A modified diagnostic social-ecological system framework for lobster fisheries: Case implementation and sustainability assessment in Southern California: Case implementation and sustainability assessment in Southern California

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Fisheries exemplify the immense complexity of interactions in social-ecological systems (SESs). This complexity has created management challenges and raises concerns for the sustainability of our marine natural resource systems. This article contributes to SES fisheries research and management in two ways: first, it enhances our understanding of lobster fisheries as complex social-ecological systems, focusing on the Southern California Spiny Lobster Fishery (SCSLF) as a case study. Secondly, it demonstrates a methodological approach for assessing component interactions in SESs that can be used to assess the sustainability of management approaches. The first contribution involves the systematic review of the literature on lobster fisheries management and their SES characteristics. The review results are then used to modify and extensively define the diagnostic SES framework for specific use in lobster fisheries. For the second contribution, we demonstrate how to operationalize the modified framework for the diagnosis of a real-life case, using the SCSLF as an example. This involves framing the SCSLF classificatory diagnosis for analysis of the stakeholder-comprised management group of the SCSLF as a social-ecological action situation. This analysis is aided by the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, a SES-imbedded tool used in our case to assess sustainability in resource management systems through critical analysis of stakeholder and resource system interactions. More generally, we find that research in lobster fisheries could benefit from broadening its scope of analysis, as overly narrow research foci have worked to limit the production of more holistic SES knowledge. Our exemplary analysis of the LAC's management of the SCSLF shows that the SES contains multiple components which have been associated with sustainable outcomes elsewhere; however, the fishery still faces many obstacles, including how to adapt to future challenges. Our results contribute to developing a holistic methodological approach for operationalizing SES framework research into practical fisheries management.


External organisations
  • Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology
  • Jacobs University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Fish and Aquacultural Science


  • Lobster fisheries, SES framework, stakeholders, sustainability science, Operationalizing, review
Original languageEnglish
Article number114
Pages (from-to)204-217
Number of pages13
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Sep
Publication categoryResearch