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Clam hunger and the changing ocean: characterizing social and ecological risks to the Quinault razor clam fishery using participatory modeling

Katherine M. Crosman, University of Washington, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance
Eleni L. Petrou, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Merrill B. Rudd, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Scaleability LLC
Michael D. Tillotson, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Gulf of Maine Research Institute


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On the outer coast of Washington state, traditional lifestyles are closely entwined with the marine resources affected by ocean change, e.g., ocean warming, ocean acidification, fishing, coastal development, etc. Our research explores how ongoing ocean change may challenge the social-ecological system surrounding the Quinault Indian Nation’s razor clam (Siliqua patula) harvest. We conducted semistructured interviews with Quinault tribal members, scientists, and resource managers to build a conceptual model of the social-ecological system, which we use to (1) understand the emergent effects of changes in availability of razor clams and (2) explore how the tribal community might prepare for or adapt to these changes. Razor clams are a staple food and key source of income for the Quinault people because of their lasting abundance, low cost to harvest, and long season of availability relative to other natural resources. Lower income families experience disproportionate economic impacts during razor clam harvest closures, but less tangible social and cultural impacts are felt broadly throughout the community. Although razor clams have been, in general, available and safe for harvest in recent years, the Quinault people perceive many threats to the resource, including climate change, harmful algal blooms, pollution, and habitat loss. We used the perceived risks identified from the interview results, along with peer-reviewed scientific literature, to develop several ocean change scenarios. Using a stage-based population model of the Pacific razor clam, we explored the relative impacts of these scenarios on annual razor clam harvest over a 20-year period. The simulation of scenarios was developed into a user-friendly web-based application as a planning tool for the Quinault Indian Nation, to help them explore connections between ocean change and razor clam availability, and to support their efforts to plan for and adapt to the impacts of change.

Key words

coastal communities; ocean change; participatory modeling; razor clams; risk identification; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087