Read all about it: Governance Potential for Marine Mammal Bycatch Mitigation

Presenting my first first-author paper, from my dissertation! This paper is part of a special issue in Applied Geography on Cultural Geography of Marine Resource Management, and I’m grateful to have been a part of the session at the AAG meeting in 2013 that led to this.  It represents my first foray into interdisciplinary research, and my transformation from thinking of governance  as dry and boring (“eh, it’s just all regulatory language and complicated politics”) to realizing that it is a dynamic, broad topic that is essential to understanding how the “rubber meets the road” in management.

This was an intimidating paper to write, given my lack of formal background in geography or other social sciences.  But this relative naivete also allowed me to be a bit creative in coming up with figures to visually display complex aspects of this project.  It was difficult for me to clearly explain, in the paper and to the reviewers, connections that seemed obvious in my mind but not necessarily obvious to those who aren’t familiar with studying bycatch in developing countries – a huge challenge was to explain that this *is* a paper highly relevant to cetacean bycatch, even though most of the findings are not directly related to bycatch itself (because bycatch is a fisheries management issue). I’d love to see more contributions to the field like this paper, and I hope that it motivates others to publish their findings on the “human dimension” of marine mammal bycatch!

Citation: Whitty, T.S. 2015. Governance potential for cetacean bycatch mitigation in small-scale fisheries: A comparative assessment of four sites in Southeast Asia. Applied Geography, 59: 131-141.

Here is a link to a free download, valid until May 8, 2015.

Abstract: Bycatch of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) in small-scale fisheries is a major global conservation threat. Mitigating bycatch is a fisheries management issue. However, investigation of the governance context of bycatch has been limited. Much-needed progress in bycatch mitigation requires integration of governance assessment in bycatch-related studies. This project assesses “conservation-relevant elements” of local governance institutions and activities that are involved in coastal and aquatic resource management (CARM) and considered important to bycatch mitigation. Research focused on four sites in Southeast Asia with small-scale fisheries bycatch of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris): Trat, Thailand; Mahakam River, Indonesia; and Malampaya Sound and Guimaras and Iloilo Straits, Philippines. Using key informant and household surveys, this project examines the extent to which conservation-relevant governance elements are active and effective in CARM, contribute to enforcement, coordinate across institutions, and engage communities. These attributes varied across sites, holding potentially significant implications for the feasibility and process of bycatch mitigation. The role of bridging organizations appears to be vital in CARM activities and current bycatch mitigation efforts, but involvement of local communities and support from external institutions are also necessary for sustained and impactful management. Insights derived from approaches such as that used here can hold lessons beyond Southeast Asia in terms of research methods (i.e., how to incorporate interdisciplinary approaches into bycatch studies), findings (i.e., what governance elements might be most conducive to bycatch mitigation), and setting priorities for conservation (i.e., at what sites is mitigation most feasible, and how can governance capacity for mitigation be enhanced).