Conflicts, Communities, and Carrying Capacity: A Critical Look at Marine Aquaculture in Maine

Authors: Teresa Johnson*, University of Maine, Samuel Hanes, University of Maine
Topics: Marine and Coastal Resources, Coastal and Marine, Rural Geography
Keywords: aquaculture, community
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Marine aquaculture is expected to create new opportunities for coastal communities and working waterfronts experiencing post-industrial restructuring. Fishers themselves are considering shellfish and seaweed aquaculture as a way for them to diversify their livelihoods in the face of declining wild seafood production. However, this new use creates spatial conflicts with traditional uses and values in some places, but not others. Communities nearing their social carrying capacity - the amount of aquaculture society is willing to accept or that causes unacceptable social impacts - exhibit low social acceptance and high conflict levels over existing or proposed farms. Drawing on mixed methods research underway as part of Maine’s Sustainable Ecological Network, we take a critical look at the complex social and ecological forces driving social carrying capacity across key sites. We consider social carrying capacity in the context of local conflicts observed in the siting process, fishermen’s willingness to adopt or accept aquaculture for themselves or in their communities, and other stakeholder perceptions. We quantify levels of conflicts and social acceptance in key sites in Maine where aquaculture has developed or is emerging and then seek to explain the variation observed across sites. We highlight the role of influential stakeholder groups and institutions across Maine’s diverse social-ecological landscape as they are confronting marine aquaculture development. Understanding drivers of social carrying capacity, and how it influences the aquaculture siting process, can aid decision-making needed for the sustainable development of this industry.

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