Date of Award

Spring 2012

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Mimi Larsen Becker


Decades, even centuries, of resource extraction and exploitation by humans have taken a toll on the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine ecosystems. The very real threats posed by population growth and coastal development, climate change, habitat loss, overharvesting, chemical pollution, nutrient overloading, and invasive species invasions show no sign of abating. Traditional methods of managing the human activities that impact the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine are proving unable to keep pace with the growing threats. The Gulf of Maine Council and others have joined in the chorus calling for a broader, more holistic ecosystem approach to the governance of the human activities that impact the coastal margin. This study uses the framework of the Policy Sciences to suggest a model of Problem Orientation, Social Process, and Decision Process characteristics indicative of an ideal ecosystem-based approach to governance. The model is first used to analyze the governance regime that existed in the Great Lakes Basin during the first two decades under the International Joint Commission's oversight of activities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The framework model is then used to analyze the current governance regime in the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy region. Using this analysis, the study concludes that an ecosystem-based approach to governance is not possible in the region as currently configured. The study further concludes that it will not be possible to transition to an ecosystem-based approach without the education and significant outreach necessary to create a knowledgeable and activist public able to understand the issues and threats and willing to press governance for improvement. Further, ecosystem-based governance will require the creation of an overarching and accountable entity that, with significant input from public and stakeholder partnerships can collect reliable ecosystem indicator data from both sides of the border, analyze the data, and direct the implementation of policy solutions, and change course as necessary.