Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Applying GEMS with the NOAA Restoration Center

Applying GEMS with the NOAA Restoration Center

Increasingly, restoration funders and practitioners are paying attention to how coastal restoration projects affect people and communities.The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Service Logic Models & Socio-Economic Indicators (GEMS) project identified metrics for social and economic outcomes of coastal restoration, including employment, local economy, recreation, food provision, and mental health benefits. In addition, measurement protocols were developed with guidance on how to collect and assess data for that metric. The measurement protocols include methods to help identify whether the delivery of outcomes is equitable and reaches underserved communities.

We are now working to apply the GEMS methods for assessing fishing and related outcomes to support restoration decisions made by NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program External link, or DARRP. After a pollution incident in a coastal area, DARRP assesses the ecological, social, and economic losses caused by the incident and identifies restoration activities that will compensate for this loss to “make the public whole” again. Access to fishing is one of these losses, and typically, this loss is assessed using angler intercept surveys at commonly used access points, such as boat launches and fishing piers, or through mail surveys of licensed fishers.

Such methods may overlook shore-based and dispersed boat fishers that may not be found at traditional access points or who would be hesitant to respond to a mail survey, but may still be affected by pollution incidents.These types of fishers are often out on the water for various reasons, including but not limited to recreation, enjoyment, subsistence, supplementing diets, passing on family traditions, supporting cultural values or practices, social interaction, and contributing to sense of place. If these fishers are indeed underrepresented in angler surveys, subsequent restoration decisions to compensate for losses incurred during the injury may not consider the needs of these fishers.

To address this uncertainty, we are working with NOAA’s Restoration Center on a research project to determine how current DARRP processes and restoration decisions can be modified to be inclusive of shore-based and dispersed boat fishers that are otherwise underrepresented. Engaging with these communities requires long-term relationship-building rooted in trust and collaboration.

With team members from the NOAA Restoration Center and DARRP, as well as input from social scientists, we are exploring how traditional methods for fisher engagement might be supplemented to include these underrepresented populations. An example of some of these amendments, or on-ramps, are:

  • Reviewing demographic data of spill areas to identify vulnerabilities that may already exist in impacted fisher populations.
  • Using key informants to identify additional intercept points where dispersed on- and near-shore fishers might be found as well as understanding the vulnerabilities of these fishers better.
  • Conducting intercept surveys at the newly-identified access points to ask these dispersed on- and near-shore fishers about the ways that a spill impacted their fishing activity.

This research will help inform adjustments to DARRP methods, if necessary, to better capture the needs of fishing communities affected by pollution incidents. The next stages of this work will be co-creating and testing these methods with community partners in three locations in the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information contact Sara Mason.

Summary Slide Deck