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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Productivity Growth and Product Choice in Fisheries: the Case of the Alaskan Pollock Fishery Revisited

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Apr-May-June 2013
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Many fisheries worldwide have exhibited marked decreases in profitability and fish stocks during the last few decades as a result of overfishing. However, more conservative, science- and incentive-based management approaches have been practiced in the U.S. federally managed fisheries off Alaska since the mid 1990s.

The Bering Sea pollock fishery is one such fishery and remains one of the world's largest in both value and volume of landings. In 1998, with the implementation of the American Fisheries Act (AFA) this fishery was converted from a limited access fishery to a rationalized fishery in which fishing quota were allocated to cooperatives which could transfer quotas, facilitate fleet consolidation, and maximize efficiency. The changes in efficiency and productivity growth arising from the change in management regime have been the subject of several studies, with a few focusing on the large vessels that both catch and process fish onboard (catcher-processors).

In this study we modify existing approaches to account for the unique decision-making process characterizing catcher-processor's production technologies. In particular, we focus on sequential decisions regarding what products to produce and the factors that influence productivity once those decisions are made using a multiproduct revenue function.

The estimation procedure is based on a latent variable econometric model and departs from and advances previous studies since it deals with the mixed distribution nature of the data. Our productivity growth estimates are consistent with increasing productivity growth since rationalization of the fishery took place, even in light of large decreases in the pollock stock.

These findings suggest that rationalizing fishery incentives can help foster improvements in economic productivity even during periods of diminished biological productivity. A manuscript is currently under internal review and will be sent out to a scientific journal soon.

By Ron Felthoven and Marcelo Torres

Using Indicators to Assess the Vulnerability and Resiliency of Alaskan Communities to Climate Change

Communities in Alaska are experiencing impacts of unexpected climate-related changes and unprecedented environmental conditions in the harvests of marine and terrestrial resources. Residents of rural Alaska are already reporting heretofore unseen changes in the geographic distribution and abundance of fish and marine mammals, increases in the frequency and ferocity of storm surges in the Bering Sea, changes in the distribution and thickness of sea ice, and increases in river and coastal erosion. When combined with ongoing social and economic change, climate, weather, and changes in the biophysical system interact in a complex web of feedbacks and interactions that make life in rural Alaska extremely challenging.

We develop a framework of indicators to assess three basic forms of community vulnerability to climate change: exposure to the bio-physical effects of climate change, dependence on resources that will be affected by climate change, and a community's adaptive capacity to offset negative impacts of climate change. We conduct a principal components analysis on each of the three forms of vulnerability, and then combine all three components together to determine each community's overall vulnerability to climate change for 315 communities throughout Alaska.

The top five communities that rank the highest in overall vulnerability to climate change do so for different reasons. Three of the five communities are among the most vulnerable communities due to their high exposure to the bio-physical effects of climate change, one community has the lowest level of adaptive capacity, and the other community is highly dependent on marine resources that will be affected by climate change.

This research can be used to inform communities as to the ways in which their communities are vulnerable to climate change and help develop adaptation strategies.

By Amber Himes and Steve Kasperski

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