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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Multi-attribute Utility Function Approach to Developing Socio-economic Indicators for Fisheries

Ecosystem-based fisheries management requires a holistic assessment of the status of fisheries by integrating fishery ecosystem indicators for several major objectives such as sustainability, biodiversity, habitat quality, and socio-economic status.

Scientists have already paid much attention to the first three objectives (i.e., sustainability, biodiversity, and habitat quality) and to the development of their indicators; relatively less attention has been paid to the fourth objective, socio-economic status and the development of its indicators. In addition, the socio-economic indicators developed so far are not firmly based on economic theory.

In this project, a multi-attribute utility function (MAUF) approach will be used to develop socio-economic indicators. In doing so, important economic concepts in utility function theory, such as preferential independence and utility independence, will be used to estimate the utility functions of various interest groups.

Specifically, the project will 1) identify a suite of attributes (or indicators) describing the socio-economic status of fisheries; 2) examine the availability of the data for the attributes; 3) identify proxy data for the attributes for which the data do not exist; 4) elicit preferences from diverse interest groups and estimate individual utility functions for the groups; 5) integrate the individual utility functions by examining the value trade-offs to estimate an integrated utility function or social welfare function; 6) standardize the utilities to develop socio-economic indicators; and 7) integrate the socio-economic indicators with non-socio-economic indicators such as those to develop holistic ecosystem indices.

By Chang Seung

Data Collection from Alaska Communities

Economics & Social Sciences Research (ESSR) Program staff and contractors partnered with the NPFMC staff and University of Alaska Sea Grant staff to complete initial preparations to conduct an annual survey to collect community-level data from Alaskan communities. The foundational work for the survey was completed by the Communities Data Subcommittee of the Comprehensive Data Collection Committee (appointed by the Council).

The information gathered in this survey will improve the commercial fisheries data available for communities involved in North Pacific fisheries, using the community as the unit of reporting and analysis. In addition to providing needed systematic annual data for socioeconomic impact assessments, the development of the survey is partly in response to long-standing requests from communities for the consideration of this type of data.

The first year of the survey has been funded as a pilot project by NOAA, and future funding will likely depend on the success (and response rate) of the pilot year of the survey.

Preliminary survey topics include a list of local fishing related businesses (and amount of local sales tax collected from each), fish tax information by community (and percent of city budget it constitutes), number of slips in harbor and trends in types of vessels, and a list of the names of vessels based in a community.

Surveys will be mailed to the 136 communities profiled in the 2005 NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-160, "Community Profiles for North Pacific Fisheries Alaska" (.pdf, 17.6 MB). These communities were selected for their participation in commercial fishing using a variety of commercial indicators. The surveys will be filled out by either an elected official or the community harbormaster.

Training will be provided beforehand for community members asked to complete the survey. Follow-up visits and calls to nonresponding communities will be completed by project partners, including local and regional organizations. The survey will be developed this year and mailed in 2010.

This data collection effort is a chance for communities to include information they have desired fisheries managers take into account in impact assessments but has not previously been available at the community level.

By Christina Package and Jennifer Sepez

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