"Boats don't fish, people do"- how fishers' agency can inform fisheries-management on bycatch mitigation of marine mammals and sea birds
Bycatch of seabirds and marine mammals in gillnet fisheries is a major hazard for conservation globally. Measures for bycatch mitigation in fisheries management mostly base on technological and ecological findings and they generally assume fishers as a homogenous group that is supposed to apply new technology or act according to the latest ecological insights. There is often a lack of knowledge about the heterogeneity of fishers′ actions and drivers, despite its importance for effective fisheries management. For the specific case of the German gillnet fleet in the Baltic Sea a qualitative social-science research approach was chosen to generate knowledge that can inform management. In applying the concept of agency, three types of fishers′ actions are distinguished: projective (future-oriented), evaluative (present-oriented) and iterational (past-oriented). Fishers′ attitude towards incidental bycatch differed between viewing bycatch as a normal part of the daily routine or as a disturbing event. These findings are discussed in the context of management instruments, such as closed fishing zones and seasons, brought up during an expert workshop. It is concluded that considering fishers′ agency may be an important contribution to design effective management instruments to mitigate bycatch of seabirds and marine mammals in gillnet fisheries.