Participatory Modeling and Community Dialog About Vulnerability of Lobster Fishing to Climate Change



The US National Research Council has repeatedly called for an analytic-deliberative process to make environmental decisions. Such a process should bring together experts, local citizens, stakeholders, and decision makers in venues where they investigate, discuss and learn together, make decisions, and follow up with monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. In this spirit, we have developed a community-based participatory modeling experience that gathers and organizes local and expert knowledge and then uses the model to inform public policy dialog. This chapter tells the story of how, over 24 months, we engaged a group of lobstermen and community members in South Thomaston, Maine. The group characterized how climate change is impacting the lobster fishery and the community. It also identified resilience actions they could take to better understand the complex connections between fishing effort, timing of lobster molting, and the price of lobster. We used system dynamics modeling to estimate these connections using available data from participants, scientific reports and publications, and data gathered by regulatory authorities. The model lets participants run scenarios that characterize how different resilience action strategies affect landings and fishermen’s income. We met with individual lobstermen to fine-tune the model and to explore its applications and then presented the model and its simulations back to the community. We also prepared a booklet that summarized NOAA data about ocean temperatures and distributed it in the community. These products helped promote community deliberation about how to enhance resilience to climate change.


Participatory modeling Climate adaptation Vulnerability System dynamics Fisheries management 



This work was funded by the NOAA Climate Program under grant number NA12OAR4310106. We would like to thank all the lobstermen and community members in South Thomaston who took time out of their busy lives to patiently work with us. We would also like to recognize the important contributions to the project by Sherman Hoyt, formerly of Maine Sea Grant and now a consultant and to Sam Belknap, a University of Maine NSF IGERT Fellow. Both provided their local knowledge with the midcoast Maine lobster industry and the South Thomaston community of lobstermen. They conducted outreach and participated in meetings. Professor Robert Steneck of the University of Maine and Dr. Carl Wilson with Maine Department of Marine Resources generously donated their time in meetings, presenting current research and information as a framework for discussion. Kristen Grant of Maine Sea Grant assisted with interviews and meetings. Brian Seitzman of Clark University provided his expertise to help complete the SD Model. Many thanks to Anne Baker and Yue Sun, graduate students from Clark University who worked to make GIS data relevant and accessible to the working group. Seth Tuler was involved with general project coordination. Special thanks go out to Penny Alley, South Thomaston Librarian for her hospitality and her assistance with our meetings in the South Thomaston Historical Society. A project advisory committee comprising Joe Costa, Kirstin Dow, Troy Hartley, Michael Johnston, Patricia Pinto da Silva, and Dave Whitaker provided frequent insights and valuable recommendations.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesKeene State CollegeKeeneUSA
  2. 2.University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea GrantWaldoboroUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Science and Policy ProgramClark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  4. 4.North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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