Stories from the Field

5 Oct 2015

Wageningen University masters student Sophie tells her story about her time in Indonesia working on the following project: Identifying reporting needs from fishermen, levels of understanding, representation and value of information:  An example from the small-scale tuna fisheries in Ambon, Indonesia

Sophie’s story:

Since the I-Fish program started a couple of years ago, catch and effort data is collected from several locations around Indonesia. This includes one of I-Fish’ most remote sampling sites in Buru and Ambon, Maluku Province. My study is focused on the small-scale handline tuna fisheries in this region. Fishermen have cooperated for over two years in these sites, giving their data to MDPI enumerators, but have not yet received results from this data collection in a comprehensive way. It was my job to identify what is the best way to report this to the fishermen. When information is selected to present in a report to fishermen, it is still not known to what extent fishermen can read the information produced. Therefore, the main focus of my study was how understandable, representative and valuable the produced information is to fishermen from Maluku.

Through interviews we questioned what fishermen can get from the information and what aspects are confusing to them. Representation relates to how the information produced represents the fishermen’s own experiences at sea. Do they recognize the patterns in the graphs? With value we want to identify how valuable the information that is produced is to fishermen and what reasons they have to receive information from their fishery.

The main questions then were identified as “What information can be presented in a report to Maluku fishermen and how?”. To answer this question, I went to Ambon and Buru for two weeks to collect interviews from 20 individual fishermen. First of all, fishermen were very thankful for me coming to Buru and showing them all the information we produced from their data. The graphs I showed included catch per month, fuel use per trip per month, catch compositions, total catch per month and catch per fishing grounds. Information about catch and fuel were among the most important graphs, while they had least interest in catch compositions. Since the number of fishermen using a GPS device is increasing, the information on fishing grounds would be important for them to have. Some fishermen had troubles in understanding and reading information from the graphs, but with little help, every single fishermen was able to read the graphs. Troubles in understanding mainly came from the fact that they never saw graphs like this before and therefore, they did not know how to read values from the graphs. The order in which I presented the graphs to them was either contributing to understanding or causing confusion.

From all interviews I collected, I made a selection of the most important and most valued graphs that will be presented in a short report to the fishermen of Maluku, where also the order of information presented is taken into account.

Apart from my study, I would like to share some of my experiences I had in Indonesia. I learned a lot about the fishery itself, about the way of living, about the fishing community and about the value of giving information back to fishermen. The people in both Ambon and Buru were very kind and thankful that I spend time in ‘educating’ and ‘teaching’ them something new. Although I was the only blond, blue-eyed girl on Buru, it was great to live with the fishermen themselves, enjoy the beautiful remote island and be part of their community.

One of the greatest experiences I had was going out at sea as a crew member with one of my respondents. That day, he taught me everything about handline fishing, showed me how to find a pod of dolphins and how to catch a tuna. I was very surprised that I got the opportunity to fish myself on that small boat in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by spinner dolphins. Landing my first skipjack tuna, in that scenery with all other fishermen watching me and clapping hands, was the best feeling ever.

MDPI would like to thank Sophie for her short report and we look forward to reading your complete thesis when it’s finished.  From the results of Sophie’s work and from MDPI feedback from the field we are now producing periodic reports to the various stakeholders of the I-Fish data collection. These reports are intended to tell each stakeholder a little about what the data can tell them about the fishery for their interests or in their jurisdiction. Please contact MDPI or go to . We are currently working on putting aspects of the reporting system online and this will be available shortly at

Catch of the day: Yellowfin Tuna.

Some simple graphics used to explain data collection importance to the fishermen and also to show them that data can potentially inform them on aspects of their fishery which could support improvement or efficiencies.

Writer: Sophie Neitzel

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