Sustainability and Social Justice

Participatory Modeling and Community Dialog About Vulnerability of Lobster Fishing to Climate Change

Document Type

Book Chapter


The US National Research Council has repeatedly called for an analytic-deliberative process to make environmental decisions. Such a process should bring together experts, local citizens, stakeholders, and decision makers in venues where they investigate, discuss and learn together, make decisions, and follow up with monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. In this spirit, we have developed a community-based participatory modeling experience that gathers and organizes local and expert knowledge and then uses the model to inform public policy dialog. This chapter tells the story of how, over 24 months, we engaged a group of lobstermen and community members in South Thomaston, Maine. The group characterized how climate change is impacting the lobster fishery and the community. It also identified resilience actions they could take to better understand the complex connections between fishing effort, timing of lobster molting, and the price of lobster. We used system dynamics modeling to estimate these connections using available data from participants, scientific reports and publications, and data gathered by regulatory authorities. The model lets participants run scenarios that characterize how different resilience action strategies affect landings and fishermen’s income. We met with individual lobstermen to fine-tune the model and to explore its applications and then presented the model and its simulations back to the community. We also prepared a booklet that summarized NOAA data about ocean temperatures and distributed it in the community. These products helped promote community deliberation about how to enhance resilience to climate change.

Publication Title

Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders: Theory, Methods, and Applications

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climate adaptation, fisheries management, participatory modeling, system dynamics, vulnerability