Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


This project investigates the factors that influence a recreational fisherman’s choice to participate in citizen fish tagging programs by identifying factors that influence participation in these programs and by exploring three alternative causal models for explaining participation in fish tagging projects: a values-beliefs-norms (VBN) model, a values-attitudes-behavior (VAB) model, and a full theoretical model including socio-demographic and explanatory variables. One hundred recreational fishermen in Plum Island, Massachusetts were given a written survey designed to investigate their experiences with tagging programs, along with their attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs regarding such programs. Responses to the survey were compared between participants and non-participants. Survey items were then used to create behavioral variable indexes and were correlated to a willingness-to-participate index. Three psycho-social behavioral models (VBN, VAB, and the full model) were built and compared to determine which model best fits the data. Although few variables distinguished participants from non-participants in volunteer fish tagging programs, several important factors strongly influenced willingness to participate. Subjective norms, personal obligation, and personal commitment all strongly correlated with willingness to participate. A comparison of three alternative causal models showed that the use of a full theoretical model, including different psycho-social variables as well as demographic and situational factors, provided the best fit for this behavior. Additionally, the modeled data showed that the strongest direct influence of willingness to participate in a volunteer fish tagging program was personal commitment; while perceptions of positive outcomes were a result, rather than a determinant of participation. This suggests that attempting to increase fishermen’s knowledge regarding fish tagging program through educational programs, as is commonly suggested in public engagement literature, is not an optimal strategy. Program scientists and managers could increase participation by reaching out through social networks in order to find fishermen who share a strong sense of personal commitment to their fishery and the areas in which they fish.



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