Projects

Communication Avenues for Vietnamese fishing communities in Mississippi and Alabama with coastal resource agencies

End Date: 10/31/15

Objectives

This research project aims:

  1. To identify existing channels and barriers for communication amongst the Vietnamese fishing community and a variety of agencies regarding regulatory, environmental, and health risk information
  2. To identify key nodes within existing community communication networks for Vietnamese fishers
  3. To develop a replicable measurement tool to assess existing agency communication avenues and effectiveness.

Methodology

During late Fall 2014 and early 2015, we will hold 2-3 focus groups with Vietnamese fishers and Vietnamese seafood industry workers in Biloxi and Bayou la Batre, as well as conduct semi-structured interviews with both agency staff/representatives and community organizations and leaders. Focus groups are commonly used to develop baseline information and explore participants’ sentiments regarding the issues at hand (Bernard 2011). Our focus groups will consist of 5-10 people and aim to elicit information regarding agency-community interaction, information flow, communication of issues/policies, and barriers to communication and participation. We will advertise these sessions via existing community organization and agency partnerships. Semi-structured interviews are appropriate for gathering data from key informants such as agency staff/representatives and community organization staff/representatives (Singleton and Straits 2010). Interview questions will focus on existing agency-community interaction, key leaders and organizations in the Vietnamese fishing community, and suggestions or strategies for improving agency-community communication.

Rationale

Vietnamese American fishers are a large proportion of the shrimping population and seafood industry workers in the MS-AL Gulf Coast (Durrenberger, 1994; Ngo, 2014), and a high level of fisheries resource dependency exists amongst the Vietnamese community in the MS-AL Gulf Coast.  These communities have faced extreme environmental and economic shocks in the recent past including Hurricane Katrina, the BP/Horizon oil spill, and import dumping which has increased the urgent need for effective communication amongst Vietnamese fishers and diverse agencies and successful dissemination of information to the Vietnamese community on the MS-AL Gulf Coast.  These shocks highlighted the importance of effective agency communication and outreach to bolster community economic, environmental, and sociocultural resiliency.

This project, therefore, relates to the Focus Area of Resilient Communities and Economies within MASGC’s 2014-2017 Strategic Plan in that the researchers will be assessing vulnerable coastal populations and working towards wise use of resources, both from government agencies and from communities.  Two goals within this Focus Area encompass the project’s objectives: (1) “development of vibrant and resilient coastal economies,” with the Action Outcome that “citizens are actively engaged in management and regulatory decisions” and (2) “resilient coastal communities adapt to the impacts of hazards and climate change,” with the Learning Outcome that “communities have access to data and innovative and adaptive tools and techniques to minimize the potential negative impact from hazards.”  Improvement of communication avenues between these Vietnamese communities and coastal resource agencies directly relates to the aforementioned Action Outcome, while the relation to the Learning Outcome is two-fold in that communities will have better access to preventive measures as well as to disaster information and relief.  User groups directly benefiting from this work include Vietnamese fishing communities in the Biloxi, MS, and the Bayou la Batre, AL, areas.