Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Johns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent W. Stoffle, Ph.D.


Caribbean, common pool resources, natural resource management, political ecology, small-scale fisheries


Currently, there is widespread debate regarding the overall status of the world's fisheries, with some researchers projecting their total collapse in only a few decades, and others concluding the situation is not quite as bleak. Additional debates include what strategies should be used to manage fisheries at various scales, and further research is needed to determine which strategies are most appropriate for use in particular situations and locales, as context is critical.

Recently, prominent common pool resources scholars have expressed the need for ethnographic approaches to studying resource management institutions in order to move beyond the current focus of simply identifying the factors and conditions that lead to the self-organization of resource users and long-term sustainability of management institutions. These authors describe the need for examining the larger context in which management institutions exist and taking various historical, political, and sociocultural factors into account when examining common pool resources. This dissertation is a response to that request.

This research is the result of over 20 months of ethnographic research in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands (USVI). Drawing on research in political ecology and building on anthropological critiques of common pool resource institutions, I describe the historical, social, and political factors that influence how fisheries management occurs at the federal and territorial levels, and how commercial fishers, managers, and other stakeholders experience and participate in multi-scale management processes. Ethnographic data suggest that there are a variety of historical, social, and political factors that influence how commercial fishers, managers, and other stakeholders perceive the federal fisheries management process, the extent of their participation in that process, as well as interactions within and between stakeholder groups. Additionally, the mismatch that exists between the centralized management structure of the US federal system and the small-scale, multi-method nature of St. Croix's fishery creates a complex management environment in which few stakeholders participate.