Participatory Action Research (PAR) is about researchers and volunteers collaboratively creating projects to gather data required to solve real, local problems. Conde (2014) argues that, “lay citizens, communities, and local grassroots organizations are engaging with professional scientists to learn from them the tools and the scientific language they need to produce a new and alternative knowledge with which they can challenge dominant discourses and engage in practical activism”. This project uses PAR to do science from the grassroots, where fishermen and women on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, create a research question, data protocol, gather data, and analyze data collaboratively with researchers.

The first consensus meeting with the community was held in March 2015. We facilitated a discussion that resulted in a research question of interest to fishermen and women that cut across different types of fish, equipment, and seasons: “How does ocean temperature affect the catch rates of different fisheries, including environmental conditions such as ‘slub,’ ice cover, and when bait fish arrive?” We then collaboratively developed a sampling protocol where fishermen and women will put monitors on their lines to measure temperature at the surface, middle, and bottom of the water column.

There is a need for a sustainable fishing industry, but in order to have a sustainable fishing industry on Fogo Island, or anywhere for that matter, changes are needed in fisheries management and practice. The problem with past fishing management strategies are that only a few harvested species are managed. To research and collect data on only a few species that are part of a large, complex, and dynamic ecosystem will continue to lead to disaster. To achieve truly adaptive fisheries management, people other than scientists must be brought into the research process to properly identify and address fishing issues at a local scale. Who better to design research questions to address problems with current management strategies than the fishers who deal directly with them?

This project is headed by Matt McWilliams, Masters student, Environmental Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, with Dr. Yolanda Wiersma, Associate Professor in Biology, and Dr. Max Liboiron, Assistant Professor in Sociology.


Conde, M. (2014) Activism mobilising science. Ecological Economics, 67-77.

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