Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton

Abstract

It is critical to plan for environmental change in order to mitigate its adverse effects on human wellbeing. This series of manuscripts examines the impacts of landscape change on commercial and recreational fishermen. Each manuscript provides a unique perspective on place meaning and place change. Using a mixed methods approach, data were collected and analyzed on fishermen’s perceptions of familiar places and on the changes that these places undergo. The first manuscript investigates the impact of offshore wind farms on commercial and recreational fishermen, using the first offshore wind farm in North America – the Block Island Wind Farm (Rhode Island – as a case study. The second and third manuscripts examine urban fishermen’s emotional attachment to and perceptions of coastal places in the urban fringe of upper to mid-Narragansett Bay, RI, and the impact of predicted climate-change related weather events on their behavior.

Manuscript 1 examines the impact on commercial and recreational fishermen by the Block Island Wind Farm (Rhode Island) infrastructure and by the perceived and observed environmental changes in the area due to the turbines and cable systems. Twenty-five commercial and recreational fishermen were interviewed about their perceptions of the human/behavioral and ecological impacts of the offshore wind farm. Perceived impacts included increased areas for spearfishing, increased fishing due to the wind farm acting as an artificial reef, the wind farm as a destination or target, crowding of recreational fishing vessels around the offshore wind farm, which interfered with existing fixed fishing gear, and fear about future impacts. Although many biological studies have tested the impact of other wind farms on marine ecosystems, this manuscript is the first published paper on how an offshore wind farm in North America will impact local marine resource users. These findings inform the planning and development of future offshore wind farms along the east coast of the United States.

Manuscript 2 focuses on identifying the place meanings for forty-three urban recreational fishermen at the urban fringe of mid-Narragansett Bay, RI. The study investigates how coastal place meanings vary by place and by fishermen’s characteristics in the urban fringe using applied thematic analysis and binomial logistic regressions. Themes include issues of pollution, heritage, sustenance, and environmental justice for urban and peri-urban recreational fishermen, many of whom are Latino, Asian, low-income, recent immigrants, and/or non-English speaking. As Upper Narragansett Bay water quality improves, these findings can provide insights into the function of other urban coastal fishing areas by urban and peri-urban fishermen.

Manuscript 3 examines the impact of climate change on urban recreational fishermen and how fishermen perceive future management changes, such as the building of a dock on a public fishing access site in Rhode Island. Climate change has altered and continues to alter air and sea conditions in Narragansett Bay, and those conditions will impact the ability of urban fishers to benefit from recreational fishing. Findings demonstrate that climate change impacts, like additional rainfall and hurricanes, are perceived to reduce overall recreational fishing use of the sites due to erosion, dangerous conditions, and lack of access. A few fishermen may, however, increase their use of the site due to their motivations to fish. These findings inform the design of desirable adaptation strategies for various coastal users and vulnerable populations under climate change. Through effective adaptation strategies, the site characteristics necessary for human well-being that were discussed in Manuscript 2 will be preserved.

Planning for environmental change can maintain aspects of human well-being derived from coastal and marine areas. Each manuscript provides a perspective on the meaning of place and place change in such areas. These manuscripts capture the relationship of coastal and marine users with their environments as these environments undergo change. Offshore wind farms, polluted urban waterways, and climate change -related events all impact coastal and marine users. By understanding past, current, and potential future impacts, managers can design places to maintain benefits for all users.

Available for download on Saturday, April 17, 2021

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