A tale of two communities: Using relational place-making to examine fisheries policy in the Pribilof Island communities of St. George and St. Paul, Alaska

Last modified: 
December 14, 2019 - 9:47am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2016
Date published: 05/2016
Authors: Courtney Lyons, Courtney Carothers, Katherine Reedy
Journal title: Maritime Studies
Volume: 15
Issue: 1

This paper describes how relational place-making, with its focus on power dynamics, networked politics, and non-market, locally-valued characteristics, provides a useful framework for managers to better design fishing community policies. Social data, while becoming more common in fisheries management analyses, are typically restricted to quantitative measures that often cannot adequately summarize dynamics within fishing communities. In contrast, detailed ethnographic research and the theoretical framework of relational place-making can provide a useful methodology through which to gather social data to understand resource-dependent communities and the effects of fisheries management policies in these places. Relational place-making describes the process through which physical spaces are transformed into socially meaningful places, and how these understandings are contested and negotiated among different groups of actors. These contested narratives of place, called place-frames, can interact with economic development efforts to help create (or fail to create) sustainable communities. To better understand the efficacy of a specific fisheries policy, the community development quota (CDQ) program, we conducted 6 months of ethnographic research in the rural, Native communities of St. George and St. Paul, Alaska. In both communities we found that local place-frames centered on local empowerment and control. In St. George, local place-frames conflicted with place-frames advanced by CDQ employees, and locals were unable to align place-making goals with local economic realities. In St. Paul, local residents and CDQ employees shared a place-frame, allowing them to accomplish numerous local development goals. However, differences in place-frames advanced by other political entities on the island often complicated development initiatives. This study supports previous research indicating that policies and development projects that increase local power and self-determination are most successful in furthering community sustainability and well-being. This study indicates that relational place-making can illuminate local goals and desires and is therefore of great utility to the fisheries management decision-making process.

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