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Wicked fish tales

Dr. Svein Jentoft, Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee (organizer), Dr. Bob Hopper, Dr. Rashid Sumaila and Dr. Maarten Bavinck are pictured at the recent symposium held at Memorial.

By Janet Harron

There are lots of definitions for the word “wicked.” Conventionally associated with something being evil or sinful, it is also currently used as a synonym for “cool” or as a way of adding emphasis.

In social planning, however, a “wicked problem” is one that is difficult or impossible to solve due to complex interdependencies. Wicked problem solving has to be understood as an argumentative process and one that raises many questions and issues.

Recently the SSHRC-funded project Coastal Connections hosted a symposium titled Fisheries as Wicked Problems. Co-hosted by the International Coastal Network, Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee’s Canada Research Chair lab, the Harris Centre and Dr. Barb Neis’s CURA project, the symposium was able to showcase both international and local perspectives on the issue.

“We thought it would be interesting to bring the diverse perspectives about fisheries together – ecological, social, economic and governance – to examine why these are wicked problems,” said Dr. Chuenpagdee.

Among the invited speakers were Dr. Bob Hooper of the Bonne Bay Research Station in Norris Point, Dr. Maarten Bavinch of the University of Amsterdam, Dr. Rashid Sumaila, an economist from the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Svein Jentoft of the Norwegian College of Fishery Science. Dr. Jentoft recently co-authored a paper with Dr. Chuenpagdee published in the Marine Policy journal titled Fisheries and coastal governance as a wicked problem.

The local perspective was presented by John Collins of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Tom Dooley of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Julie Huntington of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Dr. Reade Davis of Memorial’s anthropology department, and Dave Vardey of the Harris Centre.

Dr. Chuenpagdee was very pleased by the discussion generated at the symposium, most notably in the exposure of students to the fisheries issues that are being dealt with in Newfoundland and elsewhere. She also believes that this symposium has helped in laying the groundwork for the Harris Centre’s Fisheries Forum, currently in the planning stages for 2010.