Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Richard B. Pollnac

Abstract

The present research aims at examining potential impacts of fisheries management on the diversity of species exploited by fishermen in Southern New England, and examining the relationship between this diversity and the resilience of fishermen and, consequently, communities in adapting to changes in their social and physical environments. One way fishermen are able to adapt to environmental and socio-economic changes is through diversification of the catch. The current study argues that certain management plans, especially those focused on limited entry strategies, have been reducing fishermen’s adaptive flexibility, therefore reducing fishermen’s resilience and that of their communities. Two hypotheses were developed: 1) the diversity of species landed by fishing vessels homeported in the studied communities has decreased through time as a consequence of management practices; and 2) A decrease in diversity and flexibility in the fisheries has the potential to negatively affect fishermen’s individual well-being as well as their resilience to changes in the fishery. In order to test these hypotheses, two research methods were used: structured surveys and analyses of secondary data of fishery landings for the ports studied. A total of 157 interviews were conducted with fishermen from the ports of Point Judith, Rhode Island, New Bedford and Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, more specifically the ports of Chatham, Harwich Port, Hyannis, and Provincetown. Results of analyses show that fishermen perceived a significant reduction in fishery diversity to have occurred as a result of regulations, despite the fact that analyses involving landings data showed a significant decline in diversity only for New Bedford and a slight declining trend for New Bedford and Cape Cod when trawl gear landings were analyzed separately. The latter results can be in part explained by the analyses of landings fluctuation for some of the most important species in the studied region, suggesting that diversification has occurred, possibly as a means of adaptation to change. Qualitative data obtained from surveys suggest that impacts on fishery diversity have a negative effect on fishermen’s resilience. Results from this study have the potential to contribute to the enhancement of knowledge and stimulate important future research about aspects of adaptability in fishing communities specifically with regard to their impact on future policy strategies.

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