An Evolving Partnership: Collaboration between university 'experts' and net-fishers

Merle Sowman


This paper reflects on the evolution of a university-community partnership that has benefited both the community and the university, through joint research and mutual capacity development. It highlights the value of working collaboratively with communities and other stakeholders to jointly tackle complex human-ecological problems and demonstrates that knowledge that resides in communities is fundamental to resolving problems. While the initial focus of the project was on providing ‘expert’ advice to assist a fishing community, as well as to ‘build their capacity’ to enable effective participation in management decisions, over time the relationship shifted to one characterised by mutual learning, collaborative research and the co-production of knowledge in the face of policy changes. This article offers reflections on this 15 year university-community engagement process and highlights the shifts in perceptions, research approaches and positions of the university researchers as the partnership developed and expanded as understanding of this fishery system increased.

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