Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2020

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Biology


Heather Leslie

Second Committee Member

Joshua Stoll

Third Committee Member

Gayle Zydlewski

Additional Committee Members

Carl Wilson


Fisheries are complex social-ecological systems comprised of fish, humans, the institutions they create, and the broader ecological and social systems within which they are embedded. Changing ocean conditions, declines and shifts in key species, and loss of working waterfront infrastructure are among the many threats to the longevity of fisheries and fishing communities worldwide. A resilience approach to fisheries governance is increasingly recognized as key to sustaining coastal systems and the human communities that depend on them in the face of mounting socioeconomic and environmental challenges. Here I define resilience as the capacity of a system to withstand disturbances without altering its essential functions, structures, feedbacks, or identity (after Walker et al., 2004). Resilient species, individuals, communities, and systems are desirable, however, the factors related to resilience at multiple scales is understudied.

Building resilient social-ecological systems and climate-ready fisheries management requires governance approaches that are adaptive and robust to uncertainty. By identifying the factors that enable resilience, we are better able to understand the capacity of fisheries systems to be maintained long-term. Resilience theory provides a holistic paradigm to understand complex system dynamics and governance of social-ecological systems. This thesis explores associations between key attributes of governance in managing resilience in fisheries systems at three nested scales. At the national scale, I evaluate the integration of two prominent fisheries management approaches in order to provide enriched fisheries management and conservation outcomes. At the community scale, I explore the role that municipal comprehensive plans play as tools to build adaptive capacity in coastal communities in Maine. Finally, I explore latency in Maine’s commercial fisheries to understand individual fisher’s risk management behavior in response to changing socioeconomic and environmental conditions. Although each of the cases are distinct in scale and scope, key elements of participation, adaptation, and innovation in governance stand out; all are integral in enabling overall system resilience. By critically evaluating factors that contribute to adaptation in social-ecological systems, this work aims to inform governance approaches that strengthen the capacity of fisheries systems to manage for resilience in a changing world.

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."