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Puffins, Kayaks and Oil Rigs: Shifting Modes of Society-Environment Interaction on the Newfoundland Coast

Lead Researcher and Department
Mark CJ Stoddart, Department of Sociology, Memorial University

Collaborators and Students
Angela Carter, Political Science, University of Waterloo; Randolph Haluza-DeLay, Sociology, King's University College; Raymond Murphy, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa, and Karen Stanbridge, Department of Sociology, Memorial University

Funding Resources
SSHRC Standard Research Grant

The collapse of the cod fishery in the 1990s in Newfoundland and Labrador was one of the greatest ecological disasters experienced in Atlantic Canada. It had a profound impact on community livelihoods and collective identities. In the 21st century, however, the coastal environment has re-emerged as source of wealth for the province, as both tourism promotion and offshore oil development have been actively encouraged by the provincial government.

Interaction between humans and the environment along the Newfoundland coast has traditionally revolved around fisheries, seal hunting and other natural resource harvest. Offshore oil development continues with this tradition, while efforts to develop rural areas as places of experience are growing within the province. Nature tourism and outdoor recreation are increasingly important practices and modes of economic development along the Newfoundland coast. Opportunities to watch whales, puffins and icebergs, or go sea kayaking and hiking draws a growing number of visitors to the province. This project examines how nature tourism and outdoor recreation are reshaping cultural perceptions of the Newfoundland coastal environment. The project pays particular attention to the tensions between the tourism and the offshore oil industry, as they each offer quite different models for the interaction between the environment and society.

This project adds to our knowledge about nature tourism and outdoor recreation in Atlantic Canada. Given the steady growth of tourism and recreation, as well as offshore oil development in many coastal regions of the world, this project has the potential to make a contribution beyond the context of Atlantic Canada.

Publications based on this research have appeared or are forthcoming in the journals Environmental Sociology, Mobilities, and Nature & Culture. An article based on this research has also appeared in Newfoundland Quarterly. The final summary report for non-academic audiences is complete and available at:


Environment and society, Sport, Tourism and recreation, Offshore oil industry

Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Corner Brook
St. John's
Corner Brook - Rocky Harbour
Avalon Peninsula

Industry Sectors
Tourism (Public administration — Provincial and territorial public administration — Other provincial and territorial public administration)
Oil and gas extraction (Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction)
Sociological research and development (Professional, scientific and technical services — Scientific research and development services — Research and development in the social sciences and humanities)

Thematic Categories
Environment and Conservation
Rural Development
Tourism and Recreation
Oil and Gas Industry (Industries)

Sociology, Faculty of Arts (STJ)