Anthropological Applications in the Management of Federally Managed Fisheries: Context, Institutional History, and Prospectus

By Colburn, Lisa L.; Abbott-Jamieson, Susan et al. | Human Organization, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Anthropological Applications in the Management of Federally Managed Fisheries: Context, Institutional History, and Prospectus


Colburn, Lisa L., Abbott-Jamieson, Susan, Clay, Patricia M., Human Organization


This special issue of Human Organization provides a selection of articles addressing the use of applied anthropology in fisheries management in the United States today. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)1 has employed anthropologists and sociologists internally and externally to support fisheries management since 1974, although it used economists earlier; recent expansion of NMFS' sociocultural analysis effort is generating new initiatives and findings of interest to the wider social science community. This introduction provides the background for this issue through a brief account of past, present, and future directions of this new growth area within applied anthropology. The origins and intent of the special issue are discussed first, followed by the institutional history of the integration of anthropologists and sociologists into fisheries management at NMFS and an outline of NMFS' developing sociocultural analysis program. Finally, the specific policies and themes addressed in the individual papers are related to broader policy issues and themes within fisheries anthropology and fisheries management.

Key words: fisheries anthropology, fisheries management, United States

Origins and Intent

This issue has been assembled in response to discussions at the Society for Applied Anthropology annual meeting in Dallas, Texas in March 2004, where several anthropologists remarked on the noticeable rise in fisheries research and the number of presentations with a fisheries focus. This reflects a rise in the number of social scientists working for NMFS or involved in contracted research. Most of the efforts of this emerging community have been reported in technical reports and Social Impact Assessments (SIAs) within large multidisciplinary documents such as Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). Discussants identified a need to communicate methods and findings with the broader applied anthropological community. The first goal was to develop a special issue of Human Organization focused on anthropological applications in the management of federally managed fisheries in the United States.

To meet this goal, we solicited papers from authors from diverse geographic and professional settings. Some authors focus on new management approaches (Olson) while others focus on the social cost of existing management measures (Alien and Gough). New methods are proposed (Sepez, Norman, Poole, and Tilt) and existing methods are expanded (Pollnac and Poggie). In some fisheries described the focus is on self-conservation efforts (Acheson) and in others restoration techniques are examined (Paolisso, Dery, and Herman). Rapid changes in coastal communities can affect marginalized fisheries (Kitner) as well as well-established fisheries (Glazier, Petterson, and Graver). The common thread among these papers is the application of anthropological analysis to issues in federal fisheries management As a result, analytical frameworks generally address cultural identity and the responses of individuals, households, communities and regions, a trait shared with all applied anthropologists.

Field sites covered in this series of articles extend through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maryland to South Carolina on the east coast; Alaska to California on the west coast; and Hawaii. The authors contributing to this issue represent a range of anthropological and sociological practitioner settings characterized by frequent overlap and collaboration, including federal government agencies (Susan Abbott-Jamieson, Stewart Alien, Patricia M. clay, Lisa L. Colbum, Karma Norman, Julia Olson, Amanda Poole, and Jennifer Sepez-all NMFS staffer contractors working within NMFS-and Amy Craver of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); quasi-governmental entities (Kathi R. Kitner, formerly of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council); academia (James M. Acheson, Nicole Dery, Amy Gough, Stan Herman, Michael Paolisso, J. Cody Petterson, John J. …

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