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Updating the North Pacific Fishing Community Profiles

Various federal statutes including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act require agencies to examine the social and economic impacts of policies and regulations. To meet this requirement, social scientists in the AFSC's Economic and Social Science Research Program have been working over the past year and a half on revisions to the Community Profiles for North Pacific Fisheries Alaska. The updated profiles provide significant detail on 195 fishing communities in Alaska, with information on social, economic, and fisheries characteristics. These profiles serve as a consolidated source of baseline information for assessing community impacts in Alaska.

The community profiles include, but are not limited to, demographics, annual population fluctuation, fisheries-related infrastructure, community finances, natural resources, educational opportunities, fisheries revenue, shore-based processing plant narratives, landings and permits by species, and subsistence and recreational fishing participation. The profiles also include information collected from communities in the Alaska Community Survey, a questionnaire designed to gather information from communities about their specific infrastructure available, revenue sources, and other characteristics not available in other databases, as well as their needs and concerns related to their dependence on fishing. In addition to individual community profiles, 11 regional profiles were compiled and written, with aggregated data at the regional level.

Economic and Social Sciences Research (ESSR) staff worked with AFSC GIS specialists to develop an interactive website where the user can view high level commercial, recreational and subsistence data through a webmapping tool. Downloadable non-confidential data per community and individual community profiles are also available. This information is available on the AFSC website at

By Amber Himes-Cornell

Groundtruthing Socio-Economic Indices of Fishing Community Vulnerability and Resilience for Alaska

Fishing communities exist within a larger coastal economy. Therefore, the ability to understand the context of vulnerability to social factors is critical to understanding how regulatory change will be absorbed into these multifaceted communities. Creating social indicators of vulnerability for fishing communities provides a pragmatic approach toward standardization of data and analysis for assessment of some of the long-term effects of management actions. Historically, the ability to conduct such analysis has been limited due to a lack of quantitative social data. Over the past 2 years, social scientists working in NOAA’s Alaska, Northeast, and Southeast regions have been engaged in the development of indices for evaluating aspects of fishing community vulnerability and resilience to be used in the assessment of the social impacts of proposed fishery management plans and actions. Social scientists from the AFSC have developed indices for more thanr 300 communities in Alaska. We compiled socio-economic and fisheries data from a number of sources to conduct a principal components analysis which allow us to identify the most important socio-economic and fisheries-related factors associated with community vulnerability and resilience in Alaska in a statistically meaningful way.

We have been actively recruiting stakeholder feedback through a groundtruthing methodology to assess and refine our current suite of social indicators of community vulnerability and resilience. The new set of indices will be more accurate and also enable comparisons across regions and eventually, nationwide. This will allow cross regional analysis of fishing community vulnerability and resilience and testing of the validity of the results through in-community education and outreach. Modifications to the methodology will ultimately be made based on community feedback.

A taxonomy of fishing communities in Alaska was completed by undertaking a cluster analysis of the vulnerability indices that we previously developed. The cluster analysis results were then used to select communities to visit during our groundtruthing fieldwork. Communities were visited in the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Bristol Bay regions. Regional fishing industry and community organizations, including the Alaska Native and municipal governance organizations in each community, were then contacted to provide guidance on planning fieldwork trips and identifying local community members who could assist with organizing community panels, one-on-one interviews, and public meetings.

The main focus of our visits to these communities was to conduct interviews with a wide range of local residents: from those actively participating in local fisheries to fisheries service providers to non-fisheries related residents. Each interview consisted of a series of topics that were discussed with the respondent that should help us to qualitatively assess the overall vulnerability and resilience of each community to change. This qualitative assessment will then be used to validate the quantitative vulnerability indicators that we have created.

Community meetings were held in most of the communities to present the project and receive feedback from local residents on what they think of as important socio-economic pressures on their communities and how those pressures, combined with fisheries management actions and programs, are impacting their communities. These meetings were used to discuss the local significance of the concepts of vulnerability and resilience, talk with members of the community about their individual perceptions of the characteristics of their community, and discuss how this information may be effectively used to minimize the negative impacts and increase positive impacts of changes in fisheries management actions, as well as other environmental and social changes. The transcripts from these meetings will be used in conjunction with the one-on-one interviews to qualitatively assess community vulnerability.

By Amber Himes-Cornell and Steve Kasperski


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