Fisheries scientists and managers are increasingly engaging with fishers’ knowledge (FK) to provide novel information and improve the legitimacy of fisheries governance. Disputes between the perceptions of fishers and scientists can generate conflicts for governance, but can also be a source of new perspectives or understandings. This paper compares artisanal trap fishers’ reported current catch rates with landings data and underwater visual census (UVC). Fishers’ reports of contemporary ‘normal’ catch per day tended to be higher than recent median landings records. However, fishers’ reports of ‘normal’ catch per trap were not significantly different from the median CPUE calculated from landings data, and reports of ‘good’ and ‘poor’ catch rates were indicative of variability observed in landings data. FK, landings and UVC data all gave different perspectives of trends over a ten-year period. Fishers’ perceptions indicated greater declines than statistical models fitted to landings data, while UVC evidence for trends varied between sites and according to the fish assemblage considered. Divergence in trend perceptions may have resulted from differences in the spatial, temporal or taxonomic focus of each dataset. Fishers may have experienced and understood behavioural changes and increased fishing power, which may have obscured declines from landings data. Various psychological factors affect memory and recall, and may have affected these memory-based estimates of trends, while different assumptions underlying the analysis of both interview data and conventional scientific data could also have led to qualitatively different trend perceptions. Differing perspectives from these three data sources illustrate both the potential for ‘cognitive conflicts’ between stakeholders who do not rely on the same data sources, as well as the importance of multiple information sources to understand dynamics of fisheries. Collaborative investigation of such divergence may facilitate learning and improve fisheries governance.
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