Beyond fishermen’s tales: contributions of fishers’ local ecological knowledge to fish ecology and fisheries management

  • Renato A. M. SilvanoEmail author
  • John Valbo-Jørgensen


Studies investigating the local ecological knowledge (LEK) held by fishermen about the fishing resources have indicated that fishermen’s LEK may have the potential to improve fishery management, by providing new information about the ecology, behavior and abundance trends of fish and other aquatic animals. Our major aim is to undertake a brief review of published ethnoichthyological studies with a focus on coastal Brazilian fisheries and freshwater fisheries in both Brazil and Southeast Asia. Based on such review, we provide 29 hypotheses on fish ecology based on fishermen’s LEK and compare them with what is already known from the biological literature, using an arbitrary ‘likelihood’ measure: “Low likelihood” corresponded to unexpected hypotheses, which contradict existing biological data. “Medium likelihood” corresponded to hypotheses that could not be compared to available scientific knowledge. Hypotheses that agree with scientific data were considered as “High likelihood”. We therefore discuss these three categories of hypotheses about several distinct topics, such as migration, reproduction, feeding habits, abundance patterns, ecological relationships between fish and their predators, and fishing pressure. Our results may contribute to the fisheries management and research in the studied regions and other similar places, besides raising the interest of biologists to properly include fishermen’s LEK when planning and conducting fisheries surveys.


Amazon Basin Brazilian coast Ethnobiology Fish ecology Fisheries management Human ecology Mekong River 



We thank the fishermen of the studied communities for their kind cooperation, P. Zahorcsak, A.L. Silva, P.F.L. McCord and R.V. Lima for help in the fieldwork of Brazilian surveys; All staff of the Assessment of Mekong Fisheries Component in Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Thailand, FAPESP/ SP for financial support of research projects and for grants to R.A.M. Silvano; CNPq for a productivity scholarship grant to R.A.M. Silvano; A. Begossi and L. Hens for the invitation to participate in this issue, L. Hens for his comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EcologyUFRGSPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.FIMF, FAORomeItaly

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