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Views from the dock: Warming waters, adaptation, and the future of Maine’s lobster fishery


The ability of resource-dependent communities to adapt to climate change depends in part on their perceptions and prioritization of specific climate-related threats. In the Maine lobster fishery, which is highly vulnerable to warming water associated with climate change, we found a strong majority (84%) of fishers viewed warming water as a threat, but rank its impacts lower than other drivers of change (e.g., pollution). Two-thirds believed they will be personally affected by warming waters, but only half had plans to adapt. Those with adaptation plans demonstrated fundamentally different views of human agency in this system, observing greater anthropogenic threats, but also a greater ability to control the fishery through their own actions on the water and fisheries management processes. Lack of adaptation planning was linked to the view that warming waters result from natural cycles, and the expectation that technological advancements will help buffer the industry from warming waters.

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This research was supported by the NOAA Climate Program Office (Grant #NA15OAR4310135) and the Colby College Environmental Studies Program. The authors would like to thank Colby College students Ryan Clemens, Katie Chicojay, Clea Harrelson, Robin Lewis, Sara LoTemplio, Ella McDonald, Juila Nelson, Barlow Peelle, Tucker Plante, Joshua Reed, Kaya Williams, Emma Wood, and Olivia Wright for their help with data collection and analysis.

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Correspondence to Loren McClenachan.

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McClenachan, L., Scyphers, S. & Grabowski, J.H. Views from the dock: Warming waters, adaptation, and the future of Maine’s lobster fishery. Ambio 49, 144–155 (2020).

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  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate vulnerability
  • Fisheries
  • Gulf of Maine
  • Mental models
  • Social-ecological system