Cognitive strategies of lobster fishers for learning and recalling seafloor geographic regions: A comparison of fisheries in Maine and Western Australia
Brehme, Christopher Eric
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This research explores how lobster fishers learn and recall geographic regions of the ocean floor. This work builds on a foundation of research in spatial cognition and cognitive engineering that has examined how people learn to navigate within geographic environments and how they rely on cognitive artifacts to support this learning. This research makes a unique contribution by exploring how fishers use internal and external representations of lobster behavior and the ocean environment to identify lobster habitats and direct the placement of lobster traps. A comparison is made between commercial lobster fisheries in the states of Western Australia and Maine in the United States. The nested spatial scales presented by commercial fisheries, lobster fishing vessels, and individual fishers provide a unique framework in which to examine the processes of spatial learning and the roles of traditional and modern tools in influencing this learning. A baseline of environmental characteristics and physiological qualities of lobster is established using the tools of ontology, and this baseline is compared to the conceptualizations of lobster fishers. Fishers were engaged in this research through mixed methods including diaries, interviews, participant observation, and sketch mapping exercises. Each data collection method provided unique insights into the way that fishers conceptualize lobster habitat, and together, these methods help to corroborate the results. Due to their expansive fishing territories, lobster fishers in Western Australia rely heavily on electronic instruments to identify and record lobster habitat locations, and do not commit considerable information to memory. In contrast, fishers in Maine use a combination of technology and internal representations, and within a season of fishing, they are able to commit to memory the locations of significant habitat locations.