Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


Coastal zone management has become an increasingly important topic as coastal populations continue to grow and the numerous ocean and coastal uses associated with coastal development exert tremendous pressure on the marine environment and its resources. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a process that can help direct when and where multiple coastal activities take place, and can also make areas of conflicting and compatible uses more visible to fisheries and coastal managers.

Stakeholders in North Carolina are concerned about the sustainability of the economically and culturally significant blue crab fishery after significantly reduced landings during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Managers are currently exploring the relationships among stakeholder groups whose activities impact the blue crab including navigational dredgers, shrimp trawlers, commercial crab and oyster dredgers, and blue crab potters. Identifying conflicting interactions between blue crab potting and navigational dredging, shrimp trawling, and commercial crab and oyster dredging may improve management and add valuable information to marine spatial planning efforts in North Carolina’s coastal zone.

Through 25 semi-structured interviews with fishermen (blue crab potters, shrimp trawlers, commercial crab and oyster dredgers), fisheries and coastal managers, and Army Corps of Engineers’ staff in cities and towns along the coast of North Carolina, this study examines how these stakeholder groups perceive crab potting to interact with navigational dredging, shrimp trawling, and commercial crab and oyster

dredging, and the drivers of these interactions. Interviews were transcribed and then coded for the types of interactions and drivers of these interactions. Ten different types of interactions emerged in the interviews including: spatial, temporal, gear, benthic, water quality, biological, knowledge, traditional use, environmental conditions, and mutual respect. Subsequently, frequency of compatible and conflicting interactions mentioned by the respondents were analyzed to understand the perceptions of the stakeholder groups. Additionally a variety of drivers emerged during the interviews as respondents discussed particular activity pairs. The frequencies of mentions for the different drivers were analyzed to see which ones seemed to most heavily influence the interactions between activities.

The results indicate that respondents perceive crab potting as generally compatible with navigational dredging, shrimp trawling, and commercial crab and oyster dredging. Respondents also discussed compatibility-related drivers more frequently than conflict-related drivers for crab potting and navigational dredging, shrimp trawling, and commercial crab and oyster dredging. It appears that regional and demographic characteristics may influence fishermen’s perceptions of how crab potting interacts with other activities. Also, fishermen and managers seem to have differing perceptions of how crab potting interacts with shrimp trawling. The managers do not seem to be aware of the informal arrangements that exist between crab potters and shrimp trawlers. Furthermore, the fishermen interviewed in this study frequently noted that mutual respect between fishermen facilitates interactions between crab potting and shrimp trawling more than fisheries regulations do. Lastly, results suggested that there is a lack of communication amongst the four stakeholder groups. A better understanding of how these stakeholder groups interact and what drives the interactions among them will help managers develop appropriate regulations and policies to ensure the sustainability of the blue crab fishery in North Carolina and conservation of the coastal zone.