Fishermen engagement must be meaningful – and beyond the consultative style of public hearings.
We must strive for collective learning among fishermen, the public, scientists and managers to achieve a common understanding of our fisheries, marine environment, economies, and communities. Only from this shared understanding, can we move forward toward sharing responsibility for managing our resources effectively. We do this with a combination of facilitation, education and communication methods that, as a package, we call Community Fisheries Action Roundtable (C-FAR). We apply these methods in nearly every aspect of fishermen engagement- from a run in at the grocery store – to a formal, planned meeting. We have most recently realized some impact from this approach in Maine’s State scallop fishery.
Community Fisheries Action Roundtable
Community Fisheries Action Roundtable (C-FAR) began in January 2008 as a leadership educational program for coastal fishermen in eastern Maine to mobilize them to engage in sustainable fisheries management and has become our universal method of engaging fishermen about subjects of community resilience, K-12 education, fisheries management and the marine ecosystem. We use a facilitative approach of starting conversations with universally agreed upon goals for a given topic or concern. From these overarching, shared goals, we facilitate information exchange among fishermen, scientists, and managers. These discussions often redefine a problem in common terms, based on a shared understanding of what we all want to achieve, what we know, and what obstacles might exist. This process engages fishermen’s creative problem solving skills and redistributes responsibility for success.
C-FAR started as a program having two parts including two, three-day roundtable meetings and a follow-up year ‘round mentoring program. Winter roundtable training sessions are convened in January through March, when most fishermen are not out on the water. A group of 15 personally-recruited fishermen and family or community members commit to participating in all six days of training. One session is always held in the state capital so that participants interact with the policy process, meet legislators and lobbyists, and visit the places where management changes happen. The other two sessions rotate through the many coastal towns where we operate. Participants bring industry-related ecological and community concerns and work through group process assisted by professional facilitators.
Regional community training sessions have been held in Stonington, Jonesport and Machias. Participants discuss community-based fisheries management principles and the process of management and resource changes. We introduce basic fisheries management concepts and provide a civics refresher. Group and individual decision-making, and group processes such as meeting dynamics and facilitation, are discussed. Participants bring specific and timely concerns facing their community or the industry as a whole as a starting point for the group’s work. The process involves communication techniques, learning how to access additional information and resources, and sparking curiosity about marine ecology at scales different from that of fishermen’s traditional knowledge.