This project was commisssioned by Defra and ran from October 2018 to March 2019.

The overall aims of the project were to understand the extent to which a new social survey of fishers could add to the existing evidence base, identify and prioritise evidence gaps and determine the feasibility of conducting a (regular or not) survey that would be of value to both policy makers and fishing stakeholders.

The project also sought to make recommendations for how a survey might be operationalised. These aims were achieved through the following objectives, by providing:

  1. A review of existing surveys (in the UK and beyond) to identify how a new survey could complement existing surveys.

  2. A review of surveys targeting hard-to-reach populations, recognising that fishers are a distinct hard-to-reach group.

  3. Identification of key evidence gaps that could be filled by a new survey.

  4. Should a survey be feasible, consideration and recommendations for a sampling approach including data collection and analysis methods.

As the project progressed, it became clear that any new social survey should be designed and deployed collaboratively between government, researchers and fishing stakeholders. Thus, a further objective was added following the first stage of the project:

  • Development of a conceptual and operational framework for a co- produced survey that would allow collection of social data that would be of use to both policy makers and fishing stakeholders.

Through a combination of desk-based reviews and stakeholder consultation via interviews and workshops, the project aimed to understand the extent to which a new social survey of fishers could add value to the existing evidence base and begin to identify areas of consensus on social data needs. Discussions, recognising that fishers are a hard to reach group, explored alternative approaches for implementing a survey, in terms of sampling and data collection strategies. As the project progressed, it became clear that any new social survey is likely to be more successful if designed and deployed collaboratively between government, researchers and fishing stakeholders. Indeed, stakeholders indicated that a survey that is jointly designed, funded and delivered, would achieve better response rates and support from fishers. The project team therefore sought to develop a framework for a co-produced survey that would actively involve a variety of stakeholders from policy makers through to fishers themselves. The framework includes four stages of co-production:

  1. Laying the foundation: establishing institutional structures, building trust and agreeing the scope and focus of the survey as well as agreements about the publication and use of the survey data;

  2. developing survey instruments, data collection and analysis;

  3. incorporating data into decision making, both by government bodies and other relevant organisations across the fisheries sector;

  4. evaluation of quality of evidence produced, effectiveness of the co-production processes that generated the data, and feedback to levels 1 to 3.

The project was led by Julie Urquhart and also involved Paul Courtney, Matt Reed, Hannah Chiswell, John Powell, Nick Lewis and Imogen Young.
Additional contributions were made by Tony Delahunty who was commissioned to the project as an advisor from the fishing industry.

The full report can be found on the Defra R&D website.