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Fishers' perception of a 35-year old Exclusive Fisheries Zone

Fishers’ attitudes and perceptions are critical for the success of fisheries protection areas with their associated biota, and a failure to understand fishers’ behaviour may undermine the success of such fisheries management measures. In this study, we examine fishers’ perception of a long-established exclusive fisheries zone around Malta and to investigate if the perceptions depend on fishers’ demographic, economic, social characteristics and fishing activity of the fishers. A questionnaire survey was undertaken to evaluate the demographic characteristics, economic situation (costs and revenue) and fishers’ activity and behaviour, together with their perception of the Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ). A total of 241 interview responses were analysed which was a response rate of 60%. The perception of most fishers was that the establishment of the FMZ has had an overall negative impact on their fishing activity and that the zone is not important for the protection of local fish stocks. When asked about the beneficial effect of the zone for fishers, most fishers from all backgrounds said that the zone does not benefit commercial fishers, but benefits mainly recreational fishers. The most evident differences in the perceptions and attitudes were between the full-time, part-time and recreational fishers. Fishers that have been fishing for more than 35 years and fishers from the main fishing village also had different attitudes from other fishers towards the FMZ. The results of this study suggest that the proportion of individual income derived from fishing was the strongest factor that influenced attitudinal differences, with home port and fishing experience having less important effects. The main differences in attitude among fishers were related to the protection and conservation effects of the zone, enhancement of resources and conflicts among user groups. The heterogeneity among fishers’ attitudes revealed by the present study has important implications for the implementation of spatial closures. Some sectors of stakeholders may require additional incentives to accept restrictions on access if spatial management is to achieve its intended objectives.

Dimech, M., Darmanin, M., Smith, I.P., Kaiser, M.J. & Schembri, P.J. (2009) Fishers' perception of a 35-year old Exclusive Fisheries Zone. Biological Conservation, 142 (11): 2691-2702. 


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