Date of Original Version
Knowledge of vulnerability provides the foundation for developing actions that minimize impacts on people while maximizing the sustainability of ecosystem goods and services. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to determine how resource-dependent people are vulnerable to environmental hazards. This idea is particularly true in coastal Louisiana, USA, where the current era of rapid land loss has the potential to undermine oyster fisheries. However, little is known about how such environmental change might differentially affect resource users and stakeholders. We examined social components of vulnerability to environmental hazards using indicators of susceptibility and adaptive capacity within the oyster fishery of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Specifically, we used structured interviews to compare three resource-user roles: oyster fishers, oyster fishers/lease owners, and oyster lease owners only. Results indicated that oyster fishers/lease owners were highly dependent and thus susceptible to changes in the fishery because of high levels of occupational identity. These same people, however, were the most adaptable to change, which was reflected in their willingness to learn about new practices and evolve over time. Higher susceptibility in this group was offset by an increased ability to adapt, cope, and respond to changes in the environment. In contrast to these findings, oyster fishers that did not own any portion of a lease or business in which they operated were bad at coping with change and frequently held negative or fatalistic views on financial planning. These attributes made them the most vulnerable to environmental hazards. Overall, the most vulnerable participants in the Terrebonne Parish oyster fishery were those with low to moderate levels of personal and financial buffers and trust, coupled with high occupational identity and a low motivation to change. Local policy actions that target these attributes are likely to be the best entry points to reducing the vulnerability of stakeholders to hazards.
Humphries, A. T., L. I. Josephs, M. K. La Peyre, S. Hall, and R. Dowty Beech. 2019. Vulnerability of resource users in Louisiana’s oyster fishery to environmental hazards. Ecology and Society 24(3):37.
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