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The power of participation: Challenges and opportunities for facilitating trust in cooperative fisheries research in the Maine lobster fishery

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Abstract/ Summary

Recent paradigm shifts in fisheries science have emphasized the need for cooperative research to address sustainability challenges by bridging epistemological differences between scientists and resource users and promoting power sharing in the production of knowledge for a more holistic understanding of the marine environment. To address the question of power-sharing, this paper explores motivations, perceptions, and personal experiences of Maine lobstermen involved with various types of cooperative fisheries research (CFR). The main finding is that distrust between stakeholders is a persistent challenge, as shown in other research. However, a lack of trust may also sometimes serve as a motivator for participation, particularly where fishermen anticipate the threat of increased regulations. In cases where policies are top-down (e.g. Federal regulations like Endangered Species Act), fishermen are aware of a certain powerlessness despite the degree to which cooperative research involves their input. This reinforces their skepticism that often stifles the ability of researchers to build meaningful relationships, especially in projects with short life spans. Fishermen value personal relationships with researchers based on mutual respect that have been built over time, regardless of the type of research. The findings suggest that a better understanding of these personal relationships and power dynamics could guide researchers in the process of building trust and facilitating transparent communication between groups to overcome persistent barriers in CFR, address sustainability challenges in the fishing industry, and promote more power-sharing between scientists, managers, and industry members.



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