A Story About People and Porpoises: Consensus-Based Decision Making in the Shadow of Political Action.
Professionally facilitated multi-stakeholder meetings of marine mammal Take Reduction Teams, such as the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team, are mandated by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. These meetings employ consensus-based decision-making to create policies to safeguard marine mammals. This opportunistic case study examines the history of the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team multi-stakeholder group, and policy decisions the team made to address harmful interactions between harbor porpoises and the New England and mid-Atlantic groundfish fishery. For more than a decade, stakeholders regularly met to create regulations designed to mitigate the accidental entanglement of harbor porpoises in gillnets, called bycatch. A series of disruptions, including a new political appointee and the addition of new team members, altered how stakeholders interacted with one another and how regulations were implemented. These shocks to the formerly well-functioning team, placed the future of consensus-based policy creation at risk. Lessons from this case study can be applied to increase understanding of how multi-stakeholder methods, which are incorporated into many regulatory decision-making processes operate in practice and illustrate the fragile nature of long-standing consensus.
McDonald, SL; Rigling Gallagher, D
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