Cultural Ecosystem Services in Relation to Scottish Small Scale Fisheries.

Supervisor: Suzannah-Lynn Billing (Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES) research is critical in understanding the dynamics of marine socio-ecological systems and how to appropriately implement ecosystem-based management practices. As defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), CES are ‘the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences’ (MA, 2005). CES include cultural diversity, heritage values, spiritual services, knowledge systems, educational values, inspiration, aesthetic values, social relations, sense of place, identity, recreation and tourism, additionally the MA acknowledges that these terms are not mutually exclusive. However the MA definition fails to address the tangible and intangible aspects of CES, which makes assessing CES challenging as many cannot be fully evaluated using the methods which can be applied to other ecosystem services sectors. In this study I examine CES in relation to local fishing and local seafood within two groups of individuals in the communities of Oban and Mallaig in coastal Western Scotland. Individuals who owned restaurants serving seafood and consumers were selected for this study as both groups partake in supporting the demand for seafood. A mixed qualitative and quantitative approach was adopted to assess the CES of ‘Sense of Place’ (SOP), Identity, Social Relations and Heritages as perceived by restaurant owners and consumers. A qualitative approach was employed with restaurant owners in Oban, where I conducted semi-structured interviews and analyzed them using a primarily inductive form of thematic data analysis. Consumers were surveyed in Oban and Mallaig in 2019 by the Horizon 2020 PERICLES project using a quantitative approach and were asked to respond to a series of Likert Scale and ‘Reasons to Live in or Visit the Area’ (Reasons) questions to assess perceptions of local seafood and local fishing. This data was shared with me after COVID-19 disrupted my original data collection. I analyzed these consumer responses using Kruskal-Wallis and Wilcoxon tests to statistically explore the data, followed by ordinal regression analyses to determine the significance of socio-economic moderators on the responses. The thematic analysis of the interviews with restaurant owners revealed a series of themes highlighting the importance of SOP and identity as continuous concepts underpinning restaurant owners’ perceptions of local seafood and local fishing. SOP and identity also contribute to how the owners understand the heritages of Oban and the social relationships which arise from involvement in the seafood restaurant industry. Maritime activities contribute to the formation of SOP and multiple forms of identity for owners. Owners considered local fishing to be a heritage activity rooted in the past, whereas maritime transport was considered a heritage activity of the present. The owner-supplier relationships formed the center of owners’ professional networks. The thematic analysis also allowed for the emergence of the novel CES themes of Knowledge Systems and Emotional Values of the Sea from the interviews. Consumers perceived local fishing to be a heritage activity which contributes to the formation of SOP and the identity of the West Coast. Consumers aged 18-39 and 60+ tended to agree with statements which linked local fishing to SOP, identity and heritages, whereas consumers aged 40-59 tended to disagree. Consumers local to the West Coast were found to be tied to the area through social relationships, whereas visitors to the area were drawn by heritages, highlighting the different processes of formation of SOP by locals and non-locals. The outcomes of this study underscore the impacts of methodology when assessing intangible aspects of CES in coastal communities. The qualitative approach allowed for the exploration of nuances within the data, and provided highly detailed accounts of each CES with flexibility to permit the emergence of novel CES, however the process is time intensive and would be challenging with a large sample size. The quantitative approach allowed for the sampling of a large group of consumers in a short time period, however the descriptions of CES which arose from the data were limited and shallow. Further studies investigating CES in coastal communities should consider how specific methodologies will impact the outcomes of studies and further emphasis should be placed on qualitative approaches when examining intangible aspects of CES.