Consideration of Social Information in New England Fisheries Management: Report on 2019 Interviews with New England Fishery Management Council Members
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Consideration of Social Information in New England Fisheries Management: Report on 2019 Interviews with New England Fishery Management Council Members

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    This report summarizes interviews with members of the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) completed in 2019 to gather feedback about how they use sociocultural information in decision-making and how the Council can better understand and document the potential impacts of its decisions on fishermen, fishing communities, and other affected stakeholders. The impetus for this project was two-fold. First, it serves as an update to similar work in 2012 (Feeney 2013), helping to understand the degree of progress made since then in improving the use of sociocultural information in fisheries management in New England, and begins to identify where efforts to further improve could be best directed. Second, this project aims to help address recommendations made through the 2018 Council program review (Hull et al. 2018) that the Council consider how it can better meet National Standard 8 and other federal requirements for considering social information. The goal of this report is to bring to light how Council members responded to the driving research question: What information do you need to know about fishery participants, communities and other stakeholders that would help you make better-informed decisions as a Council member?Results are presented by category: 1) information and data, 2) documents, 3) staff interactions, and 4) general. Each section describes some of the positive reflections, the needs and challenges, and lastly some recommendations made by Council members. Overall, Council members were highly positive about staff efforts but expressed frustration with the data and information available to them to consider. Several Council members either explicitly or implicitly noted that the social sciences are the areas where they have the least technical expertise and comfort. This challenge, in concert with the challenges noted around the volume of information and the timing of when that information is provided, cause frustration among Council members and stakeholders. The results of this new study indicate progress has been made since 2012, but that challenges still exist.Due to the broad nature of some of the issues raised by Council members, there is likely value in having the results of this study shared and reviewed by Council, GARFO, and NEFSC staff to evaluate where information already exists that could relatively easily address the item or where future efforts could be directed. Where items here may be beyond the scope of existing resources or capabilities, the Council could consider including them as research priorities and/or sharing the needs with the academic community to explore as other research opportunities present themselves. The data and information needs noted by Council members (Table 1) would be fulfilled by range of social science disciplines and interdisciplina‚Äčry approaches. The issues raised by Council members in these interviews provide a useful starting point for further consideration by the Council, as well as opportunities for agency and academic partners to consider how they can also better support the social science needs of fisheries management.
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