Aligning Marine Management Institutions with Key Ecological and Economic Linkages in the Gulf of California, Mexico

Many benefits produced by healthy ecosystems are common pool resources, which create particular challenges for environmental policy and management. Yet local institutions often enable effective stewardship of these resources, and build social and ecological resilience to environmental change. The objective of this project is to explore the interplay between key ecological, economic, and institutional processes related to small-scale fisheries in Mexico's Gulf of California, and how interactions among these processes influence both ecological and economic outcomes. Previous scholarship focused on the gulf and other areas with low governance, enforcement, and monitoring capacity has often emphasized either ecological or institutional dynamics, but rarely integrates ecological, economic, and institutional analyses as proposed here. Through a combination of conceptual and quantitative modeling and field research, we are developing an innovative interdisciplinary approach for analyzing coupled natural and human coastal marine systems. Through these activities and associated interactions with other scientists and practitioners in the region, we are collecting substantial primary social, economic and ecological data to inform the development of quantitative models of human-environment linkages in the gulf, and contributing to the training of the next generation of sustainability science scholars.

Well-functioning coastal and marine ecosystems provide a wide array of societal benefits, including food production, protection from coastal storms, and opportunities for recreation and tourism. Stewardship to ensure continued provision of these benefits requires understanding the connections between ecosystems and the people who live with them. Knowledge of the mechanisms underlying these interactions is vital for mitigation and adaptation to our changing world, particularly in the face of climate change. In this project, we focus on small-scale, or artisanal, fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. To sustain fisheries in the gulf, a variety of management tools are under consideration, including marine reserves and other marine protected areas, catch shares, and territorial use rights. Moreover, the expected decentralization of fisheries management due to the recently amended Fisheries Law is anticipated to alter both ecological and socioeconomic dynamics within the region. Through the development of an interdisciplinary framework for understanding coastal marine environment-society connections, along with gulf-specific analyses, we will help inform development of innovative marine management strategies in this region and other coastal and marine areas worldwide.

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