**The title, authors, and abstract for this completion report are provided below. For a copy of the completion report, please contact the GLFC via e-mail or via telephone at 734-662-3209**
Improving decision-making in contentious Great Lakes fishery management
2Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824
3Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824
The dramatic recovery of the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the Great Lakes has been accompanied by public concern about the bird’s potential effects on the environment, recreation, and economy. Indeed, if human-cormorant conflicts in the Great Lakes are to be alleviated, agency professionals may need to look to beyond current management tools that are primarily based on reducing cormorant abundance. Contention exists in regard to the perceived extent of these risks within and among the stakeholder groups who influence, or are affected by, cormorant management. To better understand stakeholder interactions and perceptions of risk related to cormorants, we (a) assessed risk perceptions within a social network of agency professionals (n = 47; e.g., state, provincial, tribal, and federal fisheries and wildlife managers) and non-governmental stakeholders (n = 66; e.g., anglers, bird enthusiasts, business owners, commercial fishermen) engaged in human-cormorant conflicts in northern Lake Huron, (b) characterized the structure of the social network, and (c) evaluated the nature of cormorant-related newspaper coverage (n = 140 articles) in the Great Lakes from 1978 to 2007. One hundred thirteen social network actors were identified in the U.S. and Canada. Network centralization was 2.7% and density was 5.5%. Fifty-five percent of the top 20 degree centrality (i.e., actors with the greatest number of ties) scores were held by agency professionals and 79%of network actors were members of at least one clique. Five factors were found to influence cormorant-related risk perception: certainty, frequency, responsiveness of management, seriousness, and dread. Dyadic tie strength (i.e., reported frequency of communication between two actors) predicted similarity in response to these factors. Three factors: control, trust, and naturalness, could not be predicted from dyadic tie strength. The total number of stakeholder groups and risks perpetrated by cormorants identified in media coverage increased over the media study period, shifting the predominant risk frame applied to cormorants from victim to perpetrator. We discuss the implications of this media shift and the use of risk frames in content analyses to inform risk communication. Social networks and mass media are two important channels in which information about cormorant-related risks is communicated, and as a result, influence stakeholders’ risk perceptions about cormorants. In characterizing network structure, we present a model for understanding communication channels and information flow about cormorants. Understanding patterns of information and opinion sharing among and between stakeholder groups can help depict communication processes and outcomes to agency professionals, ultimately contributing to more meaningful methods of stakeholder engagement.