Social networks and fishers' behavior: Exploring the links between information flow and fishing success in the Northumberland lobster fishery


Turner RA, Polunin NV & Stead SM (2014) Social networks and fishers' behavior: Exploring the links between information flow and fishing success in the Northumberland lobster fishery. Ecology and Society, 19 (2), Art. No.: 38.

Fisheries worldwide are facing overexploitation, yet the social dimensions of fishers' behavior remain under-studied, and there is demand for an improved understanding of social processes that influence fisheries' dynamics. Fishers draw on social relationships to acquire information relating to fishing opportunities, contributing to knowledge that underpins decision making and behavior. In this study we use quantitative social network analysis (SNA) to compare the structure of information-sharing networks and explore links between information flow and fishing success at four ports in the Northumberland (UK) potting fishery. In our results we describe the different information-sharing networks existing at each port, and show the following: a high proportion of fishers reported sharing information, though fewer than a third of reported ties were reciprocated; subgroups existed in which greater information sharing occurred; and networks displayed varying levels of cohesiveness. Fishers commonly shared information with others whom they perceived to be successful, and reciprocal relationships were more common among fishers of similar success. Furthermore, fishers more central in networks had more sources of incoming information through social relationships, shared information with fewer peers, and were more successful than those who were less central. We conclude that engaging in information-sharing networks can provide benefits for Northumberland fishers, although advantages gained through social networks may not be equally distributed. Although informationsharing networks may contribute to fishing success, i.e., high lobster landings, these outcomes may not be compatible with long-term fisheries management objectives. Nevertheless, understanding the social dynamics of information sharing can help inform management strategies by identifying central fishers in information-sharing networks, who have access to a range of information on others' fishing behavior. Such fishers may be able to assist managers in collecting information on the distribution of fishing opportunities, the state of the fishery, and the ways in which fishers use their knowledge to adapt to change and management interventions.

fisheries management; fishers' behavior; fishing success; information sharing; lobster fisheries; social network analysis

Ecology and Society: Volume 19, Issue 2

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/06/2014
Date accepted by journal01/01/2013