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Involving fishing communities in data collection: a summary and description of the Alaska Community Survey, 2011

Abstract

A review of existing fisheries data collected by the State of Alaska and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) shows that many Alaskan communities are highly engaged in commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. These resources are frequently affected by fisheries management decisions and anthropogenic effects on resource distribution and abundance that can either threaten or enhance community well-being. However, much of the existing economic data about Alaskan fisheries is collected and organized around specific units of analysis such as counties (boroughs), fishing firms, vessels, sectors, and gear groups that are often difficult to aggregate or disaggregate for analysis at the individual community or regional level. In addition, some relevant community-level economic data have not been collected historically. As a result, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), and community stakeholder organizations identified the ongoing collection of community level socio-economic information, specifically related to commercial fisheries, as a priority.

To address this need, the AFSC Economic and Social Sciences Research Program (ESSRP) began implementing the Alaska Community Survey – a voluntary data collection program to improve the socio-economic data available for consideration in North Pacific fisheries management using the community as the unit of reporting and analysis. ESSRP social scientists partnered with community-based organizations and individuals from fishing communities around Alaska to determine the detailed community level information to be collected and made available for the socio-economic impact assessment of communities involved in North Pacific fisheries (initially focused on Alaska communities for feasibility reasons).

An additional goal was to ensure that community level socio-economic and demographic data are collected at comparable levels of spatial and thematic resolution to commercial fisheries data. Such 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 various types of fishing. These data will also help ESSRP scientists and NPFMC staff to better understand Alaskan communities’ social and economic ties to the fishing industry and facilitate the analysis of potential impacts of catch share programs and coastal and marine spatial planning efforts. 

This survey was designed to gather information about Alaskan fishing communities and to help determine each community’s capacity to support fishing activities. The types of data collected through the survey address recommendations from community representatives that participated in our community meetings. This report gives an overview of the survey, results from the second year of implementation in 2012 (collecting data for the 2011 calendar year), and addresses the potential for this and other methods of engaging communities to better inform fisheries management in isolated areas of Alaska.


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