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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

The 2012 Economic Survey of Alaska Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Businesses: 
A Preliminary Look

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A survey developed by AFSC economists over the last several years was administered in 2012 to collect economic and other information from charter boat operators.  These data were collected to provide a baseline of information necessary to assess the effect of regulatory restrictions (currently in place or potential) on Alaska charter boat fishing operators and the economic contributions these businesses make in the Alaska communities in which they are located, as well as to the state and nation.  Some information useful for this purpose is already collected from existing sources, such as from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) logbook program.  However, information on vessel and crew characteristics, services offered to clients, and costs and earnings information are generally not available from existing data sources and thus must be collected directly from the industry through voluntary surveys.  Initial scoping and design of the survey was based on consultations with Alaska charter boat associations and staff from the NMFS Alaska Region, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and International Pacific Halibut Commission.  Several focus groups, interviews, and meetings with Alaska charter boat operators (the target population) were used to test and refine the survey questions.

The Alaska Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Business Survey was administered between April and July 2012 by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC).  A total of 667 charter guide license holders (businesses) who participated in the charter logbook program and were active in 2011 were contacted by mail and asked to fill out a paper or on-line questionnaire.  The survey asked questions about costs and earnings, revenues, employment, and services offered during 2011.  Of those contacted, 191 participated in the paper or on-line survey.  The overall response rate was 191/667 = 28.6%.

A preliminary analysis of the data from the 191 responding license holders/businesses (i.e., respondents) was conducted to summarize the data for 2011.  The results primarily focus on summarizing the data for the sample of item respondents—those providing a non-zero response.  Thus, the sample estimates ignore blanks, refusals, and cases where the question is not applicable to the individual respondent.  The number of item respondents varies among questions.

Number of vessels:  The total number of active vessels owned or leased by the sample during 2011 was 347.  The median number of vessels operated by a single business was 1.0.

Expenditures:  The sample reported a total of $2.9 million was paid to vessel operators and guides, $1.1 million was paid to on-board crew, and $3.7 million was paid to on-shore employees during 2011.  The mean ( Median: the middle value of a distribution; half the values are larger and half the values are smaller than it.) amount each respondent paid to vessel operators and guides was $22,178 ($272).  The mean (median) amount paid to crew was $8,621 ($0) and to shore employees was $27,746 ($599).  The much lower median amounts reflect the large number of respondents that did not employ additional workers.  For non-labor expenses spent in 2011, see Table 1.

 Table 1.  Summary of 2011 non-labor expenses across sample of item respondents
Expense category Item respondents Total (in millions) Mean Median Standard deviation
Charter trip-related 153  $8.6 $56,263 $18,030 $166,372
General overhead 154 $10.6 $69,074 $18,992 $157,747
Vehicles, machinery, and equipment 129  $6.4 $49,500 $10,000 $165,280
Buildings, land, and other real estate  49  $2.3 $46,514 $25,000  $82,399



Employment: Figures 1 and 2 summarize the employment by season and number of the forms of payments to employees, respectively.

 refer to chart  caption   refer to chart caption

Figure 1.  2011 Employment by season (total full- and part-time employees) across sample.


Figure 2.  Number of businesses in sample by form of payment and type of employee.

Revenue:  Across the 145 item respondents to the revenue questions, the total revenue for 2011 was $28.8 million, with a mean (median) revenue of $198,321 ($71,904).  The range of total revenues across these respondents was from $68 to $5.7 million.  These revenues were divided into several categories based on the source of the revenue (see Table 2 below).

Table 2.  Summary of 2011 revenue across sample of item respondents
Revenue category Item respondents Total
(in millions)
Mean Median Standard deviation
Charter fishing trips – direct payments from clients 137  $23.0 $167,731 $46,900 $570,146
Charter fishing trips – payments from booking agent or service 82   $2.1  $25,887   $6,500   $41,048
Non-fishing charter trips 84   $2.2 $26,192   $1,993   $68,166
Client referrals/booking commissions 61 $0.48   $7,796 $0   $24,638
Federal charter halibut permit sales income 58 $0.96 $16,541 $0   $99,059
Federal charter halibut permit lease income 59 $0.02     $331 $0     $1,343

Clients:  Respondents were asked questions about what proportion of their clients were return business, early bookers, and last minute bookers. See Figure 3.

Family participation in the business:  Across the item respondents, the mean (median) number of family workers in the business was 2.5 (2.0).The mean (median) proportion of the business owned by the respondent’s household was 93% (100%), while between 26% and 50% of the household income was generated from the business, indicating most respondents’ households had other sources of income besides that from the charter business. See Figure 4.

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Figure 3.  Percent of business’ clients that are returning clients, early bookers, or last minute bookers across sample


Figure 4.  Distribution of types of business structures across sample

Next steps:  Given a lower than expected response rate (~29%) to the survey, AFSC researchers are in the process of evaluating the representativeness of the sample before the sample results can be adjusted and extrapolated to the population.  That evaluation is underway, and the results of that analysis will be made available at a later date.  In addition, the survey is currently being re-fielded by PSMFC to collect information from Alaska charter boat business for the 2012 fishing season, which will provide information useful for identifying changes.

By Dan Lew, Brian Garber-Yonts, and Amber Himes-Cornell

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