A scientific roadmap for incorporating social science and human dimensions into potential sea otter reintroductions

By Dom Kone

OST officially released its newest report titled Establishing a Roadmap for Incorporating Social Science and Human Dimensions into Potential Sea Otter Reintroductions on the U.S. West Coast.

This report was developed to inform recent interest and provide social science recommendations to a federal feasibility assessment on the potential to reintroduce sea otters to the contiguous U.S. West. This final report, one of many inputs to the final federal report, establishes a roadmap for federal resource managers to fully address the social science and human dimension considerations of sea otter reintroductions.

To develop this report, OST synthesized feedback from social scientists, stakeholder groups, and literature sources to understand the diverse perspectives of sea otter reintroduction (see full report) and develop both Research and Stakeholder & Tribal Engagement Recommendations for advancing sea otter reintroduction considerations and decision-making.

Research Recommendations (i.e. categories):

  • Conceptualization: understand the policy and community landscape (i.e. policies, laws, stakeholders, discourse) and key considerations for reintroduction planning (i.e. perspectives, strategies, success criteria, etc.);
  • Sociocultural Effects & Management Capabilities: assess the potential effects (e.g. benefits, costs, risk) and implications of sea otter reintroduction on people and communities, as well as management opportunities of the species and for responding to potential consequences of the reintroduction; and
  • Attitudes & Acceptance Capacity: assess the acceptance capacity and attitudes, as well as potential drivers of acceptance (e.g. beliefs, norms, feelings, etc.), for sea otter reintroduction.

Stakeholder & Tribal Engagement Recommendations (i.e. categories):

  • Engage with tribal communities focusing on meaningful consultation that upholds sovereignty;
  • Build broad stakeholder participation into reintroduction and decision-making processes;
  • Co-develop reintroduction goals, interventions, and management and mitigation plans with stakeholders and tribes; and
  • Conduct outreach and education activities to raise awareness among stakeholders.

Many of these social science and research and engagement recommendations can and should be conducted in parallel, as many of these activities would simultaneously fill critical knowledge gaps while helping to facilitate an inclusive and broad participatory process. To support an ethical and equitable reintroduction decision-making process, the scientific literature recommends social science and human dimensions knowledge be considered as early as possible in the reintroduction process.

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