Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


Kenneth A. Gould

Committee Members

Thomas Angotti

James Biles

Kevin St. Martin

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Human Ecology | Nature and Society Relations | Science and Technology Studies


fisheries, fisheries management, actor-network theory, ecosystems-based fisheries management, ecosystems-based management, Atlantic cod


This research investigates the emergence of ecosystems-based fisheries management (EBFM) for New England's marine fisheries in the context of the "crisis" that is escalating in its groundfish fishery. Close observations of the practices of fisheries scientists in coordination with managers at the New England Fisheries Management Council, with focus on how knowledge is being produced and employed, allows for understanding EBFM as an emergent construction produced by networks of associations between actants, human and non-human, material and semiotic, and not strictly as a policy prescription informed by experts on biology, ecology, and socio-economics. This analysis identifies and elucidates the multiplicity of the groundfish crisis as it is being conceptualized and enacted and how this is resulting in both coherence and dissipation in the network. Examination of the translation of Ecosystems-Based Management theory and federal guidance on EBFM into concepts and strategies for the eventual development of an Ecosystems Fishery Management Plan shows that the same processes involved in the construction of the groundfish crisis are shaping the emergence of EBFM. This includes the devaluation of some actants’ explanations as biased or arbitrary viewpoints, rather than being accepted as a multiplicity of understandings that are performed through practices that produce contradictory realities. Debates over epistemological and ideological conflicts consume time and effort and limit proposed solutions to the understanding of the actants with the most stable associations in the network. Ecosystems-based management theory emphasizes that uncertainty and complexity in socioecological systems are poorly addressed by solutions that require controllable and predictable objects for management; this means that EBFM in New England needs to be imagined and constructed with opportunities for experimentation and adaptive learning and more epistemically-inclusive and transdisciplinary approaches.