Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Study, Summit Focus on New Generation of Harvesters

A new study of Alaska’s commercial fisheries identifies factors that have contributed to the graying of the fleet and offers recommendations on how to support participation of young harvesters and coastal communities dependent on them for economic survival.

“Turning the Tide,” funded by the North Pacific Research Board and Alaska Sea Grant, concludes that privatizing fisheries access through requirements to purchase permits and quota has created financial and other barriers for the next generation of harvesters, and has especially impacted small rural fishing communities.

Privatization of these fisheries has resulted in the need for increased financial capital and other risks, including a lack of stable markets, the report concludes. Limited entry and individual quota programs have led to a contraction of fishing fleets in communities where fishing rights have been sold or migrated away, affecting access to those fisheries for future generations.

Residents of fishing communities in Bristol Bay and the Kodiak Archipelago identified many social barriers to accessing fisheries. They included a lack of exposure to commercial fishing, lack of experience, knowledge and family connections to fishing, discouragement from pursuing fishing as a career, and substance abuse and related problems in communities.

Those findings are consistent with others worldwide that improve access to commercial fisheries where access has been privatized is needed for young people, small scale fishermen and rural communities to fill jobs now held by harvesters whose average age if 50 years old, a decade older than the average fisherman of a generation ago.

The graying of the fleet and loss of local access in several important fishery regions of Alaska threatens the healthy succession of fishing as an economic and cultural mainstay in Alaska’s communities, and creates a public policy concern for the state, the report said.

To turn the tide, and remove these barriers to entry, the report makes several recommendations, including developing ways to protect and diversify community-based fishing access, including establishing youth permits or student licenses and mentorship or apprenticeship programs to provide young people with exposure to and experience in fishing and a pathway to ownership.

The report also recommends support of local infrastructure to maintain local fisheries, and establishment of a statewide fishing access for Alaskans task force to review and consider collaborative solutions to reverse the trend of a graying fleet and loss access to the fisheries for rural Alaska communities.

The complete study is available online on the project website:

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