Social-Ecological Systems and Fisheries Management

Incorporating social dynamics into fisheries management is necessary for a holistic approach to ecosystem-based fisheries management. While management agencies often employ public hearings or advisory panels composed of stakeholder groups, there remains substantial value in incorporating the perceptions and attitudes of stakeholders into management. In the western Atlantic, the striped bass fishery is a prime candidate for a comprehensive social assessment. This fishery is a vital component of coastal economies, especially in Massachusetts (MA) where recreational expenditures alone equate to over $600 million annually  as hundreds of thousands of anglers fish along coastal MA. Across the Atlantic coast the recreational fishery for striped bass is quite large, composed of over 3 million anglers landing an estimated 25.6 million pounds of fish per year.

Engaging stakeholders in the management process is also central to the development of effective governance structure because it likely will increase fisher compliance to regulations. Understanding the perceptions of these stakeholders can help identify policy changes that anglers would be highly amenable towards. My research therefore aims to take a holistic approach to analyzing the fishery and its stakeholders. An initial survey was sent to 5000 anglers from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Picture2Over 1300 recreational and commercial anglers participated and results revealed a number of well supported regulations as well as underlying characteristic of anglers that predict supportiveness. For example, we found that commercial anglers and recreational anglers often have extremely different perceptions, such that the latter group was much more supportive of a potential circle hook mandate (Figure 1). Check out the publications page for a full report of these results.

Future surveys are going to determine how the implementation of new policy can change the perceptions of stakeholders and ultimately may lead to altered fishing behavior and effort. Additionally, I’ll be examining angler motivations behind fishing and the importance anglers place on certain aspects of striped bass fishing.

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