An Ethnographic Study of Risk Assessment in Coastal Management (2014-2017)


Beginning in May 2014, Dr. Wiber began research on risk in the marine environment, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada Insight program.

Atlantic Canadian coastal communities have experienced rapid change in environment (groundfish collapse), economy (market declines), society (loss of infrastructure) and culture (erosion of community cohesion). This project examines the role of local ecological knowledge in developing a proactive approach to risk assessment and to risk mitigation for sustainability and resilience of our coastal communities.

How do we evaluate the risks inherent in new and continued human uses of our oceans? Two types of risk have been distinguished: objective (reflecting scientific values and concerns) and subjective (reflecting local values and concerns). These often differ, which creates conflict. This project builds on previous research into such conflicts and will utilize ethnographic methods to examine the interactions between new (tidal power) and continuing (aquaculture; inshore fisheries) uses of marine space. It adds value to the CFRN project by studying how scientific risk assessment is undertaken, and whether incorporation of local knowledge changes science practice. It examines the co-learning undertaken by resource users and scientists, and evaluates the potential of such co-learning to mitigate environmental risks. Further, it explores the science-to-policy nexus by investigating how risk assessment produced under conditions of shared learning does or does not contribute to local management planning.

Fundy North's Fishermen's Association (FNFA) has been involved in social research through the Coastal CURA (see www.coastalcura.ca) and in science collaboration through the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (see www.cfrn-rcrp.ca). This SSHRC Insight project utilizes this collaboration to investigate current and developing risk assessment and mitigation methods. Four interrelated projects investigate both marine science and local fishermen assessment of risk, and promotes conditions for and investigation of the outcomes of sharing these assessments. One project utilizes proposals for tidal power installations to compare existing environmental impact assessments with fishermen's concerns, and to study how collaboration between tidal power proponents and fishermen may or may not better address associated risks. A second study builds on a current natural science project to examine the interaction between fishermen and scientists as they assess the potential impact of finfish aquaculture on the health of lobster stocks. A third project utilizes participatory GIS to map fishermen's knowledge about environmental risks, especially marine debris in the Bay of Fundy. A fourth project interviewed retired and active marine scientists to investigate how scientific risk has been identified and researched and how local knowledge may be changing that. All four projects provide information on when and how risk is identified and how potential impacts are evaluated and utilized in resource planning.

The results of this project will further expand on the information available to local planning organizations and to government managers, and will contribute to scholarship on resource management and on risk assessment at both the national and the international level, through our collaboration with the Canadian Fisheries Research Network and with international networks of academics.

Photo Caption:  Students on the lobster project gathering data during trap survey, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Melanie Wiber.

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Photo caption: Marine Debris recovered by Fundy North Fishermen's Association (FNFA).  Photo courtesy of FNFA.

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Photo Caption: Tidal Power Generator in Eastport Maine, 2012.  Photo courtesty of Melanie Wiber.

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Deliverables:

Thesis:
2017 Carson Rehn. The Collaborative Power of Conflict: Using Public Participatory GIS to Resolve Conflict over Responsibility for Marine Debris. MA Thesis Anthropology, University of New Brunswick.

Peer Reviewed Publications:

2016 Allain Barnett, Robin Messenger and Melanie Wiber. Enacting and Contesting Neoliberalism in Fisheries: The tragedy of commodifying lobster access rights in Southwest Nova Scotia. In a Special Issue of Marine Policy, edited by Evelyn Pinkerton, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.03.002i.
2016 Allain Barnett, Melanie Wiber, Michael Rooney and Donna Curtis Maillet. The Role of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) and Fishermen's Perceptions of Risk in Marine Debris Mitigation in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Ocean and Coastal Management 133:85-94.
2017 Donna G. Curtis Maillet, Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Actions towards the joint production of knowledge: the risk of salmon aquaculture on American Lobster, Journal of Risk Research, DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2017.1351471.
Submitted Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. ANT and Assemblage: lobster fishing areas under conditions of change in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Geographer.
Submitted Carson Rehn, Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. Stabilizing Risk Using Public Participatory GIS: A case study on mitigating marine debris in the Bay of Fundy, Southwest New Brunswick, Canada. Developed for a special issue in Marine Policy.
Submitted Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. What scientists say about the government “war on science”: closing down alternative modes of risk calculation in the marine environment. Science, Technology & Human Values.
In preparation Courtenay Parlee and Melanie Wiber. Using Conflict Over Risk Management in the Marine Environment to Strengthening Measures of Governance. Invited paper for special issue of Ecology & Society, edited by Melanie G. Wiber, Evelyn Pinkerton, Paul Foley and Robert Stephenson.

Conference Presentations:

2015 Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Tracking Marine Debris in the Bay of Fundy.  Presentation to the 2015 AGM of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association, March 28, 2015.
2015 Melanie Wiber, Allain Barnett, Michael Rooney, Donna Curtis Maillet. Policy Recommendations Arising from Marine Debris Tracking in the Bay of Fundy. Poster presented at the UNB Research Showcase, September 25, Fredericton.
2015 Allain Barnett, Robin Messenger and Melanie Wiber. Contesting the concentration of access rights in Atlantic Canadian lobster fisheries. Poster session. Canadian Fisheries Research Network Annual General Meeting, Halifax, November 17-20, 2015.
2016 Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. Assessing Anthropogenic Risk in the Marine Environment: the Impact of Aquaculture on Lobsters. 11th Annual Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Science Workshop, June 8-11, Fredericton.
2016 Invited discussant (Melanie Wiber). Conflicting Values, Shared Risks - Governance Challenges in the Anthropocene. 11th Annual Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Science Workshop, June 8-11, Fredericton.
2017 Melanie Wiber, Donna Curtis Maillet and Allain Barnett. Fishermen/Scientists Collaboration in Marine Risk Assessment. Fishermen and Scientists Research Society Annual Meetings, Halifax February 23.
2017 Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. Mapping fishermen’s perceptions of the risks of marine debris in the Bay of Fundy. Fishermen and Scientists Research Society Annual Meetings, Halifax February 23.
2017 Allain Barnett and Melanie Wiber. The targets of the war on science: Science, law, and policy under the Harper Conservatives in Canada. Canadian Anthropology Society Annual Meetings, May 2-7, Ottawa.
2017 Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Lines in the Water: (De)Stabilizing Lobster Fishing Areas Under Conditions of Rapid Change in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Anthropology Society Annual Meetings, May 2-7, Ottawa.
2017 Melanie Wiber. Space, Time and Diversity in the Canadian Lobster Commons:  Transforming territories and resulting collective action challenges. Accepted paper for the International Association for the Study of the Commons, Utrecht, July 8-12, 2017.

Conference Panels Organized:

2015 Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Panel: Knowns and Unknowns: Knowledge Sets and Perceptions of Risk in Marine Management, MARE Conference, Amsterdam, June 22-24.
2016 Melanie Wiber, Courtenay Parlee and Allain Barnett. Building better governance for sustainable resources: Case studies from Atlantic Canada. Panel organized for the 11th Annual Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Science Workshop, June 8-11, Fredericton.
2017 Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Values and risk: the politics of knowledge in the living marine oceanscapes. Canadian Anthropology Society Annual Meetings, May 2-7, Ottawa.
2017 Melanie Wiber and Allain Barnett. Theoretical and empirical insights to address the challenge of multi-stakeholder governance for multi-use ocean commons. International Association for the Study of the Commons, Utrecht, July 9-14.