Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Policy


James Wilson

Second Committee Member

Les Watling

Third Committee Member

James Acheson


The quality of fisher's ecological knowledge (FEK) and its value to fishery management has been long present in scientific literature. However, the extent of its use has not been readily identified. This study sought to understand the extent of FEK use in one particular management decision under the New England Fishery Management Council's (NEFMC) jurisdiction. The implementation of the Western Gulf of Maine Area Closure (WGoMAC) in 1998 was a management response to deteriorating Gulf of Maine cod stock. Using a combination of techniques (online and mail surveys and interviews), I collected information from major stakeholder groups that were active during the creation of the area closure: NEFMC members, Groundfish Advisory Panel members, Groundfish Plan Development Team members, and Maine groundfishers. Data were analyzed both quantitatively (χ2 for uniformity) and qualitatively. The goal of the study was (1) to determine whether the different knowledge systems of fishers and scientists were expressed in this particular event, (2) to evaluate the extent that stakeholder group recognizes FEK as a potential factor in policy creation and formulation in the NEFMC, and (3) to evaluate stakeholder perceptions of the effectiveness of the WGoMAC. Results suggested that respondents believed that fishers possess ecological knowledge that could be used in the fishery management process (χ2 = 64.474; p = 0.000). In the case of WGoMAC creation, significant number of respondents indicated that FEK played a role (χ2 = 14.000; p = 0.001) even though a significant number of respondents emphasized there were obstacles present to the use of FEK in the management process (χ2 = 44.895; p = 0.000). Interviews indicated that FEK was able to improve upon the spatial resolution of scientific data by identifying seasonal migrational patterns of pre-spawning schooling cod and indicating behavioral differences between juvenile and adult cod and in that way fine-tune the exact location of the closure. Analysis of the perception of WGoMAC effectiveness among surveyed groups indicated that a significant majority believed the closure reduced fishing mortality, protected habitat, and helped in the long-term recovery of groundfish stocks. These findings suggest that there are ways to incorporate FEK into fishery management and use it for the purposes of stock and habitat conservation. Additionally, the benefit of having ecological information that spans across different spatial scales for fishery management was apparent. By combining the two knowledge systems of fishers and scientists, managers were able to capture some of the finer-scale ecological information that was not available at the scale at which landings data were reported. In this way managers created a regulation that was ecologically sound from the perspective of preserving the Gulf of Maine cod stock.