Human dimensions of bycatch reduction technology: current assumptions and directions for future research
Bycatch reduction technology (BRT) modifies fishing gear to increase selectivity and avoid capture of non-target species, or to facilitate their non-lethal release. As a solution to fisheries-related mortality of non-target species, BRT is an attractive option; effectively implemented, BRT presents a technical ‘fix’ that can reduce pressure for politically contentious and economically detrimental interventions, such as fisheries closures. While a number of factors might contribute to effective implementation, our review of BRT literature finds that research has focused on technical design and experimental performance of individual technologies. In contrast, and with a few notable exceptions, research on the human and institutional context of BRT, and more specifically on how fishers respond to BRT, is limited. This is not to say that fisher attitudes are ignored or overlooked, but that incentives for fisher uptake of BRT are usually assumed rather than assessed or demonstrated. Three assumptions about fisher incentives dominate: (1) economic incentives will generate acceptance of BRT; (2) enforcement will generate compliance with BRT; and (3) ‘participation’ by fishers will increase acceptance and compliance, and overall support for BRT. In this paper, we explore evidence for and against these assumptions and situate our analysis in the wider social science literature on fisheries. Our goal is to highlight the need and suggest focal areas for further research.