic, governance, and environmental drivers in fishers’ decision making.

6. Conclusion

Fishers are continuously making decisions and planning their activities over a range of scales, including both short-term (e.g. where to fish or whether to go to sea that day) and long-term (e.g. whether to remain in the industry or switch fishing gears) planning. An improved understanding of fishers’ behaviour is key for the effective design and implementation of fisheries’ management policy in Scotland.

The literature review found that the five most commonly cited choices made by fishers in the industry were: 1) where to fish; 2) whether to remain in the industry; 3) what fishing gear to use; 4) which species to target; and 5) whether to go fishing (day-by-day). The key drivers underpinning these choices related to social, economic, governance, and environmental considerations. Because of the complexity of decision making, most choices were influenced by more than one driver. Social concerns were identified as the most common drivers, with fisher knowledge and community recognised as the most significant social factors. Under governance drivers, regulation was the most common factor influencing fishers’ behaviour, closely followed by costs/benefits under economic drivers.

A pilot study, involving 12 interviews with fishers from across Scotland was carried out as an effective way to gain a better understanding of what influences fishers’ decision making. Some of the most notable factors impacting short-term decisions focused on weather conditions, while the introduction of new policies and stricter regulations were considered to be the main drivers for long-term decision making.

During the interviews, crew recruitment and retention were raised among the most significant concerns due to the declining number of local crew willing to stay in the industry. This resulted in a greater reliance on migrant workers and potential loss of socio-cultural value in coastal communities. Crew-related issues were rarely mentioned in the literature review. The literature review showed that social factors, such as community, heritage and identity, play a critical role in fishers’ decisions to remain in the industry, despite the mental strain caused by cumulative pressures and ensuing stress experienced by fishing communities.

In addition, new policies and regulations were raised as a major concern of fishers due to the ‘spatial squeeze’ resulting from competition with other marine sectors (e.g. introduction of conservation measures, expansion of offshore renewables). Furthermore, changes in quota availability was raised as a key economic driver. Decision where to fish and which species to target were often based on fuel costs and market demand.

Overall, it is clear that a range of factors combine to influence the decisions fishers make. Greater collaboration is needed between the industry and policy makers to promote and support the sustainability and welfare of fishing communities in Scotland.



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