Center for Marine Social Sciences

PI: Madeleine Hall-Arber, MIT Sea Grant

Project Number:1998-A-3

Start Date:1998-03-01End Date:2003-02-01

Proposal Summary

Objectives: The principal goal of the CMSS is to apply advances in the social sciences to help resolve marine-related issues and contribute to policy development. Specifically, CMSS projects:
• Address the needs of under-served populations by providing greater access to information technologies
• Collect and disseminate social science research findings to advance the public’s knowledge about the complexity of marine-related issues and improve fisheries policy development
• Help natural resource communities resolve conflicts and achieve agreed upon goals.
• Help the New England region achieve a broad-based, multi-stakeholder fisheries management process by building organizational capacity in women’s groups associated with fishing and fishing dependent communities
• Conduct a pilot study to evaluate the potential benefits of incorporating fishermen’s knowledge in the establishment of Essential Fish Habitat

Methodology: 1. Promotion and maintenance of Fishfolk, an email discussion list with about 900 subscribed members and many others who receive copies of traffic on specific topics
2. Organizing symposia and presenting lectures at academic, professional and/or public fora
3. Writing for trade journals
4. Serve in an advisory capacity to New England Fishery Management Council and to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
5. Develop links among wives’ organizations to promote capacity building within the organizations
6. With co-researcher, designed a survey and conducted focus groups of fishermen to identify what fishermen regarded as essential fish habitat.

Rationale: The use of social science methodology and research results leads to problem resolution and improved policy development. The importance of such a focus in fisheries management has been recognized in legislation and is underscored by recent judicial decisions. CMSS has been recruited to serve on a number of advisory panels specifically to address social and cultural issues facing managers. The research conducted provides fodder for knowledgeable outreach and effective liaison. Specifically:
• Fishfolk provides a venue for disseminating social science research findings, discussing policy, and testing responses to a variety of issues.
• Public speaking and writing articles are both direct forms of outreach that offer opportunities to publicize Sea Grant and specific research.
• Federal fisheries legislation requires that management bodies take into account the social context and social impacts of regulatory change. Advisory boards help direct the agencies in the fulfillment of their obligations.
• Fishermen’s wives groups can develop community support networks that not only benefit the individual fishing families, but the fishing dependent communities as well.
• Essential Fish Habitat designations were mandated by federal regulation. Rather than allowing the New England Fishery Management Council to repeat a pattern of ignoring the information fishermen offer on the grounds that it was anecdotal information, we designed a study to systematize the collection of such information to provide it with credibility.

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