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Economics & Social Sciences Research

The Impacts of Climate Change on Fleet Behavior in the Bering Sea Pollock Catcher/Processor Fishery

This project, one element of the Bering Sea Project component of the BEST-BSIERP Ecosystem Partnership, examines how changes in climate conditions affect the fishing activities of the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) pollock catcher/processor fleet. Decreasing ice cover and increasing ocean temperatures are predicted to occur over the next 40 years and are expected to have an impact on the entire marine ecosystem of which commercial fishing is an integral part. These changes may have significant effects on the range and distribution of the pollock population, as well as where the fleet is able to fish.

Biological literature has found evidence of northward shifts of the distribution of subarctic species in the Bering Sea, including walleye pollock, but the fishery and fish populations may not necessarily move together. Fishing vessels are driven by the search for dense aggregations of fish of the type and quality that can generate the highest valued product, are restricted by environmental conditions and the cost of travel, and are affected by world markets and economic conditions.

Our project examines the observable characteristics of the Bering Sea pollock catcher/processor fleet over the last 11 years to predict how the fleet may respond to climate change. We use a spatial discrete choice modeling approach to quantify the importance of price differences, expected catch per unit effort, travel costs, environmental conditions, and vessel diversity in the decision of where to fish. We compare the spatial distribution of fishing in particularly warm and cold years.

Ice cover and ocean temperatures affect where the fleet is able to fish, and in the winter season we observe small-scale shifts in the distribution of fishing toward the north in warm years. In the summer season, we observe a redistribution of effort from northern to southern areas of the fishing region in warm years. If prices and fish distribution and populations are related to climate regimes, we would predict these patterns to continue as warm years in the EBS become more frequent. Historically, spatial price variation in the fishery is highly correlated with climate regimes, but there is no clear mechanism to explain this linkage. Thus, we forecast changes in the location of the fishery both with prices linked to climate regimes and independent of them, which would assume that the observed correlation was by chance.

By Alan Haynie and Lisa Pfeiffer

BSAI Crab Annual Catch Limits and Rebuilding Analyses

ESSR Program staff have collaborated extensively with members of the NPFMC's Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) crab plan team (CPT) to develop and analyze alternatives for implementing the annual catch limits (ACLs) required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization and to develop rebuilding plans for eastern Bering Sea snow and Tanner crab stocks and Pribilof Island blue king crab stocks.

Extending earlier work performed for the NPFMC and incorporating input from the CPT and the Scientific and Statistical Committee, ESSR economist Mike Dalton developed time series vector autoregression price forecasting models for Alaskan red and golden king crab and snow crab. CPT member and ESSR economist Brian Garber-Yonts worked with stock assessment analysts to integrate simulation of crab population and directed catch forecasting with price forecasting to simulate economic outcomes and illustrate the trade-offs between reducing the risk of overfishing and the attendant cost in foregone revenue under ACL and snow crab rebuilding alternatives.

Economic analyses of revenue implications of ACL alternatives have been produced for each of nine BSAI crab stocks regulated under the Council's crab fishery management plan, as well as alternative rebuilding scenarios for Bering Sea snow crab, and incorporated into the initial review draft environmental assessment (EA). The draft EA was presented to the Council and SSC at the June meeting in Sitka. The final EA is scheduled to be issued for the October Council meeting.

By Brian Garber-Yonts and Michael Dalton

Crab Economic SAFE

The 2010 draft crab economic stock assessment and fishing evaluation (SAFE) document was presented to the crab plan team at the May CPT workshop in Girdwood, Alaska. The economic SAFE represents a statistical abstract of the BSAI crab fisheries, and includes data summaries from the BSAI crab economic data reports (EDR) as well as eLandings catch and landings data, commercial operators annual report data on crab production and wholesale trade, NMFS Alaska Restricted Access Management Division data on quota share initial allocations and annual individual fishing quota (IFQ) and individual processor quota (IPQ) issuance and use, and marine fuel price statistics for Seattle and BSAI region ports from Pacific States Marine Fishery Commission's monthly fuel price survey.

Of particular interest are results from crab EDR data on crew compensation and employment effects of consolidation in the crab fisheries following rationalization, which are subject to further analysis in a paper by Abbott, Garber-Yonts and Wilen, to be included as an appendix to the final 2010 crab economic SAFE report, scheduled for release in September 2010.

By Brian Garber-Yonts and Jean Lee

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