Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Maine
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Flye, M., Sponarski, C., Zydlewski, J. and McGreavy, B. (2021) Understanding collaborative governance from a communication network perspective: A case study of the Atlantic salmon recovery framework. Environmental Science and Policy. 115 (2021): 79-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.10.001


The Atlantic Salmon population in Maine remains critically low despite hatchery supplementation and habitat improvement efforts. In 2000 the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment was listed as an endangered species, with joint listing authority shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Complexity surrounding leadership is a challenge common in fisheries management. Because regulators and managers from federal, state, and Penobscot Nation contexts operate with independent authorities, recovery decisions depend upon effective communication and coordination. Using a mixed-methods approach, we surveyed and interviewed members of the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Framework (ASRF), the governance structure responsible for Atlantic Salmon management and recovery in Maine. The Communication Network Analysis (CNA) used survey results to better understand the flow of information and communication among members of ASRF. Survey and interview results revealed three areas of concern: 1) slow and ineffective decision-making, 2) confusion surrounding leadership and accountability, and 3) lack of adaptive capacity. Despite these challenges, ASRF members reported a commitment to maintaining a collaborative governance structure. Individuals reported long-standing relationships and a history of working together within and among organizations. This coupled with the high degree of current communication shows that transmission pathways exist and may be built upon over time. As management organizations work to restructure the ASRF, the following considerations may serve to improve collaborative efficiency: 1) encouraging inter-agency collaborations within Boards and Teams, 2) alignment of ASRF and organizational decision-making and power structures, 3) formalizations of information flow and 4) formalization of the program implementation process. As more species become threatened/endangered and management resources become scarcer, the need to work collaboratively across jurisdictions will become increasingly essential to environmental management and recovery. Understanding collaborative governance structures from a structural perspective may provide a means to assessing collaborative efficiency and highlighting areas for improvement.