UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The need for an integrated approach to information generation in coastal marine environmental management Watson, Iain Macfarlane


Researchers and managers are becoming increasingly concerned about the ineffectiveness of the conventional approach to coastal marine environmental management. Faced with rapidly increasing demands on the coastal marine environment, they are recognizing that their ability to understand and to respond to the adverse effects of human activities in a timely and effective manner is undermined by the inappropriateness of the predominant approach to management. Environmental management agencies in the Fraser River Estuary of British Columbia are finding that their monitoring and research programs often fail to provide adequate information for decision making. Information generated by programs undertaken in the Boundary Bay watershed of the estuary over the fifteen year period up to 1992 has been variously perceived as: (i) providing only a fragmented and incomplete understanding of environmental health; and (ii) not being provided in a timely enough fashion to identify and effectively respond to environmental concerns. Because of the paucity of timely and relevant information available to managers, management responses have lacked cohesiveness, resulting in continued decline of environmental health in Boundary Bay and elsewhere in the estuary. The purpose of this thesis is to establish a connection between information deficiencies and the management approach that has predominated in the Fraser River Estuary and to analyze the challenge of improving information generation in support of management through the adoption of an alternative approach to environmental management which provides the guidance to monitoring and research programs presently absent. Initially, a conceptual model for environmental management is introduced illustrating the relationship between information generated by various monitoring and research activities and the use of information by managers in decision making. Conventional and integrated approaches to management are then portrayed within the context of the conceptual model and the critical differentiating characteristics of the two approaches distinguished. Having established the relationship between information generation and its use in management, the implications of adopting an integrated approach for information generation are considered. Attention is given both to the scope and content of monitoring and research programs in support of management and the transfer of information generated by these programs to the management forum. Examples of monitoring and research activities and management initiatives undertaken in Boundary Bay are presented to provide insight into information deficiencies that occur within the conventional approach to management that predominates throughout the Fraser River Estuary. Ineffective linkages between managers and researchers and among researchers are found to contribute to fragmentation and incompleteness in information generation and the ineffectiveness of management responses to environmental concerns in the estuary. Inadequate cooperation and coordination among management agencies in determining complementarities in management objectives and collaborative monitoring and research in response to multiple-agency management objectives are apparent. Repercussions of the resulting information deficiencies include: generally ineffective management strategies resulting in continuing deterioration of water quality and loss of important fish and bird habitat; and inefficient use of scarce resources resulting from duplication and overlap occurring as management agencies undertake monitoring and research in response to single-agency information needs. Recommendations focus on the need for movement towards a more integrated approach to management in the Fraser River Estuary. Emphasis is given to the need to adopt a managerially directed approach to monitoring and research to ensure that information generated by these activities is relevant to managers and is provided in a timely manner. Recommendations include: (i) strengthening linkages between monitoring and research and management to ensure that information generated by monitoring and research is relevant from a management perspective; (ii) improving linkages among management agencies to ensure that monitoring and research programs reflect multiple-agency rather than single-agency management objectives; and (iii) ensuring that information products are effectively transferred to the management forum. Taken together these recommendations represent a cohesive package of changes needed to achieve integrated environmental management in the estuary.

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