This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Policy Narratives surrounding Port Infrastructure Projects adjacent to Coral Reefs in Florida and the Cayman Islands




Bailey, Sabine

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Forestry and Wildlife Science


Coral reefs hold immense economic, ecological, and cultural value but are severely threatened by climate change and other local stressors, such as coastal development projects. In Florida and the Cayman Islands, two locations with vibrant coral reef ecosystems, large scale dredging port projects have either been planned or implemented. Environmental disputes emerged during both projects due to the uncertainty over ecological risks of dredging on coral ecosystems. A refined version of the Narrative Policy Framework was employed to understand how narratives were used by stakeholders, both supportive of and opposed to these dredging projects. A comparative case study design was used to analyze 991 statements from news articles, Facebook posts, press releases, and 16 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the Florida and Cayman cases. Results show that pro-project stakeholders place themselves as heroes in their narratives, in which they advocate for economic prosperity while simultaneously presenting their side as protecting the environment through mitigation strategies. On the other hand, anti-project stakeholders emphasize the environmental risks involved, contest the science presented, hold managers of the projects accountable, and, in the Cayman case, use narratives of democratic rights to heighten their messaging. As environmental disputes increase along with the impacts of climate change, understanding the narratives that coalitions of stakeholders employ to advocate for preferred policies will be important for global environmental policy-makers.