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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Quantitative Measures of Risk Applied to North Pacific Commercial Fisheries

As fisheries management shifts focus to dual socio-ecological success, quantitative risk measures provide a way to distill complex system dynamics into simple metrics that are meaningful for resource users and which can be used to track management performance, for example through management strategy evaluation. Borrowing from investment theory, we introduced several risk measures for application to fisheries, calculating semideviation and conditional value-at-risk catch and revenue risks for 90 commercial fisheries in Alaska (nearly a complete census). We estimated the relationship between fishery characteristics and catch risks using nonparametric random forests to highlight attributes associated with high or low risk.

Catch and revenue risks for individual Alaskan fisheries are substantial and are higher than farmed food alternatives. Revenue risks are greater than catch risks for most fisheries, indicating that price variability is an additional source of risk to fishermen.

Results show that higher productivity species tend to be higher risk, and there is an increasing gradient of risk moving north and west across North Pacific waters, with the remote western Bering Sea fisheries tending to be highest risk. Low risk fisheries tend to be large catch and support larger fleets. Finally, fisheries with greater catch history under some form of dedicated access privileges tend to have lower catch risks.

By Mike Dalton

Bioeconomic Assessment of Ocean Acidification on Bristol Bay Red King Crab

Ocean acidification research by AFSC scientists is following the priorities established by a 5-year plan published in 2008 (on the web at

Commercially important calcareous species (shellfish) are first priority because of their economic value and because these species are likely to suffer direct effects of reduced CaCO3 availability. The aim of this project is to develop an integrated bioeconomic model to make long-term (30-50 year) probabilistic projections for the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery under alternative management and environmental scenarios.

A version of the full Bristol Bay red king crab stock assessment model was recoded for use in this project. In addition, a simpler (i.e., males-only, fewer size-classes) version is under development for use in the bioeconomic model.

The environmental scenarios will involve exogenous forcing from ocean acidification on key life-history parameters (i.e., pre-recruit growth and mortality rates) that will be explicitly represented in the bioeconomic model. In particular, pre-recruit survival and growth will be represented in a life-stage based (i.e., Lefkovitch) model that is currently being developed. Changes in the pre-recruit model will be informed by results for a range of pH levels from experiments being conducted at the AFSC Kodiak Laboratory on growth and survival of larvae and juvenile red king crab.

By Mike Dalton and Dusanka Poljak

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