Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton

Abstract

Improving relations between fishermen and scientists is becoming increasingly important as fisheries scientists and managers work towards incorporating fishermen in research efforts and management decisions. The history of fishermen’s resentment towards scientists and scientific institutions, particularly in New England, illustrates significant obstacles towards such efforts. Understanding the dynamics of fisherman-scientist relations, then, is imperative to furthering the success of participatory efforts. However, little research has been conducted to better understand the quality of fisherman-scientist relationships, and the factors that affect them.

The purpose of this study is to explore the quality of fisherman-scientist relations from the perspective of commercial fishermen in Maine, and investigate influencing factors. Eighteen lobstermen from three ports in Maine were interviewed during Fall 2013 to better understand fisherman-scientist relations. Respondents were asked about their personal characteristics, their experiences interacting with scientists, and their general perceptions of fisherman-scientist relations, relationship trends, and fishery conditions.

Interviews were transcribed and coded according to grounded theory. Two categories of comments relating to fisherman-scientist relations emerged: relationship context and relationship quality indicators. Six relationship quality indicators emerged: trust, receptivity, communication, influence, satisfaction and commitment. Four factors influencing trust also emerged: competence, integrity, credibility and accountability.

Results indicate that commercial fishermen in Maine tend to perceive fisherman-scientist relations in a negative manner. Fishermen’s homeport, education attainment and perception of resource health tend to have substantial effect on perceptions of the fisherman-scientist relationship. Results also suggest that relationship context is a potentially significant determinant of relationship quality. It was also found that trust was the relationship quality indicator most frequently mentioned, followed by receptivity, communication and influence. Of trust factors, competence was mentioned by all respondents, suggesting that fishermen’s perceptions of scientists’ competence is likely the most substantial factor affecting trust.

Findings provide scientists and managers in Maine and elsewhere valuable insight into improving relationships with fishermen, and subsequently improving participatory research efforts.

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