Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Policy


James A. Wilson

Second Committee Member

Leslie Watling

Third Committee Member

Joseph Kelley


In the wake of 25 years of unsuccessful single-fisheries management in the Gulf of Maine, there has been growing support for reform. Ecosystem management has been proposed as one alternative, but the information needed to manage whole ecosystems is greatly lacking. Implementing fully-protected marine protected areas (MPAs) is one way to preserve habitat while at the same time acquiring data for future ecosystem management. Under the current institutional arrangement in the Gulf, engineering agreement for MPAs is difficult due to the differing goals of varied user groups. The situation is reflective of a common property resource problem in that there are many individual users with no property rights reaping benefits from a shared resource, the Gulf of Maine. The result is overexploitation of the resource, in this case fish and associated biota and habitat. Common property resource dilemmas have been well studied by political scientists such as Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom has discovered there are common criteria for successful common property regimes. The questions this thesis poses are; 1) how does the common property resource regime of fisheries management in the Gulf of Maine compare to Ostrom's criteria and; 2) what needs to be done to further meet these criteria for successful MPA implementation in the Gulf of Maine? This thesis is comprised of five chapters which address both policy issues and scientific questions pertaining to the implementation of fully-protected MPAs in the Gulf of Maine. Chapter 1 examines how fisheries in the Gulf of Maine reached its present state; Chapter 2 examines fishing industry attitudes towards historical fisheries management practices and the use of MPAs as a current fisheries management tool; Chapter 3 reports the overall benefits of MPAs obtained from national and international studies; and Chapter 4 is an analyzes of benthic invertebrate communities in the Gulf of Maine whose results are related to the MPA discussion. The concluding chapter incorporates the viewpoints of industry and MPA proponents into Ostrom's 8 criteria for successful common property resource management of MPAs in the Gulf of Maine. Results show that although there is movement towards ecosystem-based fisheries management and MPAs on the part of both fishermen and MPA advocates, efforts are not coordinated and are inconsistent. Recommendations are to address the political hurdles of boundary clarification and establishment of an MPA forum before advancing MPA efforts.