Syracuse University Magazine

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Research Snapshot

Project: Communication Avenues for Vietnamese Fishing Communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama with Coastal Resource Agencies

Co-Principal Investigator: Rebecca L. Schewe

Department: Sociology/Center for Policy Research

Sponsor: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant competition

Amount Awarded: $258,032 (subcontract, $94,217), September 2015-September 2017

Background: Federal, state, and local resource management agencies, such as NOAA and state departments of marine resources, manage fisheries resources to ensure sustainability and access for multiple stakeholders. These agencies have legislative requirements to engage stakeholders in management decisions and outreach; additionally, a number of studies demonstrate that stakeholder engagement and cooperative or co-management lead to improved environmental and economic outcomes, data generation, and partnerships among stakeholders and management experts. However, fisheries management involves balancing multiple intersecting priorities, such as achieving maximum yield while preventing over-fishing, as well as overlapping fisheries (e.g., shrimp and red snapper), and diverse stakeholders with sometimes conflicting management goals.

In this project, the researchers seek to evaluate the engagement of one specific growing stakeholder group in the U.S. Gulf Coast fishing industry: Vietnamese Americans. Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans make up approximately 50 percent of commercial fishermen in Mississippi and about 30 percent in Louisiana, and some estimates show Vietnamese Americans account for up to 80 percent of the Gulf Coast shrimping industry. The role of Vietnamese Americans in Gulf Coast fishing has recently increased, particularly following Hurricane Katrina and the BP Macondo oil spill, both times when large numbers of Anglo fishers exited the industry.  

The objectives of this socioeconomic study are to create a database of key baseline socioeconomic data on the Vietnamese American fishing community in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and to identify avenues and barriers for communication between Vietnamese American fishers and state and federal fisheries-related agencies in the region. The study will use a combination of face-to-face surveys with Vietnamese Americans in the fishing industry, interviews with representatives of relevant state and federal agencies, interviews with community organizations and key informants, and focus groups with Vietnamese Americans in different aspects of the fishing industry. This research builds upon ongoing preliminary research by the investigators in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Bayou La Batre, Alabama, funded by Mississippi State University, Syracuse University, and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

Impact: The socioeconomic data generated by this project will be valuable to both state and federal fisheries and regulatory agencies as they engage with Vietnamese American stakeholders and evaluate current and future management choices in Gulf Coast fisheries and their potential impacts on sustainability and community resilience. Analysis of the surveys will allow the investigators to identify trends in past and current engagement with agencies as well as management and governance priorities among Vietnamese American stakeholders. In addition, investigators will analyze how those trends might vary by key socioeconomic characteristics, such as age, education, immigration history, languages spoken, experience in the industry, sources of income, and career plans. This study also will identify key methods and tools for successful engagement with Vietnamese American stakeholders by fisheries agencies. By identifying successful stakeholder-engagement strategies, this research will support long-term outreach goals of fisheries agencies in the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. Finally, this study will support long-term collaboration among agencies, community organizations, and leaders in the Vietnamese American community on the Gulf Coast, identifying key personnel at agencies and community organizations as well as key leaders in the Vietnamese American fishing community. This information will be shared with all relevant parties to support collaboration and outreach.



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In Biloxi, Mississippi, Peter Nguyen, an extension agent with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, checks out the shrimp caught by a Vietnamese American fisherman. The fishermen often show off their catch to sell to tourists visiting the docks from nearby casinos.



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Vietnamese AMerican boats line a dock in Biloxi.