Rhode Island’s commercial fishermen have long been known for their resourcefulness and innovation. Now they are applying that spirit of ingenuity to a new puzzle: adapting to environmental change.

While environmental variability is not new, adapting to it is harder than used to be. An increasingly complex web of regulations, economic pressures, market trends, and social changes is reducing the “adaptation space” available to Rhode Island fishermen and making it harder to carry out business planning for the future. Meanwhile, global temperature rise threatens to escalate the natural pace of change, affecting local fisheries in unprecedented, irreversible, and hard-to-predict ways. While fishermen themselves are naturally adaptive, they are enmeshed in a system that severely hampers their ability to roll with the punches. This has profound implications for resilience.

The “Rhode Island Fisheries Blueprint for Resilience” project is addressing these emerging concerns through an industry-wide collaborative learning process. Although it is anchored in the analytical framework of environmental change, the tools produced through the project will empower fishery stakeholders to maximize their resilience in an era of many interacting pressures, including but not limited to changes in the environment.

What is a blueprint for resilience?blueprint

This project will produce more than the intangible benefits of learning and reflection. It will also create a “Blueprint for Resilience” – a written tool or set of tools to empower fishery stakeholders to advance their wellbeing in a changing environment. The Project Coordinator will work with project participants through a collaborative, transparent process to create documents that are representative of the industry at large and credible to many audiences (including stakeholders, policy makers, scientists, and the media). This is an opportunity to tell our story and advance our needs – to take control of the message in a way that allows stakeholders to shape their own destiny in a changing environment.

Although this project is about developing new knowledge, it is not “research” in the traditional, academic sense. Rather, it can be seen as an example of “participatory action research.” Wikipedia defines participatory action research as “an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection…With a PAR process, ‘communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers.’”

In sum, the outputs of the project are not a thesis or study. What they are is a set of materials co-written by the industry that give fishery stakeholders leverage, knowledge, and credibility to advance their own wellbeing and resilience in the face of change. To find out how you can contribute to this body of knowledge or how to utilize these tools, contact the Project Coordinator.