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Social baseline of the Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fishery: Results of the 2014 social survey

Executive Summary

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is considering the implementation of a new bycatch management program for the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) groundfish trawl fishery. Any change in how the fishery is managed will likely affect the people and communities participating in the fishery. In anticipation of such changes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Alaska Fisheries Science Center developed and implemented a survey to collect baseline information about the social dimensions of the fishery. Data were collected before program implementation in order to provide a baseline description of the industry as well as allow for analysis of changes the bycatch management program may bring for individuals and communities once implemented. A similar data collection is planned to occur every two to three years in order to capture social changes in the fishery. Having a detailed baseline description will allow for a greater understanding of the social impacts the program may have on the individuals and communities affected by the new management program. When combined with data to be collected in planned post-program implementation follow-up surveys, this information will inform changes in the social characteristics over time and assist in a more comprehensive program evaluation and more informed consideration of potential post-implementation modifications of the program, if needed.

A survey instrument was developed to gather data on the social dimensions of the fishery. The survey was available in-person with field researchers in Kodiak, Seattle, King Cove, and Sand Point or for participants to take online, over the phone, or. The data collection was intended to collect information from active participants in the fishery about their demographics, individual participation in commercial fishing and/or processing, connections with others in the fishery, and opinions on the current status of bycatch management, as well as specifics related to the fishing practices of vessel owners, skippers and crew and specific information related to how processing plants operate and the processing workers who are employed in them. Additionally, the survey asked for opinions on a range of elements that may or may not be included in the final bycatch management program to assess different participant’s preferences for various management options, which may change over time as well. We conducted the survey with participants in the GOA groundfish trawl fishery, including vessel owners, vessel operators, crew aboard groundfish vessels, catcher/processor owners, catcher/processor crew, shoreside and inshore floating processors, tender owners and operators, and other individuals who are stakeholders in the trawl fishery including any businesses that are directly tied to the groundfish trawl industry through the supply of commercial items to include, but not limited to gear suppliers, fuel suppliers, and equipment suppliers.

Overall, approximately 50% (n = 1,569) of people directly involved in the GOA groundfish trawl fishery participated in the survey. This included 77% (n = 23) of processing managers, 72% (n = 1,269) of processing workers, 57% (n = 47) of catcher-vessel owners, 28% of CV skippers (n=25), 37% of CV crewmembers (n=77), and 47% (n = 95) of support service businesses were surveyed. From a geographic perspective, 85% (n = 1,242) of those people directly involved in the fishery in Kodiak were surveyed. Additionally, 6% (n = 66) of the estimated number of people in the Seattle MSA directly involved in the fishery were surveyed; however, larger than estimated populations of CV owners, CV skippers, CV crew, and processor employees were found to be located outside of the Seattle MSA region during fieldwork which offsets the Seattle MSA’s relatively low response rate.

Through a non-response bias analysis, we found that vessels from which an owner responded, a skipper responded, a crew member responded, where both an owner and a crew member responded (no skipper), where both a skipper and crew member responded (no owner), and where an owner, skipper, and crew member responded have a statistically significantly (at the 0.05 level) higher amount of landings than those vessels that did not respond. The only two groups that were not statistically significantly different were vessels from which only the owner or only a crew member responded. This suggests that those respondents who participated in our survey effort are more active in the GOA trawl fishery than those vessels that did not respond. The same six groups that had a statistically significantly higher amount of GOA trawl landings also had a statistically significantly higher amount of GOA trawl revenue than vessels that did not respond. However, in addition to these six, the vessels where only a crew member responded are also found to have statistically significantly (at the 0.05 level) higher GOA trawl revenue than those vessels that did not respond at all. This again suggests that those respondents who participated in our survey effort are likely to be more active in the GOA trawl fishery than those that did not respond.

The results of the survey highlight the differences in the people, sectors, and communities engaged in the fishery. For example, an average, CV owners were found to be 57.2 years old while skippers were 49.2 and crew were 37.8 years old on average. Additionally, participants reported that a significant amount of their spouses or partners participate in the fishing industry in some way. This suggests that the effects of management changes may extend beyond direct fishery participants. There is a wide range of number of years respondents have been participating in commercial fishing or processing. CV owners started working on average at 16 years old and have 39.8 years of experience. CV skippers started working at 17.8 years old and have 30 years of experience. CV crew started working at 18.5 years old and have 18.4 years of experience. Additionally, the majority of respondents only have one job and are therefore very tied to fishing.

Social networks show how connected vessels are with support services both within the region they are based and outside the region. Depending on the number of boats that are able to stay in the fishery once the new management program goes into effect, the support service businesses could either be dramatically or minimally affected. Respondents also participate in a wide variety of other fisheries – namely CGOA rockfish, BSAI pollock, salmon. A good number of respondents also participate in West Coast fisheries. The majority of vessels have a mutual agreement or longstanding relationship with a processor to buy their catch. And only a third indicated that they shop around for the best price. Two thirds of the processing plant managers attempt to sell their product to the best market. Over half have longstanding relationships with buyers or formal agreements with a wholesaler. As for the processing workers, half of those surveyed work 10-12 months of the year. Another 30% reported that they work 7 to 9 months of the year. The processing workers in Alaska that were surveyed generally indicated that they are permanent residents, although many are from other countries and tend to send remittances back to those countries or to family members living in other U.S. states.

The current survey effort serves as a baseline for the social characteristics of the GOA groundfish trawl fishery. This survey serves as one of the first of its kind in terms of providing a social baseline in advance of a specific change in Alaskan fisheries management. The intention is that the data provided here will assist the NPFMC in its development the new bycatch management program in the GOA groundfish trawl fishery and in its assessment of the impacts of the program on fishing communities and sectors that have historically participated in the fishery. If final NPFMC action and NOAA Fisheries implementation of the new bycatch management program are delayed beyond the beginning of 2017, we will undertake a second baseline survey of participants in the fishery in order to ensure that a baseline is available for the most current status of participation. In addition, in order to measure social changes among the fishery’s participants, we will seek additional funding to undertake a follow up survey will be conducted two years after implementation of the program.


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