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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Comprehensive Socioeconomic Data Collection for Alaska Fisheries

Many of the fishery management actions taken by the NPFMC require various types of socioeconomic analyses before they can be implemented. Typically these analyses must examine a range of alternatives, and the associated nature, magnitude, and distribution of the economic, welfare, and sociocultural impacts of the proposed action(s). Specifically, economic analyses, including benefit/cost analysis, as well as regional and community impact analysis of proposed fishery management policies are required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Executive Order 12866, and other applicable Federal laws.

In addition, the 2006 reauthorization of the MSA includes heightened requirements for the analysis of socioeconomic impacts and the collection of economic and social data. These changes eliminate the previous restrictions on collecting economic data, clarify and expand the economic and social information that is required, and make it explicit that the Councils and the Secretary of Commerce have the authority and responsibility to collect the economic and social information necessary to meet requirements of the MSA (and that either the Councils or the Secretary can initiate the collection of said socioeconomic data).

This suggests that all fisheries under our jurisdiction should be examined for the adequacy of socioeconomic data. It is clear that, without access to the information needed to support many of the aforementioned analyses, the associated legal documents may fail to meet established standards. In order to better address these concerns, as well as others pertaining to community impacts, the NPFMC passed an October 2006 motion to draft a comprehensive program for collecting revenue, ownership, employment, cost, and expenditure data for all fisheries in and off Alaska (excluding those already covered, including BSAI crab and Amendment 80 fisheries).

Specifically, the NPFMC directed the AFSC staff to coordinate a workgroup of social and economic analysts and researchers from NMFS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), and Council staff to "further develop the discussion paper on the structure of a comprehensive social and economic data collection program and survey formats for the collection of this data. The draft survey formats should be tailored to the sector specific data needs for revenue, ownership, employment, cost, and expenditure data. The discussion paper will include the collection of economic data from shoreside processors and motherships in the event statute authority is established for collection of this information in the future. The workgroup will work with the draft problem statement as initial guidance and relevant experience garnered to date with existing and past collections and surveys of social and economic data to develop a practicable and reasonable approach for resolving issues identified for a comprehensive program. Additionally, the discussion paper will respond to the issues raised by the AP and SSC, particularly confidentiality issues."

In response, the ESSR Program coordinated a working group to propose a core set of data that is currently unavailable yet important for answering many of the questions raised when evaluating past and future management decisions, and conducting regulatory and legally mandated analyses. The working group was comprised of individuals representing NMFS, ADF&G, the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, NPFMC, NOAA General Council, and Alaska Department of Commerce. The result was a white paper that was presented to the Council and should eventually be published in a peer-reviewed fishery management journal.

Since the presentation of the paper, the NPFMC has developed a workgroup to define the specific elements to be included in the program. The workgroup is comprised of a broad set of stakeholders including industry, agency, and community members. This workgroup has conducted two formal meetings and at present is developing a formal template that defines the elements to be collected within the program and the mechanisms for collecting the data.

By Ron Felthoven and Brian Garber-Yonts

Crew Participation Data Collection System for Commercial Fisheries off Alaska

The need for crew member participation data in state and Federal commercial fisheries in Alaska is regularly voiced by crew members, communities in which crew members live and work, policy makers, and analysts. Crew member information is important to the NPFMC, Alaska Board of Fisheries, NMFS, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), and coastal communities interested in understanding how proposed changes to current fishery management regimes will likely influence participation in commercial fisheries and social and economic impacts to fishery-dependent coastal communities. Information on crew member fishing activities is also important for local communities when applying to state and Federal programs. Crew members themselves are interested in developing a record of their participation in fisheries at a standard similar to data collection systems for permit and quota holders.

A person is required by ADF&G regulations to obtain a commercial crew member license in order to participate in commercial fishing in waters off Alaska if they do not already hold a valid Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) interim-use or limited entry permit card. Currently, basic identification and contact information is collected from the crew member license purchaser at the time of purchase, but no system exists for collecting information on commercial crew member fishing activities and the extent to which crew members are dependent on earnings from commercial fishing. Collection of crew member participation data is a necessary step in estimating the full economic contribution of commercial fisheries to Alaska and in estimating economic effects of any impact to the industry. It is important to have information on commercial crew members when planning how to respond to the changes in the economic conditions affecting commercial fishing in Alaska. For example, restructuring of fisheries, especially programs that restrict, limit, or reduce participation opportunities can have unanticipated and unintended effects on Alaska's fishing dependent communities and individual crew members.

The overall goal of this project is to implement a crew participation data collection program. This program will be defined by the ADF&G (Department) if they choose to adopt a formal system, or by an independent contractor should the Department conclude in their scoping that an independent survey is likely to be more successful or feasible than a larger program run through the Department. They will identify legal barriers and solutions; potential enforcement measures; data elements to be captured (with a priority ranking for each); expected uses of the data; appropriate reporting parties; potential audit measures; general system specifications; and expected costs, equipment requirements, and personnel needs for the Department or independent contractor. Specifically, PSMFC will utilize the results of this scoping process to provide personnel with the proper skills and experience to implement the data collection system that is deemed to be most effective by the Department's scoping study.
By Ron Felthoven

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