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Is there a ‘wicked problem’ of small-scale coastal fisheries in Sierra Leone?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nwamaka Okeke-Ogbuafor, Professor Tim Gray, Professor Selina Stead



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2019 Elsevier Ltd The situation of small-scale coastal fisheries in Sierra Leone is dire, with diminishing fish stocks and fish sizes due to massive industrial fishing and widespread use of banned nets by artisanal fishers. Repeated attempts have been made by fisheries management to improve the situation, but with little or no success. Superficially, it might seem that the two main causes of the problem - foreign industrial fishing and damaging artisanal nets – could be readily dealt with, but closer analysis reveals that tackling these causes is immensely complicated. This is because their roots lie deep in Sierra Leone's history, culture and politics, and any attempt to deal with them could lead to unintended consequences which might make the situation worse not better. Does this mean there is a ‘wicked problem’ here – i.e. a problem so intractable that it has no practicable solution? This is the issue which the present study addresses. The research is based on extensive fieldwork carried out in two large fishing coastal fishing communities in Sierra Leone (Tombo and Goderich) during April and May 2017 when 200 open-ended questionnaires (SQs) were administered and 51 key informant interviews (KIs) were conducted. The study concludes that the situation faced by small-scale fisheries in these communities meets several, but by no means all, of the criteria of a wicked problem, and that while a definitive solution to the problem is unfeasible, stakeholders could adopt strategies to alleviate its more harmful consequences.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Okeke-Ogbuafor N, Gray T, Stead SM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Policy

Year: 2020

Volume: 118

Print publication date: 01/08/2020

Online publication date: 02/03/2019

Acceptance date: 22/02/2019

Date deposited: 13/02/2019

ISSN (print): 0308-597X

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9460

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.043


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