Human Dimensions Research Program (HDRP)

Purpose and Scope

The Human Dimensions Research Program (HDRP) studies the "people" side of fishing and other uses of marine ecosystems in Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. HDRP research complements biophysical and economic studies by exploring social and cultural benefits and values associated with marine resources. Program researchers collect and analyze data and develop frameworks to better understand fishermen, fishing families, fishing communities, and how they are affected by fishing regulations and management. We study governance and institutional aspects of fisheries and marine resource management. We also work with many partners to increase local community capacity to conduct and apply social research, and to increase fishing community and public access to existing data sources.

Research Themes

HDRP research is organized into several broad themes:

Cultural Traditions and Marine Resource Management in Pacific Island Communities

In the Western Pacific, fishing is culture. These projects describe both past and current community ties to fishing and use of marine resources, melding traditional knowledge with contemporary social research to understand these ties and how they are changing over time. Some projects are designed to increase local community capacity to design, conduct, and apply social research to marine issues, or to make existing data more accessible.

Human Dimensions of Climate Change

Climate change is expected to have many types of effects on the small islands in the Western Pacific. These effects will be accentuated because island ecosystems and communities are inherently more vulnerable to disturbances. The goal of this (and subsequent) projects is to provide information and assistance to better equip communities to deal with climate change impacts.

Human Dimensions of Commercial Fisheries Management

These research projects remind us that vessels do not catch fish, people catch fish, and those people and their communities are affected in many ways by NMFS regulations and policies. Many commercial fishermen in the Western Pacific own small boats, fish part-time, and provide fish to the community as well as to the market. Even the full-time longline fishermen report that maintaining a fishing lifestyle and ties to cultural traditions are important reasons why they are fishermen.

Sociocultural Dimensions of Marine Ecosystem Management

As NOAA Fisheries and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) adopt an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, it becomes more important to define and integrate the human dimensions of marine ecosystems. These human components can be considered at many scales, including individual, family and household, community, and regional scales. Indicators of socioeconomic conditions are considered side-by-side with biophysical indicators, and both are combined to describe social-ecological systems.

Social Values of Marine Recreation

In the Western Pacific, recreational fishing has a different meaning than it does elsewhere. Some fishermen who fish primarily for recreation also sell fish on occasion, and nearly all of the fish is eaten, whether by the fishermen an household, others to whom fish is given, or by the community, often in conjunction with social and cultural events or celebrations. Recreational fishing is managed differently than commercial fishing, and data on recreational catch levels can be collected through different programs. As the nation moves toward mandatory annual catch limits for federally managed species, recreational use patterns and catch will need to be carefully considered.

Other Research

Most HDRP projects are conducted to inform fisheries and marine ecosystem policy development and management in the Western Pacific Region. However, HDRP also provides a variety of services to other agencies. HDRP has served as a reviewer of articles for the journal Society and Natural Resources and also reviews grant proposals and research plans for the North Pacific Research Board, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Grant program, Pacific Islands Regional Office, and other organizations. We also have conducted more substantial projects in conjunction with other agencies.