A Social and Ecological Evaluation of Marine Mammal Take Reduction Teams

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McDonald, Sara L.


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There have been few efforts to evaluate the actual and perceived effectiveness of environmental management programs created by consensus-based, multi-stakeholder negotiation or negotiated rulemaking. Previous evaluations have used perceived success among participants as a proxy for actual effectiveness, but seldom have investigated the ecological outcomes of these negotiations. Fewer still, if any, have compared the actual and perceived outcomes. Here I evaluate and compare the social and ecological outcomes of the negotiated rulemaking process of marine mammal take reduction planning. Take reduction planning is mandated by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to reduce the fisheries-related serious injuries and mortalities of marine mammals (bycatch) in U.S. waters to below statutory thresholds. Teams of fishermen, environmentalists, researchers, state and federal managers, and members of Regional Fisheries Management Councils and Commissions create consensus-based rules to mitigate bycatch, called Take Reduction Plans. There are six active Take Reduction Plans, one Take Reduction Strategy consisting of voluntary measures, and one plan that was never implemented. It has been 20 years since marine mammal take reduction planning was incorporated into the MMPA. Early evaluations were promising, but identified several challenges. In the past decade or more, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has implemented measures to set up the teams for success.

I used data from formal Stock Assessment Reports to assess and rank the actual ecological success of five Take Reduction Plans (Harbor Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, Atlantic Large Whale, Pelagic Longline, and Pacific Offshore Cetacean) in mitigating the bycatch of 17 marine mammal stocks. In addition, I employed social science data collection and analytical methods to evaluate Take Reduction Team participants' opinions of the take reduction negotiation process, outputs, and outcomes with respect to the ingredients required for successful multi-stakeholder, consensus-based negotiation (team membership, shared learning, repeated interactions, facilitated meetings, and consensus-based outputs). These methods included surveying and interviewing current and former Take Reduction Team participants; using Structural Equation Models (SEMs) and qualitative methods to characterize participant perceptions across teams and stakeholder groups; and identifying and exploring the reasons for similarities and differences among respondents, teams, and stakeholder groups. I also employed SEMs to quantitatively examine the relationship between actual and perceived ecological success, and contrasted actual and perceived outcomes by comparing their qualitative rankings.

Structural Equation Models provided a valid framework in which to quantitatively examine social and ecological data, in which the actual ecological outcomes were used as independent predictors of the perceived outcomes. Actual improvements in marine mammal bycatch enhanced stakeholder opinions about the effectiveness of marine mammal Take Reduction Plans. The marine mammal take reduction planning process has all of the ingredients necessary for effective consensus-based, multi-stakeholder negotiations (Chapter 2). It is likely that the emphasis that the National Marine Fisheries Service places on empirical information and keeping stakeholders informed about bycatch, marine mammal stocks, and fisheries facilitated this relationship. Informed stakeholders also had relatively accurate perceptions of the actual ecological effectiveness of the Take Reduction Plans (Chapter 3). The long timeframes over which the teams have been meeting generally have increased cooperation. The professionally trained, neutral facilitators have produced fair negotiations, in which most individuals felt they had an opportunity to contribute. Participant views of fairness significantly influenced their satisfaction with Take Reduction Plans, which significantly affected their perceptions about the effectiveness of those plans (Chapter 2). The mandate to create a consensus-based output has, for the most part, minimized defections from the negotiations and facilitated stakeholder buy-in.

In general, marine mammal take reduction planning is a good negotiated rulemaking process, but has produced mixed results (Chapters 1 and 2). Successful plans were characterized by straightforward regulations and high rates of compliance. Unsuccessful plans had low compliance with complex regulations and sometimes focused on very small stocks. Large teams and those in the northeastern U.S. (Maine to North Carolina) were least successful at reducing bycatch, which was reflected in stakeholder views of the effectiveness of these teams. Take Reduction Team negotiations have not always produced practical or enforceable regulations. Implementation of take reduction regulations is critical in determining plan success and identifying effective mitigation measures, but because of a lack of monitoring, has not been characterized consistently across most teams. Additionally, elements like the "Other Special Measures Provision" in the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan have undermined the negotiation process by allowing the National Marine Fisheries Service to alter consensus-based elements without consensus from the team, which has led to hostility, mistrust, and frustration among stakeholders.

The final chapter of this dissertation provides recommendations to improve the outcomes and make them more consistent across teams. I based these recommendations on the information gathered and analyzed in the first three chapters. They are grouped into four broad categories - team membership, social capital, fairness, and plan implementation. If the National Marine Fisheries Service implements these suggestions, both perceived and actual ecological effectiveness of marine mammal Take Reduction Teams should improve, allowing these teams to fulfill their maximum potential.





McDonald, Sara L. (2014). A Social and Ecological Evaluation of Marine Mammal Take Reduction Teams. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9426.


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