Social Science Research
The use of social science research within a fisheries context is often limited to the evaluation of economic impacts for various management strategies. At Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, we view the benefits of social science more broadly. We know that social science techniques can be used to build trust between community stakeholders, for outreach and engagement, and for building an understanding of complex ecosystems using fishermen’s ecological knowledge. MCCF realizes that people are part of ecosystems, and strives to build robust methods to eventually create social change within these systems by integrating community knowledge into fisheries management. MCCF has used the Community Fisheries Action Roundtable (CFAR) method it developed to build community-based solutions to management issues, and continually refines and improves its social science-based techniques. Other methods include policies to improve licensing and access rights for fishermen, and asset mapping to increase social capacity within and between communities.
Licensing and Access are a fundamental part of managing the private use of a public resource. When developed with care, they are critical management tools that can be used to ensure that those who are awarded the privilege to harvest a public resource have the skills, knowledge, and integrity needed to sustain Maine’s fishing economy. Over time, we have seen an overspecialization of fishermen’s licensing portfolios in eastern Maine. Currently, only 2% of Maine lobstermen have any federal license other than lobster, and only 20% of Maine lobstermen have one additional state license (Stoll et al 2016). Fishermen are dependent on one or two fisheries, and are unable to switch to a new fishery should anything happen to the current resource. Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries has a proven record of advocating for fishermen’s access rights to diverse fisheries through licensing programs. This year we worked with legislators to draft legislation to protect scallop fishing rights through an owner-operator requirement, which means license holders must own the boat they fish from. Extending owner-operator rules to state fisheries is a policy initiative MCCF has been developing to support community scale fishing.
Asset mapping is an ongoing project at Maine Center for Coastal fisheries. Our goal is to identify existing or novel ways to connect fishermen, community members, and agencies. The goal of these collaborations is to develop ways to sustainably manage marine and freshwater environments as interconnected systems. This project supports the long-term vitality of the fishing industry and fishing families and communities while seeking opportunities for coastal communities to collaborate for mutual benefit and the common good. Asset mapping is focused on assets, interests, strengths, and opportunities, and taps into voluntary, community driven action across Downeast Maine. We recognize the role that on-water and on-shore communities play in each other’s enterprises. Together, these communities can promote regional vitality.