Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Fishing in the Dark: Science, Values and Deep Water Fisheries Research

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posted on 2021-11-08, 05:09 authored by Cawthorn, Isabella

This research sought to assesss the safeguards protecting scientific objectivity in New Zealand deep-water fisheries science decision-making fora. Managing depleted, slow-growing and poorly-understood stocks demands particularly accurate, objective scientific information. New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries undertakes deep-water fisheries management in an nformation-poor, high-stakes context. This context means neither of the two strictly separate policy and scientific advice processes is able, in isolation, to provide advice confidently. Preliminary investigations suggested that to enable the Ministry to meet the ongoing need for management of deep-water fishing, science fora are effectively taking on a quasi-policy role.  This research investigated whether deep-water fisheries science processes have sufficient safeguards to protect the objectivity of scientific decision-making in this difficult climate, thereby ensuring maximum accuracy in their advice. Twentytwo personal interviews were conducted with key informants, and analysed using grounded theory. Themes thus revealed were analysed in light of concepts from economics, philosophy of science and institutional analysis literature. Research suggested that the scientific process is ill-suited for handling non-scientific judgements, and the spread of non-scientific considerations into scientific fora is risking the objectivity of scientific analysis which is critical for fisheries management. Imbalanced stakeholder representation in scientific fora further imperils objectivity in these fora, with potentially significant implications for sustainable fisheries management.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Willis, Richard; Wallace, Cath