Shoreline Management at Padre Island National Seashore: An Investigation of Angler Relationships to the Beach



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Park management at Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) actively continues to modify the General Management Plan to maintain the safety of the increasing numbers of visitors and protect natural resources. When changes conflict with anglers' current usage of the beach, park management receives vocal opposition from local and visiting anglers who do not want their long-standing rights to the beach to be affected. To better inform management decisions and policies surrounding the beach area, this qualitative thesis research used ethnographic interviews to address the following key objectives: (1) Understand the relationship between surf anglers and the beach at PAIS, (2) Identify the main issues, concerns, needs, and expectations of the surf anglers at PAIS, (3) Describe the relationship between surf anglers and the National Park Service (NPS), and (4) Determine key areas of conflict and tension surrounding NPS management of the beach. At Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), referred to by local anglers as "the PINS," anglers connect to the beach because of memories experienced there, a heritage of use, a sense of serenity and spirituality, and camaraderie. Those who have a long-standing relationship to the beach at the PINS, in some cases multi-generational, feel a sense of guardianship and even ownership over the beach. Many surf anglers at the PINS experience the outdoors through a family heritage of fishing, connect to others through fishing, and promote conservation practices through media, camaraderie, and local knowledge. Angler feelings towards the NPS range from distrust to an appreciation of the role of the NPS in protecting their sacred fishing place. Areas of conflict and tension stem from anglers' safety concerns, new regulations that challenge and threaten their traditional values and experiences associated with surf fishing, and a lack of communication and inclusion of anglers in the National Seashore's decision-making processes. To better manage conflict surrounding management issues on the beach at PAIS, this thesis suggests that park managers (1) reinstate public meetings; (2) utilize moderated roundtable discussion at public meetings; and (3) involve the scientific community, appropriate stakeholder groups, and angler knowledge in informing decisions and new regulations.