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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Perceptions of Measures to Affect Active Participation, Lease Rates and Crew Compensation in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Crab Fisheries

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Fall 2014
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In 2010 the North Pacific Fishery Management Council completed a 5-year review of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization program. The review identified unintended social issues that have emerged in the fishery as a result of the management program. The central issues noted were the impacts of high quota share lease rates on crew pay, difficulty for skippers and crew to purchase quota shares, and concerns about absentee quota ownership. The Council initiated discussion and analyses on these issues; however, it decided instead to encourage the crab fleet to address the issues through voluntary measures. The crab cooperatives developed measures to address the Council’s concerns, which were put in place in 2013. The measures include the Right of First Offer program that gives skippers and crew an initial opportunity to purchase quota shares and a voluntary lease rate cap for two of the crab fisheries.

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center developed a study to gather perspectives on the voluntary cooperative measures. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in the fishery, including quota shareholders, vessel owners, skippers, crew, cooperative representatives, Community Development Quota groups, and expert respondents involved in the financial and brokerage aspects of the fishery. Interview respondents were asked to speak to six main topic areas:

  1. Access to purchasing quota shares
  2. Experience with the Right of First Offer program
  3. Perspectives on quota share lease rate caps
  4. Crew compensation in the crab fisheries
  5. Access to financing for quota share purchases
  6. The future of the crab fisheries

Ownership records and contact information from the 2012-13 season were requested through the Alaska Fisheries Information Network. Contact information was obtained for hired skippers and crew license holders from the crab fisheries’ yearly Economic Data Report (EDR). The Commercial Fishery Entry Commission (CFEC) issues gear operator permits and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) issues crew licenses, either of which is required to crew aboard a vessel.  Vessel owners report the CFEC and ADF&G operator and license data through their annual EDRs and contact information for vessel owners, and quota share holders were sourced from the NMFS Alaska Regional Office.

Participants were contacted via phone, mail, and/or email. Between February 2014 and September 2014 a total of 220 industry participants were interviewed. This included 43% of all quota shareholders, 71% of vessel owners, 47% of skippers, and 13% of crewmembers in the fleet. The interviews will be coded using inductive coding methodology and an analysis of code frequency will be completed to determine perspectives on these issues by respondent type. A preliminary report is expected to be released in spring 2015.

By Keeley Kent and Amber Himes-Cornell


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