Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Study Shows Skepticism With Fisheries Privatization

A survey of fish harvesters in Kodiak by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers shows much concern over future of fisheries access because of privatization of fishing rights.

Nearly all Kodiak fishery participants interviewed expressed concern about the future of fisheries access in the community for the next generation, in large part because of the substantial financial barriers to entry generated by privatization of fisheries access, said Courtney Carothers, of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, in a presentation Jan. 20 to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage. Many of those interviewed discussed the need for more entry-level opportunities necessary for access in all fisheries, the survey showed.

Findings from the study suggest that a diverse range of fishery participants share core values about the social dimensions of fishery systems. Support or opposition to past privatization processes tended to be articulated in reference to how the core values of hard work, opportunity and fairness were perceived to have been strengthened or eroded by such processes.

While survey data showed a range of perspectives on the effects of privatization on fishing and the Kodiak community, respondents to the study tended to talk about privatization as a significant change that had divisive, negative impacts in the community. Crewmembers and the next generation of fishermen were identified as disproportionately affected by privatization processes.

A small number of respondents, just 13 percent, said the positive effects of fisheries privatization were a stabilized local economy, higher pay and more jobs for crew, better fish prices and safer fisheries. Another 77 percent of respondents identified negative effects on the community, including absentee owners, reduced crew shares, a downturn in the local economy related to jobs and services, and a negative social shift in the widening of the economic gap between rich and poor.

The majority of respondents also disagreed that the Kodiak fishing community was healthier now than 15 to 20 years ago, or that individual fishing quotas have been good for the community.

The annual science symposium is earmarked Jan. 20 for the Gulf of Alaska plenary session, with Jan. 21 set aside for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and Jan. 22 for the Arctic. More information is at

The event, organized annually by the North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage, is sponsored by federal and state entities, and others, including the International Pacific Halibut Commission, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

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