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Artisanal Fisheries Research: A Need for Globalization?

01 August 2016

Given limited funds for research and widespread degradation of ecosystems, environmental scientists should geographically target their studies where they will be most effective. However, in academic areas such as conservation and natural resource management there is often a mismatch between the geographic foci of research effort/funding and research needs, write José Gilmar C. Oliveira Júnio et al, University of Alagoas,Brazil.

The former frequently being focused in the developed world while the latter is greater in the biodiverse countries of the Global South.

Here, we adopt a bibliometric approach to test this hypothesis using research on artisanal fisheries. Such fisheries occur throughout the world, but are especially prominent in developing countries where they are important for supporting local livelihoods, food security and poverty alleviation.

Moreover, most artisanal fisheries in the Global South are unregulated and unmonitored and are in urgent need of science-based management to ensure future sustainability. Our results indicate that, as predicted, global research networks and centres of knowledge production are predominantly located in developed countries, indicating a global mismatch between research needs and capacity.


One of the main consequences of limited funding for scientific research is that global knowledge production can show dramatic geographic variations, with research in many areas dominated by scientists based in institutions in the developed world. This is because economically developed countries contain the strongest universities and research centres, can devote more resources to research, and consequently produce more (and higher impact) publications. In contrast, countries in the developing world produce lower volumes of research, much of which is published in low impact publications.

Such global inequalities in scientific capacity have significant practical and economic consequences. For example, the populations of many developing countries are still heavily dependent on exploiting natural resources.

Effective management these resources should, ideally, be based on the best and most up-to-date science. It follows that a lack of local/regional scientific capacity could lead to information deficits and poor decision-making. Of course, international scientists could theoretically plug these capacity gaps, but even if this was the case they would be unlikley to have the same access to policy-makers and resource managers as their local counterparts. Specifically, local scientists may sit on government bodies/committees, determine the allocation of research funding and, fundamentally, can more effectively communicate research findings to relevant stakeholders in local languages and cultures. In summary, geographic deficits in research capacity can lead to significant mismatches between research effort and research needs at a global scale, with serious practical consequences.

Artisanal fisheries is a potential example of geographic deficits in research capacity. Research in this area frequently suffers from data shortfalls which limit the efficacy of policy development and governance in many countries in the developing world.

Artisanal fisheries is characterized by simple technology and low capital investment. It occurs all over the world, but is especially prominent in developing countries where it frequently plays a vital role in supporting local livelihoods, food security and poverty alleviation. Moreover, about 90 per cent of those dependent on fisheries for their livelihoods live in developing countries.

However, artisanal fisheries in these countries are frequently unregulated, under intense pressure from growing populations and have, historically, been far less studied than industrial fisheries.

Indeed, assessment and management of artisanal fisheries in developing countries has been characterized as “usually inadequate or absent”. In other words, the research needs associated with tropical artisanal fisheries are immense and are predominantly located in developing countries of the Global South. By extension, it is these areas where global research effort should be focused, preferably with knowledge being produced by scientists who are associated with local scientific institutions.

Here, we assess the global production of scientific knowledge in coastal and marine artisanal fisheries with the aims of identifying: i) the geographic structure of research networks and centres of knowledge production, and; ii) geographical patterns and shortfalls in research effort. Our working hypotheses are: i) network connectivity positively influences the quality and the impact of artisanal fisheries research, and; ii) knowledge production for artisanal/small-scale fisheries will be concentrated in major research institutions from the developed world. We tested these hypotheses through a combination of bibliometrics and networks analysis.

Further Reading

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