New social research publication from the Scottish Government explores what influences the decision making of Scottish fishers. It presents findings from twelve interviews with fishers. The main findings are focused on the social, economic, governance, and environmental drivers in fishers’ decision making.

The report titled “What factors influence the strategies and choices of Scottish fishers? A feasibility study” aimed to understand the factors influencing the decision-making process of Scottish fishers to aid in effective fisheries management. It involved a literature review and qualitative research with twelve fishers, all of whom were from different fishing industries and scale. The review identified eight categories of choices fishers make, such as where to fish and which gear to use, driven by social, economic, governance, and environmental factors. Social drivers, like knowledge and community ties, were found to heavily influence decisions, such as where to fish and whether to stay in the industry. Economic factors, like fuel costs, also played a role but were outweighed by social considerations. Decision-making was shown to be complex, with multiple drivers influencing choices. For instance, gear and species choices were influenced by a combination of social, governance, economic, and environmental factors. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for effective fisheries management policies.

Crew recruitment difficulty

The qualitative phase of the project involved interviews with fishers, revealing seven key themes influencing their decisions. These themes included challenges in recruiting and retaining crew, weather conditions, policy changes, access to quota, government support, and the mental strain on fishers. Crew recruitment emerged as the dominant theme, reflecting concerns about seasonal work, low wages, certification, competition, and reliance on migrant labor. This was linked to social drivers, particularly the transmission of knowledge across generations. The findings aligned with the literature review, with governance-related issues like new policies and regulations being prominent. For instance, the proposed Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) sparked discussion among participants. However, the Scottish Government ultimately decided not to proceed with the HPMA proposals following a consultation period.

new policies and regulations were raised as a major concern of fishers due to the ‘spatial squeeze’ resulting from competition with other marine sectors (e.g. introduction of conservation measures, expansion of offshore renewables). Furthermore, changes in quota availability was raised as a key economic driver.” [Report extract]


Credit: Maurice Randall


Multiple drivers

The study also highlighted the influence of environmental factors like weather and seasonality, and economic factors such as operating costs. These drivers affected broader issues like mental health and industry outlook. It underscored the complex interplay of multiple drivers in fishers’ decision-making and emphasised the necessity of industry with policy makers collaboration to sustain fisheries and fishing communities while safeguarding their welfare and sustainability.

Read the open access report here

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