Getting Over the Dam: Overcoming institutional barriers to the recovery of Atlantic salmon by navigating the social-science/policy interface

The Atlantic salmon population in Maine remains critically low despite extensive hatchery supplementation and habitat improvement efforts over the past four decades. In 2000 the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment (DPS) was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with listing authority jointly shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Because, regulators and managers from Federal, State, and Penobscot Nation context operate with independent authorities, recovery decisions depend upon effective communication and coordination. From 1980 to 2005 management and regulatory bodies, non-profit organizations, and citizens met as a single group, the Maine Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The dissolution of TAC in 2005 resulted in reduced coordination across authorities until 2011 when the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Framework (ASRF) was formed.  This alternative structure was built on five areas: stock assessment, marine/estuarine survival, connectivity, genetic diversity, and freshwater survival. The ASRF is both a management framework rooted in species ecology and a governance structure which emphasizes coordination and collaboration. We intend to assess the social factors of this governance system using a mixed methods case study approach involving i) semi-structured interviews, ii) communication network analysis, and iii) document analysis.   We contend that an evaluation of the interactions among entities in the face of uncertainty may inform the processes by which recovery policies and actions are implemented. Specifically, we hope to characterize institutional barriers and factors that currently impact Atlantic salmon recovery decision making in Maine.

Graduate Research Assistant: Melissa Flye, MS

In Collaboration With: Dr. Bridie McGreavy, Dr. Aaron Strong, & Dr. Joseph Zydlewski

Funding: University of Maine & Mitchell Center Sustainability Research Grant