Opening dialogue and fostering collaboration: different ways of knowing in fisheries research

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South African Journal of Science

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We set out to explore some of the impediments which hinder effective communication among fishers, fisheries researchers and managers using detailed ethnographic research amongst commercial handline fishers from two sites- one on the southern Cape coast and the other on the west coast of South Africa. Rather than assuming that the knowledge of fishers and scientists is inherently divergent and incompatible, we discuss an emerging relational approach to working with multiple ways of knowing and suggest that this approach might benefit future collaborative endeavours. Three major themes arising from the ethnographic fieldwork findings are explored: different classifications of species and things; bringing enumerative approaches into dialogue with relational approaches; and the challenge of articulating embodied ways of relating to fish and the sea. Although disconcertments arise when apparently incommensurable approaches are brought into dialogue, we suggest that working with multiple ways of knowing is both productive and indeed necessary in the current South African fisheries research and management contexts. The research findings and discussion on opening dialogue offered in this work suggest a need to rethink contemporary approaches to fisheries research in order to mobilise otherwise stagnant conversations, bringing different ways of knowing into productive conversation.