Project Title: The Center for Marine Social Sciences (CMSS)
Manager: Madeleine Hall-Arber, MIT

Project Summary: The Center for Marine Social Sciences (CMSS) explores the human, social, and political aspects of marine-related issues. This work helps identify solutions to complex issues and contributes to policy development. In particular, CMSS has focused on the fishing industry and the communities that it supports. The center has also provided critical assessments of proposed management plans for regional management authorities. In addition, CMSS is concerned with coastal zone issues in which the human context can greatly influence the acceptance of management policies.

Madeleine Hall-Arber, MIT Sea Grant College Program’s marine anthropologist, has nearly 25 years of experience working with fishermen in New England. Madeleine recently completed profiles of eleven subregions in New England with details of 38 fishing communities, and is currently working on two collaborative projects to help fishermen and fishing communities take the next step in assuring an on-going collection of socio-economic information.

In the past, Madeleine assessed the socio-economic impacts of the Magnuson Act on fishing communities, and collected oral histories of fishermen to identify essential fish habitat and record highlights about their fishing experiences.  Madeleine has also written extensively for the fishermen’s trade newspaper Commercial Fisheries News.

Contact info
Madeleine Hall-Arber, Manager
phone: (617)253-9308
fax: (617)252-1615
research interests:
fishing communities, maritime anthropology, policy and regulatory change in fisheries, social impact assessment.




Industry-Funded Fishing Vessel Buy-back
Between June 23 and July 2, 2003, the New England Sea Grant programs conducted ten meetings from Riverhead, NY to Ellsworth, ME to discuss the potential for an industry-funded groundfish vessel buy-back. At the time, Amendment 13 to the Multispecies Fishery Management Plan was soon to be implemented and industry members anticipated serious impacts to the industry. Peter Leipzig, Executive Director of the Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Eureka, California, who had forged an industry-funded buy-back on the West Coast was invited to be the key speaker for the series of meetings.

Three years later, the Northeast fishing industry again faces even stricter regulations since some groundfish stocks have not yet recovered. Consequently, the industry itself has organized to revisit the potential for an industry-funded buy-back. To help in their deliberations, we post the Powerpoint presentations made at the original meeting series and the summary report of Peter Leipzig.


Socio-Economic Assessments

CMSS collected socio-economic data on fishermen and fisheries-dependent communities. Information generated by this extensive project was the baseline for a measurement of the the social impacts of regulatory change, helping communities and fisheries managers to anticipate potential impacts and plan accordingly. This data was published in New England Fishing Communities, an MIT Sea Grant publication which can be ordered online through our media database or accessed directly in either PDF or HTML formats.

Community Panels
The Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership's Community Panels Project, funded by the Northeast Consortium and Saltonstall-Kennedy grants, is focusing on 6 communities: Beals Island/Jonesport and Portland, Maine; Gloucester, Scituate and New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Point Judith, Rhode Island. MIT Sea Grant College Program's anthropologist, Dr. Madeleine Hall-Arber, is the project leader with Dr. Bonnie McCay of Rutgers University and David Bergeron of the MFP as co-principal investigators. The six communities in the study represent the variety of characteristics found in New England's fishing industry including inshore/offshore, large/small vessels; urban/rural communities; fish/shellfish products; mobile/fixed gear; auction/entrepreneur-dealer, etc. An interim report from the project took the form of comments on Amendment 13 to the Multispecies Fisheries Management Plan (note: PDF format).

Oral Histories
Oral histories collected by CMSS for a project of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association have revealed a wealth of fishermen's traditional knowledge about habitat and fisheries ecology. The innovative techniques used in the project suggest ways to incorporate fishermen's knowledge into management processes. The information contributes to an understanding of fishing behavior in the Northeast region and is valuable therefore to the National Marine Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council.

CMSS has been active in habitat issues, with the goal of helping the New England Fisheries Management Council meet a mandate to identify and better manage Essential Fish Habitat. A book chapter and journal article describing the results of this project will help further researchers' understanding of the significance of different scales of habitat observations to different fishing operations.

Assessment of Research Protocols and Management Measures
CMSS works in an extensive advisory capacity with the New England Fisheries Management Council's Social Science Advisory Board and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Committee on Economics and Social Sciences. This work is focused on assessing research protocols and management measures.

Women's Fisheries Network
CMSS serves on the board of directors of the New England chapter of the Women's Fisheries Network, working to increase understanding among fishing industry members about the disparate sectors that make up their industry. This work could lead to innovative solutions to fisheries-related issues.


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