The University of Arizona

The 'nature' of fisheries governance: narratives of environment, politics, and power and their implications for changing seascapes

Noëlle Boucquey


This article responds to recent calls for more engagement from political ecologists in ocean and coastal governance concerns, and employs a controversy over the practice of gill netting in North Carolina as a lens into questions about how narratives of nature and power affect fisheries policymaking processes. The article analyzes commercial and recreational fisher narratives about marine 'nature,' including perceptions of resource health, expressions of blame or responsibility, and storylines about the different roles of fishers and managers in the process of governing fisheries. The article focuses particularly on how fishers perceive the politics of fisheries management and where they believe power lies in negotiations about the 'right' ways to steward and allocate fishery resources. Fisher narratives are then compared to those of fishery regulators themselves. The article asks how the perceptions of different groups about politics and power in fisheries management affect their levels of trust and engagement with each other and with the policymaking process. It offers insights into the complex negotiations over the meaning of terms like 'conservation,' 'endangered,' and 'livelihood,' and analyzes the implications of these narratives for stimulating material changes in the coastal seascape and the lives of fishers.

Key Words: political ecology, governance, fisheries, nature, narrative analysis

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