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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Involving Communities to Better Understand the Role of North Pacific Fisheries

Much of the existing economic data about Alaskan fisheries is collected and organized around different units of analysis, such as counties (boroughs), fishing firms, vessels, sectors, and gear groups. It is often difficult to aggregate or disaggregate these data for analysis at the individual community or regional level. In addition, at present, some relevant community level economic data simply are not collected at all. As a result, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), the AFSC, and community stakeholder organizations have identified ongoing collection of community-level socio-economic information that is specifically related to commercial fisheries as a priority.

To address this need, the AFSC's Economic and Social Sciences Research (ESSR) Program has been preparing the implementation of the Alaska Community Survey, an annual voluntary data collection program initially focused on Alaska communities for feasibility reasons, in order to improve the socio-economic data available for consideration in North Pacific fisheries management.

In partnership with community organizations and individuals from fishing communities around Alaska, ESSR staff have been working to ensure that detailed community level socio-economic and demographic data are collected at comparable levels of spatial and thematic resolution to those levels of commercial fisheries data collection. Such community-level data will facilitate analysis of the impacts of proposed changes in commercial fisheries management, both within and across North Pacific communities involved and engaged in commercial fishing.

These data will also help scientists and NPFMC staff better understand Alaskan communities' social and economic ties to the fishing industry. These data also will facilitate the analysis of potential impacts of catch share programs and coastal and marine spatial planning efforts as they are more fully implemented as U.S. federal fisheries management tools.

Furthermore, the ESSR Program is beginning revision of the document "Community Profiles for North Pacific Fisheries—Alaska" and anticipates starting the profile revision process in summer 2011.

In community meetings held by AFSC social scientists in August and September 2010, community input was sought on how the community profiles can better represent communities and their ties to North Pacific fisheries. Much of the input received at the meetings were suggestions for new types of socio-economic data to better represent the interests of communities in the fisheries management process and in socio-economic impact analyses. However, a large amount of the data requested by communities for inclusion is not obtainable from other sources and is therefore being requested directly from communities through the implementation of the Alaska Community Survey.

Types of data to be collected in the survey included recommendations from representatives at the community meetings and a subset of those identified by the NPFMC's Comprehensive Socioeconomic Data Collection Committee. Recommendations included information on community revenues based in the fisheries economy, population fluctuations, fisheries infrastructure available in the community, support sector business operations in the community, community participation in fisheries management, and effects of fisheries management decisions on the community.

The survey instrument was finalized in October 2010 after significant input from survey design experts and cognitive interviews. The survey will be sent to all communities included in the revised community profile document following a modified version of the Dillman Tailored Design Method. This method consists of multiple contacts, including an advance letter, telephone recruitment, initial mailing, follow-up postcard reminder, a follow-up telephone interview, and second full mailing.

A census of the population will be necessary in order to obtain the same set of unique information about each community's involvement in fishing for use in revising the 2005 community profiles. Respondents are identified as the mayors, tribal leaders or heads of non-profit corporate entities for each community. Full survey implementation is expected to begin in early spring 2011.

By Amber Himes, Christina Package, and Jennifer Sepez

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