Thursday, June 27 • 10:30 - 12:00
Local Knowledge Systems and the Ocean

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Chaired by: Barragan, M.J.

"Lost in translation" - Mapping spawning grounds using fishers' ecological knowledge
Emma Björkvik, Wiebren J. Boonstra & Vera Telemo

Fishers have vast and detailed knowledge of the marine social-ecological environments they depend upon. It is argued that fishers’ ecological knowledge represents a valuable complement to fisheries science, and should therefore contribute to fisheries management. In modern fisheries science, fishers’ ecological knowledge is often translated into quantitative outputs that are commensurable with the scientific models and assessments. However, much of the local richness characterizing fishers’ ecological knowledge risk being lost in such translation processes. Here, we focus on the ecological knowledge not captured in quantitative outputs and potential management implications. To do so, we build on a 10 year old Swedish study, in which fisheries scientists asked fishers to identify and map spawning grounds for different fish species. This information was then presented as GIS-layers. We re-visited the still active fishers that participated in the study and asked them about changes over time. Our preliminary results demonstrate that the changes fishers observe are largely explained by the changes they made in their fishing practices, and also reveals that capturing information about spawning areas on maps are not straightforward. Fishers’ perception of spawning grounds is highly diverse; some fishers are able to demarcate and locate areas precisely, while others are not able to do this. We argue that quantitative outputs based on fishers’ ecological knowledge can only contribute to fisheries management if they are understood and used in the light of the qualitative information explaining them. We further recommend scientists and managers to report back their results to the fishers in order to improve validity. Our study confirms that fishers’ ecological knowledge is best integrated in management and science through collaborative, participatory processes.

Winds and Seas: Kula travel and the impact of global forces
Susanne Kuehling

In the island region of the kula exchange system in southeast Papua New Guinea, the sea and the winds inhibited or facilitated the flow of valuables as they controlled canoe travel and the rain that is needed for yams gardening. The paper first describes the epistemology of the kula world of a ‘sea of islands’ (following Hau’ofa), bound by seasons, subsistence, and canoe travel. The changes in transport and the ever increasing impact of the market economy are currently changing the notion of the sea as a space that can be braved. Cruise ships and other tourist tours contribute to the sellout of this unique exchange network while at the same time alerting politicians to the commercial value of “custom”. My paper will address how the kula masters themselves are trying to remedy the negative effects on kula caused by the changes. Data for the paper was collected during 25 years of research in the kula region, including two boat expeditions visiting almost all kula islands (2016, 2018) in close collaboration with kula masters (as a ‘research team’).

Imaginations beyond Cartography: Contesting Politics of Alappad’s Fishers in Kerala, India
Nidheesh Suresh

In introducing my own fishing village in Kerala, Alappad, I look at the politics of contesting frameworks around sea-and-shore as practised spaces: fishing, mining, coastal highway, Mata Amritanandamayi Math and Coastal Regulation Zone. In addressing the question posed by the conference text, ‘how do the forms of knowledge produce and communicate, and why some forms are more influential:’ I look at how the spaces mentioned before tend to create a binary of land and sea which is cartographically defined. Ironically even the protest movements adopt cartography in their narration. The cartographic knowledge creation in Alappad goes back to colonialism in 1911 when the mining began. Then, in 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission was formed, and the export of monazites was stopped. 1950 marked the opening of a rare earth survey unit as well as the Indian Rare Earth Limited. In 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Alappad and in 1965 Indian Rare Earth Limited started mining.
My vantage points to elaborate on the contemporary construction of Alappad are: a) as a space of extraction and b) as a space of resistance. However, being from the fishing community, I find that the way sea and land has been engaged with and practised does not follow cartographic logic. The earlier engagements of the fishing community with land and sea generated forms of knowledge which were non-cartographic. I argue that knowledge, memory, culture and property of fishermen are co-produced by practices that connect land and sea. I believe the conceptual frames and perspectives need to delve into the confluent practice of land and sea. As Jacobson said, “we are made for and made by that thin world where land meets sea.


Nidheesh Suresh

PhD Scholar, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai

Thursday June 27, 2019 10:30 - 12:00
REC A1.04 Roeters Eiland Complex, University of Amsterdam