Engaging Hawaiʻi small boat fishers to mitigate pelagic shark mortality

Principal Investigators: Mia Iwane

Timeline: 2017 - 2019

I explore opportunities to engage fishers to mitigate shark mortality while also addressing underlying conflict and sociopolitical inequities. This case study of interactions between small boat fishers and pelagic sharks utilizes semi-structured interviews with small boat fishers on Hawaiʻi Island and reflects on the community-based Shark Tagger project to illuminate fishers’ relationships with one another, fisheries managers and scientists, and the sharks they encounter. I find that the shark-fisher interaction problem is layered. It is shaped both by substantive factors, like shark behavior and economic context, and deeper-level problems, including degraded fisher-manager and fisher-researcher relationships, threats to fisher identity, and poor fisher perceptions of management legitimacy. Thus, endeavors to mitigate shark mortality require an equally multi-depth solution with substantive, process-, and relationships-based approaches. Such a multi-depth solution might include collaborative research for alternatives to lethal shark-handling practices, wherein fishers and scientists reconcile dissonant values and problem definitions and exchange and co-produce knowledge in pursuit of a transparent goal; and scientists communicate early and often with fishers both directly and using the fishing community’s existing social structures.