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Understanding Adaptation and Change in the Fishing Industry

Dec 29, 2014
Strengthening Coastal Communities

This is a time of unprecedented challenge for New England’s fishing industry. Faced with an evolving marine ecosystem, dwindling fishery resources, and global seafood competition, fishermen must adapt to seize the emerging opportunities that will ensure future success. 

While commercial fisheries around the world are propelled by cutting edge science, they are also anchored in strong tradition. Incorporating new information can be difficult, and fishermen often struggle to change at the pace needed to remain economically and environmentally sustainable. Even if a clear benefit is demonstrated, fishermen can be slow to adopt new gear and technologies. 

At GMRI, we work to develop the innovative tools and resources the commercial fishing industry needs, but this is only part of the challenge. Fishermen must eventually believe in the utility and value of these tools, and choose to incorporate them into their businesses and practices. 

Our fishing gear technologist, Steve Eayrs, is searching for new insight into these challenges by examining change management models. While these tools for understanding and implementing change are well-established in the business world, their application to fisheries is a novel idea. 

In particular, Steve is looking at the popular management model developed by John Kotter. This eight-step process has been used to guide many corporations through the process of introducing and cementing revolutionary change. 

The core challenge in all stages of the model is changing people’s behavior. An underlying premise of the approach is that people change because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings and less so because they are given analysis that influences their thinking. 

During the coming year, Steve will study examples of successful change in fisheries to see how closely the change process mirrored the Kotter model. By identifying the mechanisms that drive successful change in fisheries, we hope to increase the resilience of the industry—first in New England and eventually in other parts of the world.