Can fisherman and tour-boat guides reliably perceive changes in the abundance of large marine species over a sizable time gap?

Published online
25 Aug 2021
Published by
British Ecological Society
Content type

Bessesen, B. L. & González-Suárez, M.

Publication language
Costa Rica


This article is a plain language summary of the study, The value and limitations of local ecological knowledge: Longitudinal and retrospective assessment of flagship species in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, which explores the value and limitations of local ecological knowledge to assess the status of several flagship species of tourism interest: cetaceans, sea turtles, whale sharks and sea snakes in a unique tropical fiord and biodiversity hotspot in Golfo Dulce. This summary explains the responses of fishermen and tour-boat guides working in the bio-rich waters when asked how frequently they saw whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other flagship marine species. Two interview surveys, which were conducted through questionnaires a decade apart (2010 and 2020), reveal both strengths and weaknesses in human perception. While people tend to accurately recognize what is happening in their environment in the moment, they often fall victim to inaccurate recall when reflecting back over time. A small panel of respondents who had participated both years gave opinions as to whether they saw more, less, or about the same number of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other focus fauna, as they had in 2010. Not only did their perceptions fail to sync with the biomonitoring data, but they also failed to sync with their own reporting.

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