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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Comprehensive Socioeconomic Data Collection for Alaskan Fisheries

In November 2006, the ESSR Program coordinated a working group to address the NPFMC’s October 2006 motion to draft a comprehensive program for collecting revenue, ownership, employment, cost, and expenditure data in Alaskan fisheries. The working group was comprised of individuals representing NMFS, ADF&G, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, NPFMC, NOAA General Council, and Alaska Department of Commerce. Specifically, the group met 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.

As with any working group, there were differences of opinion within the group. For this group, the differences were primarily over the level of detail that should be required in the data collection. However, all involved basically shared the same frustration over the lack of social and economic data and felt that we need to develop a comprehensive program. The working group focused on evaluating the existing data collection programs and made specific suggestions for improving information content.

It is important to note that nearly all socioeconomic surveys of Alaskan fisheries to date have been conducted (with very little success) through voluntary reporting. There has been broad industry reluctance to provide these data, typically because of fear that the data would somehow be used against submitters (e.g., to levy enforcement penalties based on profits, or to show how much or how little money a sector or fleet is making in allocation disputes), used incorrectly, or disclosed to competitors or the public. These are reasonable concerns on the part of industry, but we believe there are solutions to these concerns that can be feasibly incorporated into the data collection program to overcome them. However, we feel it is important to emphasize that voluntary economic data collection is not a viable option in Alaska.

Dozens of surveys of various lengths and level of detail have been developed by NMFS and other researchers for nearly every sector, yet the information we need is still unavailable. For the most part, the only industry cooperation has been with private contractors who were working on behalf of the harvesters or processors (often bringing the accuracy of the data into question because of the underlying incentives). Only recently in the BSAI crab and the Amendment 80 rationalization programs has socioeconomic data collection been mandated, and it is only in these fisheries where we will be able to conduct truly satisfactory economic analyses. It is therefore our opinion that only with a comprehensive mandatory data collection program can we provide the accurate information required for the analyses requested by decision makers for the various Alaskan fisheries.

The working group drafted a discussion paper, providing a detailed discussion of the specific types of information that could be collected to address common management questions, along with suggestions regarding what should or could be collected. We also address approaches for collecting data, identifying data collection frames (census versus sampling) and the relevant populations and reporting entities, data confidentiality, and the linkages between economic and social analyses. The discussion paper is available on the Web at

By Ron Felthoven

Amendment 80 Head and Gut Catcher/Processor Sector Economic Data Collection

Beginning in 2008, the non-AFA trawl catcher/processing (CP) sector will be rationalized under a fishery cooperative program. Under the terms of the June 2006 Council motion, a mandatory socioeconomic data collection program will be implemented for the entire sector. Key elements of the Amendment 80 problem statement are the reduction of bycatch and improved utilization of groundfish. Socioeconomic data are needed to assess whether the cooperative formation addresses the goal of mitigating the costs associated with bycatch reduction, to understand the economic effects of the Amendment 80 program on vessels or entities regulated by this action, and to inform future management actions.

The program will collect cost, revenue, ownership, and employment data on an annual basis. ESSR Program scientists developed draft data collection instruments and, in collaboration with NMFS Alaska Region staff, prepared regulatory text and draft Paper Reduction Act documentation to support the data collection program. Data collection for the Head and Gut fleet is expected to begin in 2009.

By Brian Garber-Yonts

Integrating Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska Climate Data for Socioeconomic Research

ESSR Program economists and social scientists apply a variety of models to different socioeconomic problems and issues that affect Alaskan fisheries and communities. Researchers have begun to directly incorporate the effects of climate change into a number of these models, but do not have a straight-forward means for finding and evaluating climate data collected, organized, and analyzed by NOAA and other government agencies. As AFSC fisheries scientists better understand the relationship between changing climate and fish populations, we will be able to evaluate and predict the socioeconomic impacts of the changing climate.

One area where climate data will be immediately utilized is in fisher location choice models. These models incorporate observable information on the vessel characteristics, expected returns from choosing an area, and travel distance. The models can be significantly improved by augmenting them with area-specific information on ice coverage, winds, sea surface height, and potentially, primary productivity. A second area of research will be to examine spatial correlation of economic fishery productivity and fine-scaled climate data. A third area of research is to utilize the long time series of climate data that exhibit a high degree of spatial coherence, such as sea surface temperatures, into economic models of fishery dynamics.

This project will organize important Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska climate data that would be useful for socioeconomic researchers. Some of the data are readily available on NOAA Web sites but other data must be requested directly from researchers. The project will develop a one-stop Web site with pertinent datasets, assessments of data quality, and instructions for usage.

By Alan Haynie and Mike Dalton

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