National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis

B. Management of Shellfish Populations and Territories

Shellfish are a natural resource held in common. The shellfish management problem is a subset of many marine resource management issues. Current practices allow harvesting to the full extent that shellfish beds produce. Local shellfish committees have expressed interest in preserving this resource through inventory, local seedbed management and local decisions on seedbed closure. Closures are now regulated by the state based primarily on water quality. There is an adversarial relationship between the fishing community and the state over criteria for closure. There is also some local contention among shellfish harvesters as to fishing rights in certain beds. A pilot project is underway in which local identification and management of test beds has been conducted using GPS and GIS technologies.

Characterization of public goals and dialogue:

The local fishing community should be involved closely in water quality monitoring and in measuring the status of their resources. Their information should be on the same level as the Department of Marine Resources and marine biologists. Understanding the entire ecosystem toward sustaining an important common resource is the goal. Local disagreements over fishing rights and practices and contention with state regulators are elements in the ongoing dialogue. There is beginning recognition of the importance of a research- based cooperative approach toward successful outcomes.

Open questions:

How can effective access to current, locally produced information and decision processes be provided for this low-income community which possesses minimal technical expertise?

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