Topic: Contentious Politics and Coastal Erosion: A Critical Examination of Sustainable Fisheries Management in Southeast Louisiana, USA
Coastal Louisiana, USA is in the midst of a land loss crisis that threatens the viability of local fisheries that sustain the local economy. The State has been proactive toward this crisis by developing an ambitious coastal master plan designed to sustain land and protect local infrastructure, communities, and fisheries through a fifty-year series of structural protection projects, infrastructure projects, and nonstructural initiatives. As climate change continues to impact coastal areas through sea level rise, ocean acidification, and coastal erosion, Louisiana has the opportunity to take on a leadership role in local fisheries management.
This study investigates the impact of coastal planning and management decisions on the sustainability of fisheries in southeast Louisiana. While the coastal master plan has been well received in the science and policy communities, one particular project type—sediment diversions—has created fierce controversy among coastal communities who argue that introducing fresh water from the Mississippi River into surrounding marshes will cripple the fisheries that are critical to the economic prosperity of the coastal zone and the State itself. While the State is determined to proceed with sediment diversions, local residents—particularly within the commercial fishing industry—have raised significant concerns about the impact of these diversions on local fisheries. Despite objections from local residents and industries, the mainstream framing of diversion projects emphasizes the resiliency of coastal stakeholders. The State argues coastal residents’ ability to adapt to changes in the ecosystem makes diverting sediment the best plan for Louisiana as a whole despite the potential consequences. This study investigates the political process around determining coastal restoration priorities and the impact of this process on the long-term sustainability of local fisheries and the communities that depend upon them economically. This study contributes to an important literature on local knowledge and sustainable management of natural resources.