||Many fishermen and fisheries managers in Eastern North Carolina hold strong Christian
beliefs which influence their attitudes toward the fishery, and therefore affect how
the fishery is managed. In public meetings on fisheries management, scientific and
economic discussions frequently turn into religiously charged arguments. Science-minded
managers often withdraw from or dismiss these arguments, thus shutting off communication
with a large portion of the stakeholders. Understanding the religious basis for many
of the opinions held by fishermen and other stakeholders could help facilitate productive
discussions of religion in fisheries management, and could facilitate the management
I conducted interviews with fishermen, fisheries managers, and religious leaders in
coastal North Carolina, to gain a better understanding of the religious roots of fishermen’s
attitudes toward fisheries and fisheries management. I found that in many cases,
fishermen’s opposition to management is based on powerful and sincerely held religious
beliefs. Many Christian fishermen believe that God provides fish for the sole purpose
of being harvested by humans. Just as common among fishermen is a belief that fishermen
serve as stewards of the water and its resources.
In a broader context, understanding how religion influences people’s values and behavior
is very important for environmental conservation in general. Over the past decade
there has been a movement among religious groups to take on environmental issues.
Marine conservation could benefit greatly from engaging religious organizations.
Many coastal fishing communities, like those in coastal North Carolina, Louisiana,
and on the Chesapeake Bay, have large Christian populations. Appealing to Christian
organizations, by framing marine conservation as a moral and ethical issue as well
as an ecological or economic issue, could help mobilize many people and greatly help