Recreational fisheries are a highly visible part of life in coastal North Carolina. They are also incredibly diverse, ranging from high cost tournaments for game fish and commercial charter boats, through individual boat based fishing, to shore side and pier based fishing. Similarly, their purpose ranges from sport, to recreation, to fishing for food as part of subsistence. Beyond records of recreational fishing licenses, the role of the subsistence fisheries is difficult to assess because the activities are difficult to see. Subsistence fishing, or ‘fishing for food’ can be an important part of culture and family life, contribute to local economies, and increase food security, particularly for economically disadvantaged communities. Yet just how important this fishery is not well understood, in terms of the ecological, socio-cultural and economic impacts that it creates. This research aims to characterize a broad range of socio-cultural, nutritional, and economic values associated with Fishing for Food recreational fisheries in North Carolina, with a particular focus in Carteret County (where DUML is located).

We are a group of researchers from Duke University that are studying the social construct and patterns of behavior surrounding subsistence fishing, or “fishing for food,” around infrastructure in Carteret County, North Carolina.

Our research will consist of semi-structured interviews and participant observation of fishers around selected infrastructure-based fishing sites. Our sample will include recreational fishers who identify as subsistence and small-scale fishermen, but also fishermen who small scale fish or commercially fish. These semi-structured interviews will be recorded and analyzed using NVivo qualitative data analysis software.

The objective of this research is to gain insight on the importance of subsistence fishing in Carteret County in terms of social, cultural, and economic livelihood contributions. In doing so, we will identify perceptions and impacts of potential pollution in selected study sites, and we will examine how and whether these livelihood contributions of subsistence fishing differ along racial dimensions.



Project goal: Gather baseline information and observations on fishing for food in Carteret County as minimal accessible information on fishing for food in this region currently exists.

We will develop this baseline knowledge with a focus on the following categories:

  1. Identifying and describing patterns of fishing behavior
  2. Explore the social dimensions of subsistence fishing
  3. Examine water quality concerns and implications of subsistence fishers
  4. Explore the role fishing for food plays in post-disturbance resilience (i.e. Hurricane Florence)
  5. Identify management implications from the data collected


Questions and Characteristics

There are a number of questions and characteristics we are interested in as they relate to our objectives. Here is what we hope to find out:

  • Who fishes for food in these areas [demographics]
  • Species targeted/ frequency
  • How seasonality impacts behavior (and species & frequency)
  • Demographic trends in fishing behaviors
  • Infrastructure as a social space
  • Value of infrastructure
  • Does an informal economy of fishing for food exist in Carteret County
  • How subsistence fishing habits may differ along racial and gender dimensions
  • Infrastructure’s role as a social space
  • Toxicity’s influence shaping fishing behaviors and potential policy implications
  • Impacts of Hurricane Florence [contamination, fishing accessibility]
  • NC policy structure around subsistence fishing and fishers’ knowledge about it
  • Licensing analysis and potential recommendations to the North Carolina Fisheries Commission responsible for subsistence permitting policy
  • Implications for better reaching people based on info about news sources





What is Subsistence Fishing?


Project Team

For full team bios, click here.

  • Dr. Lisa Campbell (Advisor)
  • Dr. Grant Murray (Advisor)
  • Alexie Rudman (Graduate Student)
  • Cassandra Nieman (Graduate Student)
  • Elizabeth Nowlin (Undergraduate Student)
  • Dr. Luke Fairbanks (Project Coordinator)