Scott Erich Awarded a Fulbright to Study How Regulations Affect Fisherfolk in the Gulf of Oman

Graduate Center Ph.D. candidate Scott Erich (Anthropology) was awarded a Fulbright-Hays—Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) grant to travel to the United Arab Emirates to study how oceanic territory is governed in the Gulf of Oman and how complex local and international regulations affect both fishing communities and the fishing industry.

The Gulf of Oman transports about a quarter of the world’s oil and is a frequent political flashpoint. It is also, according to Erich, “home to some of the most robust fishing grounds in the region.” 

Erich plans to meet with fishing groups on the U.A.E.’s eastern seaboard to “understand how they navigate the collage-like patchwork of exclusive economic zones, maritime borders, shipping lanes, and, increasingly, dead zones devoid of oxygen and therefore fish in the Gulf.” He adds, “While the ocean is often referred to as the last and greatest remaining ‘commons’ on earth, it’s actually being parceled out and governed in a variety of ways, making it both easier and more difficult for fisherfolk to maintain their livelihoods.” 

Growing up in New England and the United Kingdom, Erich was drawn to the ocean from an early age. He first traveled to the Gulf of Oman as an undergraduate. “I walked to Muscat’s fish market jet-lagged and wide awake at dawn, marveling at the sheer variety of fish and the industrious workers who brought them to market, and in my many trips since, I’ve gravitated to the complexities of the fishing industry, which is subject to the vagaries of the weather, the environment, economic concerns, food security, food safety and, in some cases, national security,” he said. 

Through his research he aspires to show how individual fisheries and their regulation are connected to international trends, such as the industrialization of fishing and the shrinking of small-scale producers, overfishing and stock depletion, and the increasing toxicity of the oceans due to pollution and climate change. “The global ocean is in dire need of scholarly attention not just from biologists, climatologists, and other hard scientists, but from social scientists who can attempt to grasp the social nature of climate change and the human efforts to address it through cooperation and governance,” he said. 

He plans to travel to the U.A.E. as soon as it is safe, and said that, “I’m thrilled and so grateful to my adviser, Professor Mandana Limbert; my faculty mentors, particularly Louise Lennihan; Rachel Sponzo in the Provost's Office; and all of my peers for their help in making my proposal a successful one.”

“This is the first big grant I've received out of the many drafts, revisions, and rejected applications,” he said. “My only advice to my fellow students is to keep trying, and to remember that all of your editors (your adviser, mentors, partners, and peers) are your greatest assets in this process.”

Erich is one of two Graduate Center doctoral candidates to receive this prestigious grant this fall. The other is Miranda Fedock (Ethnomusicology).

Submitted on: OCT 9, 2020

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