Changing behavior: Can intervention design from the public health sector help solve the problem of fishing gear conflict?

Fennell HL (2023) Changing behavior: Can intervention design from the public health sector help solve the problem of fishing gear conflict? Marine Policy 151:105527.

Abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear is associated with significant environmental and socio-economic impacts. Gear loss can be attributed to environmental and operational factors. Gear conflict, which can result in the loss of gear due to interactions within or between fleet métiers, is a significant contributor to gear loss in some fisheries. Traditionally interventions aiming to reduce the occurrence of gear conflict have been designed without a systematic approach and with minimal analysis of the fisher behaviors which lead to gear conflict. This study uses the Behavioral Change Wheel (BCW), a well-established intervention design framework originating from the UK health sector, and applies it for the first time in a fisheries management context in an attempt to understand the specific intervention functions and policy categories which could be used to reduce or avoid the occurrence of gear loss through gear conflict. Through a series of open-ended interviews with static and mobile fishers, ten behaviors were identified which were associated with either the prevention or mitigation of gear conflict (communication between sectors/individuals, marking fishing gear, moving gear when/if requested, adjusting fishing patterns to account for known gear positions, adherence to spatial separation agreements, regular gear maintenance, regular hauling of static gear, reporting snagged static fishing gear, bringing snagged fishing gear back into harbor, and attempting to locate lost fishing gear). While some of these behaviors (such as sharing details of fishing activities and locations) were found in both static and mobile fleet métiers, other behaviors were unique to specific fleet segments (e.g. gear marking behavior from static gear fishers). Analysis of the behavioral subcomponents of each behavior through the BCW framework reveal that intervention functions targeting fisher social and physical opportunities and automatic and reflexive motivations would be most effective when attempting to reduce the occurrence of gear loss between static and mobile métiers. Potential policy categories that would support this work include the introduction of guidelines, fiscal measures, regulation, legislation, environmental/social planning, and service provision- for example, the creation of behavioral contracts by fishers, enforced spatial management guidelines, and the creation of support structures for part-time fishers.