After four years of bringing together fishers, scientists and policy-makers in the context of fisheries research, the GAP2 project ended on a high-note in Barcelona at the GAP2 International Symposium (24-26 February), celebrating the positive results of participatory research in 11 different countries.
Fisher Kevin Arscott, involved in GAP2’s UK case study tracking brown crab populations off the South Devon coast, commented: “I learnt from the scientists – stuff that I would never have learnt…but I think they learnt from us, things that they would never have known. We worked well together – you’ve got to give each other trust.”
Considered a ‘flagship’ research project for the European Commission, GAP2 has been at the forefront of demonstrating the value of involving fishers in research across the EU. The project has brought together fishers, scientists and policy makers with the aim of creating a more sustainable future for the Europe’s seas through research processes, and outcomes, in which all partners – including industry – feel they have a ‘stake’.
Mike Park, of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) commented: “The GAP2 Project has shown us that as well as providing critical information, fishers are able to assist in creating sensible policy that is respected and understood”.
Building on the success of the original ‘GAP’ project, GAP2 created 13 collaborative researchcase studies in 2011, and has been carrying out research into incorporating fishers’ knowledge into the world of formal science and fisheries management, ever since.
This bottom-up approach has led to a range of successes in fisheries across Europe. In the Channel, groundbreaking GAP2-led collaboration between French and UK fishers, scientists and management officials taking the first steps towards a regional management plan for the area’s scallop fishery. In GAP2’s Dutch case study, information provided by fishers on catch composition in flatfish fisheries is helping to feed into EU-wide plans to implement the new ‘discard ban’.
The project has published a number of tools to help researchers interested in involving fishers in their work, including the GAP2 ‘Methodological Toolbox’ and the GAP2 ‘Good Practice Guide’ on participatory research, both of which share first-hand experiences from the project’s research, and offer guidance on how to best design and implement collaborative research processes. All the projects outputs are freely available online.
Project Coordinator, Dr Steven Mackinson, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) offered a final take-home message from his experiences with GAP2: “My advice to anyone thinking of getting involved in participatory research – scientist, policy maker, or fisher – is do it! Do it, but stay the course. Collaboration takes trust and determination, but pays real dividends”.