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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Navigating Fragmented Ocean Law in the California Current: Tools to Identify and Measure Gaps and Overlaps for Ecosystem-Based Management

  • Author(s): Ekstrom, Julia A.
  • et al.

Fragmented ocean management contributes significantly to the declining health of the world’s oceans. The sector-based piecemeal approach to management has produced a governance system filled with gaps and overlaps. These inefficiencies impede effective mitigation and confrontation of major environmental stressors. Historically, industries such as mining, fishing, and shipping, have driven management decisions for ocean-related uses. Government agencies, scientists, and other natural resource stakeholders are moving toward a management approach based on the relevant ecosystem, in order to resolve problematic fragmentation in ocean management. Transitioning into an ecosystem-based management approach requires comprehensive and systematic evaluation of the problems created by fragmented decision-making and of the landscape of the current governance system. In an effort to contribute to the shift toward ecosystem-based management efforts, this dissertation explores and develops text mining techniques that identify and evaluate gaps and overlaps. Two institutional theories frame the development of gaps and overlaps analyses: the problem of fit and institutional interplay, respectively. The gaps analysis uses conceptual ecosystem models and term counts from laws to identify situations in which management fails to acknowledge ecosystem relationships. From the gaps analysis, two measures indicate the degree to which governance (referring to the whole cross sectoral system of law) reflects the relationships and functionality of the ecosystem it aims to manage. The overlaps analysis uses term counts of laws combined with agency authority data to provide information about potential hubs of regulatory activity for a given topic (Overlap Index), and the degree of agency involvement in a particular topic. To develop such techniques, the project first compiled a comprehensive set of state and federal statutes and regulations to represent ocean and coastal management in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. This dissertation also highlights the utility of analyses in the context of a real world environmental problem by presenting a case study applying the analyses to ocean acidification and its projected impacts on the California Channel Islands waters. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates the immense application potential of computer science to provide baseline data about fragmented ocean management. This dissertation shows that text mining can provide a quantitatively and systematically generated starting point for further investigation and identifying research priorities.

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