The study was part of a Biocomplexity Grant from the National Science Foundation. The overall project is administered by the Center for Biocomplexity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History.

The University of Arizona—College of the Bahamas Study Team is working with three other research teams to better understand the social and cultural dimensions of local settlements’ multidimensional relationships to the sea. The overall purpose of this study was to determine why people in the Exumas Islands and Cays have responded differentially to the proposed establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), also known as marine reserves, near their settlements. Our research team has spoken with people living near three MPA locations that were proposed in (and subsequent to) a 1999 study entitledScientific Review of the Marine Reserve Network Proposed for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas by the Bahamas Department of Fisheries(Stoner, Hixon, Dahlgren 1999), and approved as MPAs by the Bahamian government. That study proposed MPAs in two areas in the northern and central portions of the Exumas. More recently a modified MPA proposal was developed and presented for Little Exuma in the south. How local people have (or have not) responded to these three proposals is a focus of our study, but also we are more generally interested in why people respond the way they do to any conservation efforts in their nearby marine environments.

This research involved 572 interviews conducted with 193 people from six coastal communities in the Exumas. Many people were interviewed multiple times with various instruments. Gender balance was approached in the 352 formal interviews but an imbalance towards males occurred in the 221 informal interviews. Approximately the same percentage of each community was formally interviewed with an overall sample size of 34% of census recorded population.

In addition to the ethnographic reports produced for this collection, the following articles and book chapters were produced:

Christie, P. K., B. J. McCay, M. L. Miller, C. Lowe, A. T. White, R. Stoffle, D. L. Fluharty, L. T. McManus, R. Chuenpagdee, C. Pomeroy, D. O. Suman, B. G. Blount, D. Huppert, R. V. Eisma, E. Oracion, K. Lowry, and R. B. Pollnac
2003 Toward Developing a Complete Understanding: A Social Science Research Agenda for Marine Protected Areas. Fisheries 28(12):22-26.

Lutz, S., K. Broad, L. McManus, J. Sanchirico, and R. Stoffle
2002 Human Dimensions of Marine Reserve Policy: Applications in Bimini. Bahamas Journal of Science 5(2):50-57.

Mumby, P. J., C. P. Dahlgren, A. R. Harborne, C. V. Kappel, F. Micheli, D. R. Brumbaugh, K. E. Holmes, J. M. Mendes, K. Broad, J. N. Sanchirico, K. Buch, S. Box, R. Stoffle, and A. B. Gil
2006 Fishing, Trophic Cascades, and the Process of Grazing on Coral Reefs. Science 311:98-101.

Ocean Studies Board, National Research Council
2001 Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

Sanchirico, J. N., R. Stoffle, K. Broad, and L. Talaue-McManus
2003 Modeling Marine Protected Areas. Science 301:47-48.

Recent Submissions

  • The Bahamas Biocomplexity Study Photo Collection

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Van Vlack, Kathleen A.; O’Meara, Nathaniel B.; Martinez, Aja Y.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2013-08-01)
  • Environmental Multiplicity in the Bahamas: Situating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Conservation Ethics in Cultural Landscapes

    O'Meara, Nathaniel, B.; Northern Arizona University; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Northern Arizona University, 2009-05)
    Based on ethnographic research conducted in the Exumas Cays, Bahamas, this thesis investigates how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and conservation ethics are situated in place and integrated into cultural landscapes. This is illustrated using satellite imagery and ethnographic data to describe the TEK associated with kitchen gardens, plant-collecting areas, fishing grounds, farm fields and pastures within the traditional use areas of one Exumian settlement known as The Hermitage. By situating TEK in cultural landscapes, this thesis provides a more holistic representation of the interconnectedness between community, knowledge, practice, belief, place, and landscape. This thesis also includes discussions on the theoretical importance of linking TEK with place and landscape; the formation and role of conservation ethics in preserving places or resources in a local environment; and a description of an emerging theory in cultural ecology called environmental multiplicity, which argues for the resiliency of traditional social-ecological systems as a result of creating multiple subsistence strategies and webs of interdependent social relationships to guard against social and natural perturbations.
  • To Grub a Fish: Marine Protected Areas and Impacts to Community Resiliency

    Van Vlack, Kathleen, A.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Applied Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2013-03-06)
  • Sustainability in Small Islands (Bahamas 40th Independence Celebration)

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Applied Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Applied Anthropology, 2013-06-13)
  • Credit, Identity, and Resilience in the Bahamas and Barbados

