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The Bare-foot Ecologist’s Toolbox

Prince, J.D. (2007) The Bare-foot Ecologist’s Toolbox. In: The Barefoot Ecologist’s Toolbox Workshop, 26 - 28 November, Galicia, Spain



Updating the Fishing Principle:
• Give a person a fish and they are fed for one day.
• Teach a person to fish and they are fed for life.
• Enable a village to fish sustainably and they are fed for generations.

Reaching the end of fisheries ecology doctorate on Haliotids I looked around and saw the seas, particularly coastal and tropical seas, full of small (1-50 km2) stocks. Extremely valuable to local communities in aggregate, Micro-stocks are myriad and complex to study, assess and manage sustainably. It was depressing; how could we ever hope to address the research and management needs of so many small resources. In the 1950s China faced a similar looking national health problem. They responded with bare-foot doctors, not top-end surgeons and technocrats, but low cost, generalist, medical practitioners trained to go out and deal with all the basic village ailments.

Micro-stocks need assessment and management at local scales to prevent component stocks suffering the tragedy of commons. Community based and Territorial Rights based systems will prove essential for sustaining these resources. But who will service the technical needs of all these communities of stakeholders? Certainly not the existing Universities and Government Agencies funded by shrinking central governments!

When the late Dr Philip Slucanowski and I asked ourselves these questions the only answer was - Bare-foot Ecologists. Embodying the spirits of Johannes and Pauly, and equipped with a tool box borrowed from Walters, bare-foot ecologists would be appropriately trained quantitative, ethno-fisheries ecology generalists, with a love for life, and insatiable curiosity. As with China’s bare-foot doctor campaign, local people trained and equipped to return to local communities will always be far more effective, than visiting foreign experts. Like the famous Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Bare-foot Ecologist’s Toolbox will be a hand-held computer designed to be useful in every situation, as long as user does not panic! Armed with this thought and a working knowledge of the Walters’ personal toolbox Philip and I set out to design the Toolbox.

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