Fishermen´s underestimation of risk

Fabienne Knudsen, Sisse Grøn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearch


  Fishermen's underestimation of risk



In order to understand the effect of footwear and flooring on slips, trips and falls, 1st author visited 4 fishing boats.  An important spinoff of the study was to get an in situ insight in the way, fishermen perceive risk.



The presentation will analyse fishermen's risk perception, its causes and consequences.



The first author participated in 3 voyages at sea on fishing vessels (from 1 to 10 days each and from 2 to 4 crewmembers) where  interviews and participant observation was undertaken. A 4th fishing boat was visited on dock and the crew interviewed. Based on notes, diary, interviews and photo/video documentation, records related to the fishermen's risk perception were compiled, and then analysed by means of theories of risk perception.



Fishermen tend partly to underrate the risks they are running, partly to stress the positive potentiale of risk. This can be explained by several, interrelated factors such as the nature of fishing, it-self a risk-based enterprise; a life-form promoting independency and identification with the enterprise's pecuniary priorities; working conditions upholding a feeling of exceptionalim and scepticism towards measures and regulations initiated from the outside. Moreover, out of ten factors affecting risk perception, according to D. Ropeik and P. Slovic (e.g. is the risk natural or not, is it new or not, is it outweighted by benefits, is it self-imposed), the majority showed to be highly relevant to the fishermen's underestimation of risk. 



To professionals such as fishermen, risk is obviously not only consideres as negative, but also as an opportunity. As formulated by sociologist Anthony Giddens, "there can be no question of merely taking a negative attitude towards risk. Risk always needs to be disciplined, but active risk-taking is a core element of a dynamic economy and an innovative society." The difficult challenge is to contribute to a better environment in fishery by ‘disciplining' risk in ways that make sense to fishermen and do not contradict their experience. This is not an easy task and the presentation raises more questions than answers, and therefore opens up to discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Small Enterprises : a healthy working life in a healthy business
EditorsHans-Jørgen Limborg, Caroline Klitgaard, Pia Dukholm
Number of pages1
Publication date2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventUSE 2009 Understanding small enterprises - Helsingør, Denmark
Duration: 20. Oct 200923. Oct 2009
Conference number: 1


ConferenceUSE 2009 Understanding small enterprises

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