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Graying of the Fleet in Alaska's Fisheries: Defining the Problem and Assessing Alternatives

Investigators

Synopsis

The “graying of the fleet” encompasses concerns for fisheries policy makers, researchers, coastal communities, and the state of Alaska. Chief among these is how the succession of limited access permits and catch-share privileges will further exacerbate the exodus of valuable fishing privileges and seafood business opportunities from Alaska’s fishing communities.

This ethnographic, mixed-methods research will focus on the perceived and experienced barriers to entry and upward mobility within fisheries among youth and young fishery participants in Bristol Bay and the Kodiak archipelago. Researchers will assess how and why fishing communities and demographic groups in these regions are differentially impacted by problems arising from the graying of the fleet. One focus will be community and demographic differences in barriers to entry.

Overview

The issue

The "graying of the fleet" is a pressing concern for Alaska and its coastal communities. Researchers seek to better understand the problem and to assess and develop mechanisms to help address it.

To understand what factors facilitate and constrain local youth participation in fisheries in rural Alaska communities, this research project approaches the graying of the fleet as a multi-dimensional problem. To further understand the graying of the fleet, researchers will focus on the ways in which young people’s attitudes and pathways toward permit ownership are supported and constrained by local dynamics, including economic and non-economic resources and barriers. Researchers will use ethnographic, interview, and survey data to examine how young people’s interest and participation in fisheries compares to other lifestyle choices and migration, education, and professional and career goals.

Why is this an Alaska Sea Grant project?

This project addresses the Alaska Sea Grant research themes of (1) impacts on and strategies for coastal communities adapting to change and (2) improvements to the economic and sociocultural sustainability of Alaska coastal communities. Youth engagement in careers that enable them to remain in, or return to, their rural coastal communities is key to the future sustainability of communities under threat from depopulation, school closures, and lack of employment opportunities.

How will researchers conduct their study?

This study uses a mixed-methods ethnographic approach including key informant and semi-structured interviews, a survey, and a literature review and compilation of data to address the following questions:

  1. What are the perceived and experienced barriers to entry into fisheries, and upward mobility, for local youth and young fishery participants in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak archipelago regions of Alaska? How do these barriers differ by geographic, demographic, and sociocultural variables?
  2. What geographic, economic, social, and cultural factors influence young people’s attitudes toward and level of participation in fisheries? What are models of successful pathways to establishing ownership-level fishing careers among young residents?
  3. What policy responses may address the graying of the fleet, including alternative licensing systems and other novel approaches implemented in Alaska and other regions, and how might we best structure alternative models in Alaska?

Results

Research outcomes

Anticipated benefits: Expected scientific, economic, and social benefits include


At a glance

Project number: R/32-06

Project status: New

Initiated: 02/01/2014

Expected completion: 01/31/2016

Objectives: This ethnographic research project, based in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak commercial fishing regions, will (1) document and compare barriers to entry into fisheries and upward mobility among young participants; (2) examine factors influencing young people’s attitudes toward fisheries and level of participation; (3) identify successful pathways to establishing fishing careers for young residents; and (4) identify policies that may address the graying of the fleet and develop recommendations.

Focus area (theme): Resilient Communities and Economies

Location: Bristol Bay and Kodiak archipelago