A key part of working in partnership with fishers in the management process is understanding their motives and preferences. Without this, management assumptions can be well off mark.
In addition to understanding dependency of different groups, it is important to understand what drives fishers to do what they do and how they will react to change. Hilborn (1985, cited in Salas and Gaertner, 2004) suggested that the collapse of many fisheries is due to misunderstanding fishers’ behavior rather than a lack of knowledge of fisheries resources. Understanding what motivates fishers is an important part of deciding how to manage a fishery according to Hilborn (2007a), who also noted (2007a, 286) that “… fishermen respond to regulation in ways that often surprised managers, and managers must understand the motivation and incentives for fishermen to understand how they respond.”
The context in which fishers convert policy measures into actions is subject to a number of influencing factors that can change the course of those actions. These include what their priorities are, their cultural norms and expectations, their perceptions of risk, their relationship with managers and politicians, conflict and cohesion with communities, and beliefs around the sustainability of the resource. In addition, these may differ from those of managers. It is also worth noting that the motivations and preferences of fishers are dynamic and constantly changing in response to their surrounding social and economic environment.
Understanding these different motives is important for ensuring that fisheries management systems accommodate them and work with them.