Graduate Project

Narratives of Graying, Change, and Resilience: A Narrative Policy Framework Analysis of 'Graying of the Fleet'

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  • Commercial fishing is deeply embedded in the economy and culture of many coastal communities in Oregon. This study examined the impact of the ‘graying of the fleet’ phenomenon (Graying; the increase in the average age of commercial fishermen) on community resilience in coastal communities. This paper utilizes qualitative methods and the Narrative Policy Framework, and draws on rural sociology to examine the role of macro-level concepts of rurality in the perceptions and portrayal of Graying and resilience by coastal community leaders. I find that Graying is a subplot to more salient policy problems facing the commercial fishing industry, natural resource industries, and rural communities. Nostalgic and past settings were more commonly connected with construction of local culture than with policy problems. Rural idyll or “frontier ideal” concepts play a role in these narratives. Newcomers’ and native-born participants’ narratives differed in several narrative elements, including temporal and place setting, solutions, and plot. Graying is concerning to members of the coastal community of place when considering the fishing industry as a whole, but is not necessarily perceived as happening in all port communities, and is not the most concerning problem to these participants. Rather than directly addressing Graying, actions that address the phenomenon through policy solutions to other related problems would likely be beneficial to both the impact of the policy narrative and to the effectiveness and acceptability of solutions to Graying. Specific actions that could mitigate Graying include educational, financial support, and communication approaches. The theoretical implications and recommendations for future research are discussed. Key Words Commercial fishing, graying of the fleet, resilience, Narrative Policy Framework (NPF), nostalgia, rurality, rural sociology
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