R-10-04 Assessing vulnerability and resilience in Maine fishing communities

Teresa Johnson
School of Marine Sciences
5706 Aubert Hall
Orono, ME 04469

Once upon a time, Maine fishermen and women harvested a diversity of species, from groundfish and herring to lobsters, clams, shrimp, and scallops, depending on market conditions and resource abundance. Today, Maine’s fishing culture is concentrated in 50 coastal communities and is overwhelmingly dependent on lobster, while regulations have restricted other fisheries. Since 1990, the number of vessels landing groundfish in Maine dropped from 350 to 70. At least 72 groundfish permits have been lost, and dramatic changes in management are imminent, leading Johnson to wonder, “How vulnerable are Maine’s fishing communities? What can be done to improve their resiliency to future change?”

These are the questions that federal fisheries managers must ask when assessing the impact of new rules, yet too often they don’t have the right data to answer the questions. This project developed a participatory, place-based approach for assessing the vulnerability and resilience of Maine fishing communities, documenting threats and resources available to respond to those threats. To understand the forces driving vulnerability, Johnson and graduate students Cameron Thompson and Anna Henry worked with community stakeholders to identify opportunities and strategies for improving resilience of fishing communities.

Read the summary report,
Cover of In Their Own Words report, shows a ship steering wheel.In Their Own Words:
Fishermen's Perspectives
of Community Resilience




Individual community profiles:

Peer-reviewed articles:

Johnson, T.R., A. Henry, and C. Thompson. 2014. Identifying qualitative indicators of social resilience in small-scale fishing communities: an emphasis on perceptions and practice. Human Ecology Review 20(2):97-115.

Henry, A.M., and T.R. Johnson. 2015. Understanding social resilience in the Maine lobster industry. Marine and Coastal Fisheries 7(1):33-43. doi: 10.1080/19425120.2014.984086.

Thompson, C., T.R. Johnson, and S. Hanes. 2016. Vulnerability of fishing communities undergoing gentrification. Journal of Rural Studies 45:165-174.


Two-year project 2010-2012
Total Sea Grant funds $129,336