    Stoffle, Brent W.; Purcell,Trevor; Stoffle, Richard W; Van Vlack, Kathleen; Arnett, Kendra; Minnis, Jessica; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; University of South Florida; University of Arizona; College of Bahamas (Ethnology, 2009-12)
    People of the Caribbean have maintained social networks that provide security in the face of human and natural perturbations. Rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) constitute one such system, which probably came to much of the Caribbean with African people and persisted through slavery. As a foundation of creole economic systems throughout the Caribbean, ROSCAs are time-tested dimensions of traditional culture and a source of pride and identity. This analysis of the history and contemporary functions of ROSCAs in Barbados and the Bahamas is based on more than a thousand extensive and intensive first-person interviews and surveys. This article argues that ROSCAs continue, much as they did in the past, to provide critical human services, social stability, and a source of African-ancestor identity in these two nations. (Women’s power, rotating credit, Bahamas, Barbados).
  • Social Theory and MPA Assessment

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2005-04)
    This paper argues for the application of Risk Society (Ulrich Beck & Anthony Giddens) and Social Resilience (Fikret Berkes & Carl Folke) theories in the social impact assessment (SIA) of proposed marine protected areas (MPAs). The former theory is the most cited social theory in Europe and has been found to explain worldwide human responses to proposed projects. The latter theory brings to the SIA of MPAs proven notions from human ecology. This paper is based on an on-going assessment of proposed MPA effects in the Bahamas and the growing literature on MPAs.
  • The Life and Love of Rend Percente

    Carroll, Clinton.; Stoffle, Richard, W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Applied Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2013-05-24)
  • Mrs. Bodie and Island Life: A Short Story of Fishing, Farming and Bush Medicine in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas- As told by Ester Mae Bodie

    O'Meara, Nathaniel; Stoffle, Richard, W.; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2007)
  • At the Sea’s Edge: Elders and Children in the Littorals of Barbados and the Bahamas

    Stoffle, Brent W.; Stoffle, Richard W.; Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Miami Facility, NOAA, NMFS; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona (Human Ecology, 2007-01-27)
    Littorals in the in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas and the Bath Plantation, Barbados are comparative in many ways. These edges of the sea have provided critical services to local people during the time of slavery and since. More than food and medicine, the littoral is the nightly sea bath, where children are instructed, and the last ecosystem effectively used by the elderly. Independence and self- respect derive from use and protection of these littoral by individuals and communities. Local patterns of conservation and use are argued to be essential in the ecological structure and functions of the littoral. Development projects and marine protected areas alike are seen as potentially breaking local ties with the littoral causing trophic skew and damaging local society. If development occurs, mitigation solutions potentially derive from legally recognizing local people as partners in the co-management of their traditional littoral. Included with this article is a presentation prepared by Drs. Brent and Richard Stoffle.
  • Marine Protected Areas and the Coral Reefs of Traditional Settlements in the Exumas, Bahamas

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Minnis, Jessica; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona; College of the Bahamas (Coral Reefs, 2007-06-21)
    This paper is about modeling the perceived social impacts of three proposed marine protected areas (MPAs), each designed to protect coral reefs. The paper argues that shared perceptions of these impacts have resulted in divergent community-level responses to these MPA proposals. The study is uniquely situated in the Bahamas where the government has approved setting aside 30 No-take MPAs (including three under study here) to protect the coastal marine environment. The paper is based on 572 interviews conducted during eight Weld trips with members of six traditional settlements in the Exuma Islands and Cays in the central Bahamas. Overall, 34% of the census population of these settlements was interviewed at least once. Key Findings are that an MPA can impact in either positive or negative ways (a) community agency by the process of siting, (b) community resilience by eliminating or supporting some components of their traditional adaptations to social and natural environments, and (c) community identity by precluding or protecting customary marine access. MPA impacts to local communities determine whether those communities will support or resist proposed MPAs.
  • Resilience at Risk: Epistemological and Social Construction Barriers to Risk Communication

    Stoffle, Richard W.; Minnis, Jessica; Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona; College of the Bahamas (Journal of Risk Research, 2008-01-01)
    This paper is about the persistent failure of social scientists to bring into the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process socially constructed environmental concerns held by potentially impacted communities. The failure to communicate perceived risks results from a two-communities divide based on both epistemological differences and obfuscation due to vernacular communication. The analysis provides robust modeling variables that can bridge this social-environmental divide. The case involves data collected from members of traditional communities regarding their perceptions of the potential impacts of proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The study is situated in the Bahamas where the government has approved setting aside 30 No-take MPAs to protect their sea. This analysis is based on 572 interviews conducted during eight field trips with members of six traditional settlements in the Exuma Islands and Cays in the central Bahamas. Confidence in the findings is high because the sample involves 34% of the census population of these settlements and the findings have repeatedly been returned for review and approval by the members of these settlements.