UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social capital and sustainability in a Newfoundland fishing community Silk, Victoria


The intent of this thesis is to conduct an empirical study of social capital in a single resource dependent fishing community, Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. The community under study, Petty Harbour, has a 335 year attachment to what was its primary fishery, Northern cod (Gadus morhua). This ended in 1992 when the Canadian government implemented an indefinite moratorium on Northern cod. Historically the community has exhibited high levels of activism aimed for the most part at protectionism of its primary economic mainstay, the fishery. Social capital by definition implies available resources embedded in social structures such as informal networks that can be accessed and mobilized by individuals or groups for either personal or communal gain (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000; Krishna, 2002; Onyx, 2005). High levels of social capital can lead to collective activism, which according to some, is the single most important contributing factor to sustainability because without activism, an outcome of social capital, there maybe no hope for recovery and sustainability. My hypothesis is that the extent to which one is socially connected through network ties to close friends and/or family (structural social capital) and the level of trust in neighbors (cognitive social capital) will positively correlate with their involvement with activism. Leadership and sense of ownership are introduced as additional independent variables to further explore explanations for the community's level of collective activism and stewardship of the resource. Treating activism as a dependent variable, I am going to examine social capital indicators, suggesting network ties (weak, strong) as independent variables that can partially explain the historically high level of activism. I am also going to propose that the independent variables leadership and sense of ownership will also positively correlate with activism.

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