Dr. Cynthia Grace-McCaskey, Anthropologist at ECU and the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) at the ECU Outer Banks Campus, was recently awarded funding for a mixed-method, multi-level analysis of small-scale fisheries management structures and networks. The work will build on her previous ethnographic research aimed at understanding how social differences and inequalities among fishers, managers, scientists, and other marine resource stakeholders impact fisheries management processes on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory. The funding includes support for one PhD student in the ECU Department of Coastal Studies to assist with field research in the summer of 2019. The project will culminate with a fisheries management workshop intended to foster and improve cooperation and communication across multi-scale fisheries management groups.
Coastal communities in Eastern North Carolina and around the world are highly dependent on fisheries for their food sources and livelihoods. Despite the growing global interconnectedness driven by rapid technological advancements, many regional fisheries are still small-scale operations. These small-scale operations play an essential role in supporting local jobs, food security, and preventing poverty. Even so, the sustainability and best management strategies of such fisheries are persistent and complex topics of debate. The objective of this place-based project is to create visualizations of relationships among fisheries management stakeholders in St. Croix that can be used to facilitate dialogue about issues related to trust and miscommunication in fisheries management.
Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures. Grace-McCaskey’s previous ethnographic work combined a traditional participant observation approach with mixed-method interviews to characterize ways stakeholders participate in fisheries management at various levels. The NSF funded 2019 research will build upon this foundation by analyzing participants’ social networks and exploring generalized perceptions about fisheries management through cultural consensus analysis in the same geographic area. The analyses will require a combination of interviews across federal, regional and local management groups as well as qualitative and quantitative data collection, which will take place next summer. The strategy requires willing participation and buy-in by community members and managers, providing a multidimensional research challenge for Grace-McCaskey and her team to overcome.
“Mistrust exists within fisheries management structures all over the world,” Grace-McCaskey explains. “Having already established an intimate ethnographic understanding of fisheries culture and management in St. Croix, this approach will bridge from ethnography to community-based management strategies by identifying key players to pinpoint and address issues related to trust and miscommunication.”
Political ecology is the study of a region’s political, social and economic systems as they interact with the surrounding environment and natural resources. Social network analysis looks closely at relationships between key actors and groups. Grace-McCaskey’s work will address issues in small-scale fisheries management by combining social network analysis with a political ecology framework to visually map the web of complex relationships that may hinder or encourage a fluent exchange of resources and information. By incorporating both analysis strategies, the methodology will balance out critiques of either strategy and add depth to the dialogue surrounding small-scale fisheries management in St. Croix and elsewhere. While the current research will take place specifically in St. Croix, the methodology may also be used to address a broad range of natural resource and human interactions beyond this study.
Dr. Cindy Grace-McCaskey is currently accepting applications for a graduate research assistant to work with her on this project. The position is funded by NSF and begins in Summer 2019. Learn more by clicking here.