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Social Influences on Conservation: Lessons from U.S. Recovery Programs for Marine Mammals

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Marine mammal recovery programs authorized by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act face many challenges. In addition to biological uncertainty, social, organizational, and other conditions influence the decision-making behavior of program participants. From 1996 to 1999, I analyzed the decision-making behavior of participants in five marine mammal recovery programs. Based on a literature review and interviews with 90 program participants, I identified, described, and analyzed the principal influences on participant behavior. Results indicate that decision-making and participant interactions are influenced strongly, and in some cases predominantly, by social factors such as leadership characteristics, communication, teamwork, the presence or absence of evaluation, organizational culture, and program participants' ideologies. These findings indicate the need to improve marine mammal recovery programs through training, evaluation, and the development of prototype programs that incorporate and explicitly apply social factors to problem solving and then use their experience as a model for future programs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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