Promoting climate change awareness and adaptive planning in Atlantic fisheries communities using dialogue-based participatory vulnerability analysis, mapping, and collaborative systems dynamic modeling

Commercial and recreational fishing have been culturally and economically important to many coastal communities for centuries. Today, commercial and recreational fishing face numerous pressures, including climate change, which challenge their place in coastal communities. There is a need for community actions that reduce the impacts of such threats to fishing and fisheries.
A team of researchers from the Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) in Massachusetts, the Maine Sea Grant, and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium received a $283,000 two-year research grant to help Atlantic communities address threats to fishing.  This research is funded by NOAA’s Climate Program Office under the Coastal and Oceans Climate Applications (COCA) grant program.  The program’s goals are to help communities understand the effects of a changing climate.
In communities in Maine, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, the team will develop and demonstrate a process that engages local decision-makers, stakeholders, and scientists in a participatory modeling process known as Vulnerability and Consequences  Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS). 
The benefits of this research will be practical knowledge for local decision makers and stakeholders on how fisheries and fisheries-dependent communities, including shoreside infrastructure and working waterfronts, are vulnerable to climate change.  Local decision-makers and stakeholders will discuss potentially acceptable actions to make their communities more resilient to climate-related stressors like sea level rise. The results can help build awareness of possible impacts and encourage better planning.
From August 2012 - July 2014 researchers will lead key stakeholders and decision makers who are involved in local fishing and supporting industries through the VCAPS process. The goal is to organize local knowledge of how fishing communities, shore-based fishing infrastructure, and seafood industries are vulnerable to climate change.  Scientists and stakeholders will use these results to build scenarios of critical elements of the fishing community system.  The research team will summarize and draft recommendations resulting from the processes and evaluate individual and group learning. The methods and findings will be useful for many other coastal communities.