Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation (International Conservation and Development)

Department or School/College

Society and Conservation

Committee Chair

Brian Chaffin

Commitee Members

Alexander Metcalf, Michelle Bryan, Lorrae van Kerkhoff


environmental governance, knowledge governance, adaptive governance, marine resources, fisheries, Pacific


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Nature and Society Relations


Rapid environmental change, ranging from the collapse of fisheries to the rise of sea levels, poses significant challenges for the governance of marine resources. In Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs), these changes result in the loss of marine resources, threatening both the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. Existing top-down, centralized forms of environmental governance lack the flexibility needed to address these issues especially at local scales, while bottom-up approaches often lack the coordination and authority needed to respond quickly to change. More adaptive forms of marine governance are needed to ensure that PICTs are able to respond effectively to these environmental changes. Researchers in environmental governance have proposed “adaptive governance” (AG) as an alternative mode of governing resources that balances the benefits of top-down and bottom-up approaches. Past research has led to proposals for specific characteristics of such a system, including calls for enabling adaptive management, for inclusive participation of stakeholders, and for incorporating multiple types of knowledge into decision making. However, further empirical evidence is necessary to develop these characteristics and to identify the barriers to their emergence, especially in non-Western contexts. The thesis research described here contributes to filling this gap through a case study analysis of the Solomon Islands Fishery Management Act (FMA) of 2015 as a potential example of emerging adaptive governance. Specific focus is given to a provision within the FMA (2015) that will enable communities to use government police and court systems to enforce their local fishing rules, if they successfully submit a marine management plan to the government. This study location provides a unique opportunity to pay specific attention to the AG suggestion for the inclusion of different types of knowledge, as both science and local ecological knowledge are used by governance actors in the Solomon Islands. Data collection methods include a deductive policy analysis, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with Pacific fisheries policy experts as well as fisheries managers, conservation practitioners, and fishers in the Solomon Islands. The results of this analysis indicate that several characteristics of AG may be emerging in the Solomon Islands with the introduction of the FMA (2015), including openness to the incorporation of multiple types of knowledge. However, a more in depth analysis of knowledge processes reveal some potential barriers to the emergence of this characteristic, and of AG more broadly; for instance, the strict requirements of the FMA (2015) may restrict the ability of communities to successfully submit plans and therefore benefit from this provision. This research builds a deeper understanding of knowledge-related barriers to the emergence of AG and introduces an approach to detect these barriers during an AG analysis that can be further developed in the future.



© Copyright 2018 Amber W. Datta