Date of Award

Winter 12-2016

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


James Wilson

Second Committee Member

James Acheson

Third Committee Member

Beatrice Crona

Additional Committee Members

Carla Guenther

Richard Merrick


Turning away from classic single-species bioeconomic models based on equilibrium theory, many have called for the adoption of ecosystem-based fisheries management approaches that account for the non-linearity and multi-scale interactions of the biophysical and human dimensions of these systems. Yet despite progress towards this objective there has been limited attention given to social-ecological interactions across different fisheries. Using the licensing system for commercial fisheries in Maine, each of the chapters presented in this dissertation investigate connections that fishers’ have to different fisheries, examining how social-ecological linkages affect individual- and system-level resilience. The first data chapter provides a historical analysis of the licensing system for commercial fisheries in Maine over the past 25 years and examines how fishers’ access to marine resources has changed through time (Chapter 2). The subsequent chapter presents a typology of fishers based on their ties to different fisheries (Chapter 3). The typology underscores the heterogeneity of the fishing fleet in Maine and serves as the basis for an analysis of the adaptive capacity of the fishing industry. The following chapter (Chapter 4) is a short photo essay made up of a collection of six images that depict connections that fishers have to different combinations of fisheries. The essay included as part of this body of work because it provides an alternative way to illustrate the commonality of these connections. The final data chapter (Chapter 5) explores the relationship between industry leaders and access to fisheries. The central questions that this chapter grapples with are why are leaders in the commercial fishing industry more diversified than other commercial fishers, and how does this diversification act to facilitate leadership? The final chapter (Chapter 6) aims to highlight the near-absence of social science in support of EBFM and outlines specific ways that it can be used to advance EBFM in the future. In combination, this research aims to bring explicit attention to fisher-fisheries connections and how they shape social-ecological dynamics. These connections are ubiquitous in fishing communities in Maine and more broadly, yet seldom are they the subject of dedicated analysis. As this research demonstrates, such inattention is problematic because it obscures meaningful heterogeneity among fishers that it critical to understanding social-ecological dynamics including adaptive capacity, economic stability, and the production of leadership.

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