Swart_-_cockle_fishery_08

Swart_-_cockle_fishery_08 - Journal of Applied Ecology 2008...

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Journal of Applied Ecology 2008, 45 , 82–90 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01366.x © 2007 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2007 British Ecological Society Blackwell Publishing Ltd Rethinking the interface between ecology and society. The case of the cockle controversy in the Dutch Wadden Sea Jac. A. A. Swart* and Jelte van Andel Science & Society Group, Department of Biology, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands Summary 1. Applied ecology, like conservation research, may deal with societal issues if its scientifically based interventions have societal consequences. Human utilization plays a significant role in many ecosystems, so conservation ecologists often have to act on the interface between science and society, where controversies may arise. 2. Using insights from science and technology studies, we have analysed the 15-year controversy on the ecological effects of cockle fishing in the Dutch Wadden Sea, which began around 1990 and involved nature protection and shellfish organizations, as well as several leading Dutch ecologists, in a heated debate. 3. During this controversy, evaluative research on the ecological effects of cockle fishing was under- taken by a consortium of institutes in order to contribute to the process of political decision-making by the Dutch government on cockle fishery in this area. In addition to conservational and com- mercial interests, ecological research itself became part of the controversy. 4. The research projects on the effects of cockle fishing during this controversy are examples of societally contextualized science, implying that interests and societal disputes are intertwined with scientific arguments. We have applied a dynamic model of contextualization in which societal stakes and scientific uncertainty are considered as the main factors determining the different contexts in which conservation research functions. 5. Synthesis and applications. Conservation research, whether it is fundamental or managerially orientated, is related to greater societal aims and interests and might easily face more or less complex societally contextualized situations. Such situations imply extended responsibilities for scientists. Not only is there a need for sound science, but also for a sound way of interacting and communicating with the societal environment. Some elements of such a notion of extended accountability are presented. Key-words: accountability, boundary work, cockle fishing, conservation, contextualization, science & society, shellfish fishery, Wadden Sea Introduction In December 2003, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) published an evaluation study (EVA II) on the ecological effects of shellfish fishery in the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. The evaluation consisted of about 2850 pages in 22 reports and 10 technical appendices (see extended summary: Ens, Smaal & De Vlas 2004). The report was the result of 4 years of research by a consortium of four ecological research institutes in the Netherlands. The ministerial
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