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July-Aug-Sept 2008
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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Demand for Halibut Sport Fishing Trips in Alaska

The halibut sport fishery in Alaska is quite large. In 2004, for instance, over 480,000 halibut were harvested by sport anglers in the state. To assess the impacts of pending and potential regulatory changes on sport angler behavior, it is necessary to have estimates of the baseline demand for halibut fishing trips and an understanding of the factors that affect it. To this end, Dr. Dan Lew (ESSR Program) has been working with Dr. Doug Larson (University of California Davis) to develop and implement a survey that collects information about saltwater recreational fishing trips in Alaska and to analyze the data. Three primary survey instruments were developed, each customized to specific angler populations based on residency: non-Alaskan resident anglers (referred to as nonresident anglers), resident anglers of Southeast Alaska (referred to as SE resident anglers), and other Alaskan resident anglers (referred to as SC resident anglers).

The project has consisted of three major phases. The first phase involved developing and pretesting the survey instruments. This phase included testing the survey instrument using focus groups, cognitive interviews, and a formal pretest survey implementation. These activities were completed in 2006 following OMB approval. During the second phase, final versions of the survey were developed and implemented through a mail survey of Alaska sport anglers. Mail survey implementation followed a modified Dillman Tailored Design Method and consisted of an advance letter, a survey mailing (survey booklet, cover letter, map, and business reply envelope), a thank you/reminder postcard, and a second survey mailing. A follow-up telephone survey was also used to elicit participation. This phase of the project was completed in August 2007. The survey collected information about anglers' 2006 fishing activities.

The third and final phase of the project involves the description and analysis of the data. To date we have developed a summary of the general characteristics of the approximately 2,000 saltwater recreational anglers who completed the survey; this summary is too lengthy for the AFSC Quarterly Report but will be available in the Economic Status Report contained within the 2008 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report. Econometric models of recreation demand are currently being developed and estimated to assess the baseline demand for saltwater fishing trips in Alaska.

By Dan Lew

Post-Rationalization Restructuring of Alaska Crab Fishery Crew Opportunities

Rationalization of the Bering Sea crab fishery in 2005 resulted in swift consolidation of the fleet from more than 250 vessels to just 89. A large reduction in the exvessel prices paid for crab also occurred at this time. Among the most important impacts on communities has been the loss of crew jobs, estimated in a University of Alaska study to be approximately 1,350 positions.

As the initial effects of the rationalization program begin to stabilize, it is important to understand the actual impacts of this program on crew members. Loss of crew jobs was a predicted effect, but the specifics of crew impacts are not understood in great detail. Beginning in fall 2007, this project used ethnographic interview techniques to study current and former crew members, how they have been affected, and how their jobs have been affected. Field sites have included Akutan, Kodiak, Old Harbor, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Seattle, Washington; and Astoria, Oregon. Interviews have focused on issues of employment opportunities and job characteristics that may be useful in understanding how crew members might be affected in other rationalization initiatives. Decision theory and occupational communities theory provide the preliminary analytical framework for this research. A report detailing this research will be presented to the NPFMC at the October 2008 meeting in Anchorage.

By Jennifer Sepez, Heather Lazrus, and Ron Felthoven

Protected Marine Species Economic Valuation Survey

Estimates of the economic benefits of protecting threatened and endangered marine species are often needed by resource managers and policymakers to assess the impacts of alternative management measures and policies that may affect these species. However, few estimates of the benefits of protecting marine species exist, and none exist for many species protected by NMFS. To begin filling this information gap, Dr. Dan Lew (ESSR Program) is working with Kristy Wallmo (NMFS, Office of Science and Technology) on a nonmarket valuation survey research project to estimate the value of protecting several protected marine species.

Numerous cetacean, pinniped, sea turtle, and fish species have been selected for inclusion in the study, and survey materials continue to be developed. The survey employs stated preference questions to gather information on public preferences for protecting these species. Several sets of focus groups to test preliminary survey materials have been conducted over the last couple years. During 2007 and 2008, changes to the survey and related materials were made based on the results of these groups and input from biologists providing review of the scientific information being presented.

Due to the complexity of the issues and the number of species covered in the survey, the project has been divided into two phases, each involving the implementation of an Internet-based survey intended to collect stated preference information about a subset of the total species being studied. In the initial phase, the set of eight species in the survey includes the endangered North Pacific right whale and two threatened Chinook salmon stocks. Focus group and other qualitative pretest activities for the first phase species continued through 2008. The first phase survey instrument has been programmed into the Internet-based format and is undergoing peer review at present. Following the review, a post-review version will be tested in a small online implementation, with full implementation expected to follow in 2009.

By Dan Lew

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