Examining socio-political factors influencing oyster reef restoration programs
September 2010 - December 2011
- The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana
Once a dominant feature of estuaries world-wide, oyster reefs have recently been identified as one of the most endangered coastal ecosystems, fueling significant efforts to restore and enhance these systems. Oyster reefs located in the northern Gulf of Mexico have been identified as some of the healthiest of reefs globally, and current efforts focus on devising an approach to coast-wide restoration and protection of these reefs. As with all natural resource management and restoration, success is dependent on more than simply understanding the biological requirements of the resource; rather, they are equally dependent on understanding and working within the social and political context in which these management and restoration activities must occur. To better understand the context in which gulf-wide reef restoration must operate, we report on the results of a survey of over 2000 key stakeholders representing 6 interest groups (shrimp trawlers, oyster harvestmen, recreational fishermen, environmental organization members, scientific researchers and regulatory agency employees) from the five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida). The objectives of the survey were to determine 1) knowledge of, and values placed on oyster reef ecological services, 2) support for different methods of oyster reef restoration, 3) perception of obstacles, trade-offs and benefits of different reef restoration approaches, and 4) preference for oyster reef restoration implementation and management. These results not only inform oyster reef restoration planners of the constraints and opportunities of a regional or estuary specific plan in the Gulf of Mexico up front, but can help guide their restoration actions more efficiently and effectively, enabling them to achieve their desired outcomes.