Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Getting to the Bottom of It: Bringing Social Science into Benthic Habitat Management

Bonnie J. McCay


Abstract. Social science has a small but growing place within marine science and policy. Legal and political imperatives for social impact assessment have increased attention to the need for social research, and the high frequency of conflict over and resistance to habitat and fisheries management measures, including marine protected areas, suggests that there is much to be done. The methodology of social impact assessment is changing to incorporate notions such as vulnerability and tools such as mapping. In the larger sense, social science helps identify and formulate “sea changes” in the knowledge base and institutional framework for marine science and conservation. These are major developments in the understanding of the human dimensions of fisheries and marine environments that have begun to influence both research and policy. The “sea changes” identified are increased attention to more cooperative, participatory, and community-oriented research and management regimes on the one hand and increased reliance on exclusive property rights and markets on the other.