Integrating Cooperative Research and Management: Perspectives from a Recreational Fishing Organization
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) was founded in 1939 and is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making, and record keeping. Originally housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, IGFA has always had strong ties with fisheries research. Indeed, the appointment of William King Gregory, Ph.D., who at the time was chairman for both the ichthyology and comparative anatomy departments, as IGFA’s first president solidified the organization’s dedication to conservation and increasing the world’s knowledge of fishes.
In the subsequent 66 years, IGFA has endeavored in its goal of promoting the sport of angling not only as recreation, but also as a source of scientific data. In addition to compiling decades of catch information from around the world, IGFA staff, trustees, and international representatives have participated in international cooperative research and management efforts. Presently, IGFA represents its membership and recreational anglers, in general, on numerous regional, national, and international fisheries management panels and also funds and participates in research relating to game fish and their habitats.
Whether participating in cooperative research or management, IGFA’s core purpose is to provide a link and facilitate interaction and information exchange between recreational anglers and fisheries scientists and managers. Thus, the following are perspectives on the concept of integrating cooperative research and management from the position of an organization acting in the liaison capacity.
One of the first things to consider when approaching this subject is that cooperative research and cooperative management are distinct components of a single, bigger process. One of the inherent challenges to cooperative management is that the people involved often have diverse backgrounds not associated with science or research, which often leads to a fundamental distrust or misunderstanding of the science that is driving management. This produces negative results, including unproductive discussions between stakeholders and managers, diminished compliance with new management decisions, and reduced likelihood for future participation in cooperative management.
One way to combat the issue is to involve stakeholder groups earlier in the process by getting them to participate in cooperative research, when and where appropriate. Properly implemented cooperative research can generate stakeholder buy-in, improve compliance with management decisions, and serve to perpetuate a working relationship between stakeholders and management.