The Barefoot Ecologist’s Toolbox
The problem of scientifically assessing and managing spatially complex and data-poor fisheries is now widely recognized as posing a global challenge to food security and coastal bio-diversity. By some estimates traditional assessment methodologies can only be applied to 10% of the world’s exploited marine species.
Dr Jeremy Prince is known internationally as the ‘barefoot ecologist’ since proposing in 2001 that the example of the Chinese barefoot doctor program could provide a framework for solving the problem of assessing and managing small-scale fisheries. Community-based barefoot ecologists trained in basic monitoring, assessment and management techniques, and equipped with a toolbox with simple but effective assessment and communication tools. At that time Dr Prince hoped a new simple and cost effective assessment tool could be developed for the toolbox within the decade.
In 2010, it was Dr Prince, together with his colleague Dr Adrian Hordyk (UBC), who made the necessary breakthrough by combining and extending old fisheries concepts in new ways to create a powerfully simple assessment technique using the size of the fish being caught;a technique that artisanal fishing communities can be taught to apply for themselves.
Supported by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the new methodology, Length-Based Spawning Potential Surveys, has been theoretically established and published. Real world implementations with beach head communities are in progress across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
In collaboration with cChange of Fiji a stunning range of highly effective communication materials have been developed to support community-based Spawning Potential Surveys, and courtesy of Dr Hordyk, on-line access to free-to-use assessment software.
With the David and Lucille Packard Foundation’s support, the elements of the Barefoot Ecologist’s Toolbox are coming together and due to be completed by 2020. Although not yet finalised, the tools we are developing to support community-based fisheries management are available through this website and are freely available for use. They will be added to and improved over the next couple of years, or so, so keep watching this space. Please make great use of the Toolbox and give us feedback about how you get on with the tools.