Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Amelia Moore


Centuries of exploitation in marine areas have negatively impacted the biomass, diversity, and function of marine habitats and life on a global scale. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly relied upon as a conservation strategy to address the degradation of marine resources in the U.S., but research on the social context that shapes protection of these marine spaces remains sparse. This study explores protection through the evolution of the people and groups who use the marine resources within MPAs and those who manage MPAs over time. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is used as a case study to understand how roles and relationships among these may or may not influence MPA management decisions and policy. Data was collected through thirteen semi-structured interviews conducted in the summer and fall of 2019 with individuals who have historic and/or current ties to the use and management of SBNMS, participant observation as a SBNMS intern during the summer of 2019, and document analysis of the management plan and relevant legislation. Finding indicate that SBNMS is faced with multiple challenges related to the federal legislation that governs sanctuaries, dominant regional histories of resource use, and intra-institutional communication in its efforts to enact long-term protection for Stellwagen Bank. Additionally, this site provides valuable insights into how people involved with management at Stellwagen perceive protection of marine space and offers opportunities to reconceptualize protection as a multi-faceted endeavor that includes non-ecological elements such as education and outreach. Results from this research have tangible applications for SBNMS but may also serve as a starting point to evaluate protection definitions and priorities for other regional MPA institutions.



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