Northeast ecosystem component


Culture includes beliefs, knowledge, artifacts, identity, and sense of place passed down through generations within a society. Northeast communities have depended on fishing since the 1600s-1700s1. Within multigenerational fishing families2,3, detailed and meticulous observations amass local ecological knowledge that can be useful for management4,5. This knowledge is carefully passed down through heavily annotated logbooks and charts6, in stories and advice from older fishermen and peers7, and by imitation and practice8. Familiarity with ocean spaces and generational coastal community residence create a strong attachment to place and a cultural identity tied to fishing as a way of life9,10.

A church in New Bedford, MA
A church in New Bedford, MA. Credit: NOAA

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    1. 1. National Marine Fisheries Service. 2009. Fishing Communities of the United States, 2006. U.S.Dept. Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-98, 84 p.

    2. 2. Brewer, J. F. 2011. Paper fish and policy conflict: catch shares and ecosystem-based management in Maine’s groundfishery. Ecology and Society 16(1): 15. [online] URL:

    3. 3. Colburn, Lisa L., and Patricia M. Clay. "The role of oral histories in the conduct of fisheries social impact assessments in Northeast US." Journal of Ecological Anthropology 15, no. 1 (2012): 74-80.

    4. 4. Neis, Barbara. 1998. Fishers’ ecological knowledge and the identification and management of localized populations of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in Northeast Newfoundland, pp. 177-188. In I. H. von Herbing, I Kornfield, M. Tupper and J. Wilson, eds. The Implication of Localized Fishery Stocks: Proceedings from a conference sponsored by the U. of Maine and Maine Sea Grant Program. South Portland, ME. Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 1997.

    5. 5. Miller, Marc L., John Kaneko, Paul Bartram, Joe Marks, and Devon D. Brewer. "Cultural consensus analysis and environmental anthropology: yellowfin tuna fishery management in Hawaii." Cross-Cultural Research 38, no. 3 (2004): 289-314.

    6. 6. Hall-Arber, Madeleine and Judith Pederson. 1999. Habitat Observed from the Decks of Fishing Vessels. Fisheries 24(6):6-13.

    7. 7. Ames, E.P., S. Watson, and J. Wilson. 2000. “Rethinking Overfishing: Insights from Oral Histories of Retired Ground-fishermen,” pp. 153-164. In Barbara Neis and Larry Felt, eds. Finding Our Sea Legs: Linking Fishery People and Their Knowledge with Science and Management. ISER Books 318p.

    8. 8. Vermonden, David. 2009. Reproduction and Development of Expertise Within Communities of Practice: A Case Study of Fishing Activities in South Buton (Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia), pp. 205-229. In S. Huckler, ed. Landscape, Process and Power: Re-evaluating Traditional Environmental Knowledge. Vol. 10, Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology. New York: Berghahn Books.

    9. 9. Brookfield, Katherine, Tim Gray, and Jenny Hatchard. "The concept of fisheries-dependent communities: a comparative analysis of four UK case studies: Shetland, Peterhead, North Shields and Lowestoft." Fisheries Research 72, no. 1 (2005): 55-69.

    10. 10. Urquhart, Julie, and Tim Acott. "A sense of place in cultural ecosystem services: the case of Cornish fishing communities." Society & Natural Resources 27, no. 1 (2014): 3-19.