Social-Ecological Systems and Fisheries Management

 

Humans and ecosystems are inextricably linked in numerous ways. Known collectively as social-ecological systems, they are composed of a variety of interconnected components including the resource system, resource units, resource users, and a governance system. The way in which we manage these complex systems should ultimately be guided by the characteristics and attributes of these components and the ways in which they interact. Applying a human dimensions approach to fisheries management, will therefore require an intensive examination of the resource’s stakeholders, including their perspectives, motivations, and behaviors. Furthermore, enacting policy without considering human-ecosystem interactions can lead to unintended, negative consequences and may lead to counterproductive results. Adapting management to a changing environment and to account for humans as a part of the ecosystem will ultimately reduce some of the uncertainties around the implementation of policy and should lead to more effective management in general.

My research therefore aims to take a holistic approach to analyzing an important fishery in New England.  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)¹. Check out the publications page for a full report of these results.

More recent work, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program, is exploring how the implementation of new policy can change the perceptions of stakeholders and ultimately may lead to altered fishing behavior and effort. Additionally, this project examines angler motivations behind fishing and the importance anglers place on certain aspects of striped bass fishing.

¹ Murphy Jr, R. D., S. B. Scyphers, and J. H. Grabowski. 2015. Assessing Fishers’ Support of Striped Bass Management Strategies. PloS one 10:e0136412.

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