Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Andrea Wright

Committee Members

Mara Dicenta

Mary Fabrizio


Despite the abundance of fish in Virginia rivers for thousands of years, the prominent loss of spawning habitat, overfishing, dam construction, and climate change have caused a steep decline in River Herring and American Shad (Zydlewski et al. 2002; Limburg and Waldman 2009). Based on the contribution of data monitoring programs from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and other institutions, the Virginia government implemented bans on fishing for shad and herring in 1994 and 2012 respectively. Many fishermen of the Tidewater area, whose livelihoods have rested upon fishing for these species for many generations, have different perspectives of fisheries management and who should be responsible stewards of environmental resources. My research questions ask how recent conservation efforts to protect shad and herring impact local shad and herring fisherpeople, as well as looking at what fisherpeoples' attitudes towards responsible environmental stewardship and management have become with increasing regulation. The present study draws on the narratives of two generational fishermen who have deep family histories intertwined with fishing, giving them unique insight into the effects of fishing regulation on individuals. Compiling my own ethnographic research, a thorough analysis of fisheries anthropology, and online archival research of virtual fishing communities, I argue that the unique intertwining of fishing and livelihood with family and identity have led to the development of personal ethics and belief systems regarding management and conservation. The consultation of fisherpeople and their knowledges is important in holistic fisheries management. The significance of this research is vast, and strives to contribute to conversations surrounding climate change and human degradation of the environment while centering individual experience and livelihood. Scientific inquiry can be bolstered by the consideration of other ways of knowing, and a variety of fishing knowledges– this thesis attempts to help bridge that gap.

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