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Economic Viability of a Directed Skate Fishery in the Gulf of Alaska

Investigators

Student

Synopsis

Alaska has relatively healthy skate stocks. The most frequently landed skates in the Gulf of Alaska are the big skate and longnose skate, both of which are taken as nontarget catch in several longline and trawl fisheries. As a result of their abundance and relatively high ex-vessel value, there is a desire by fishers and processors to increase skate landings by allowing more nontarget retention or developing directed fisheries for them. Researchers seek to understand interactions among skate abundance, fisheries, and economics to aid in development of profitable and sustainable fisheries.

Overview

The issue

Skates are in growing demand worldwide. In the Gulf of Alaska there is increasing economic pressure to develop directed fisheries for big (Raja binoculata) and longnose (Raja rhina) skates. And Gulf of Alaska coastal fishing communities are looking for more opportunities to increase their economic resilience. However, these skate species are long-lived and slow-growing, and they mature late, making them vulnerable to overfishing, and currently they may be retained only as nontarget catch. Before a skate fishery can be opened, the sustainability of the skate resource and economic feasibility of a directed skate fishery need to be examined. This can be achieved best by determining the sustainable skate harvest through a stock assessment, which is then integrated into a bioeconomic model that includes ex-vessel value, costs, and demand for skates.

Why is this an Alaska Sea Grant project?

This research addresses Alaska Sea Grant’s goal of sustained, well-managed and healthy marine ecosystems in Alaska by providing decision-makers with science-based biological and economic information that can be used to inform the setting of quotas and the design of regulations for increasing skate landings. This project could contribute to strengthening coastal Alaska communities by fostering skate fishing within realistic biological and economic constraints, thereby ensuring sustainability and profitability. Finally, the study will address a third Alaska Sea Grant goal by retaining the biological and economic health of this commercial fishery and ensuring that it remain a long-term economic force in coastal communities.

How will researchers conduct their study?

Researchers will

  1. Gather data from management agencies and develop the stock assessment using Stock Synthesis software.
  2. Conduct interviews with fishers and processors and collect import-export data from countries and international agencies (e.g., United Nations).
  3. Integrate the stock assessment and economic data to produce a bioeconomic model that can be manipulated through a harvest function, a demand function, and a cost function.
  4. Apply this bioeconomic model to scenarios reflecting changes in management structure, prices, costs, and abundance of skates.

Research collaborators

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Results

Research outcomes

Anticipated benefits: At the conclusion of this project, the following benefits are expected:

  1. Develop a stock assessment using Stock Synthesis that can be readily used by management agencies (e.g., National Marine Fisheries Service and ADFG).
  2. Develop a bioeconomic model that can be used by management agencies to predict the possible consequences of different harvest strategies.
  3. Provide valuable experience in all facets of fisheries management to the graduate student.
  4. Provide the fishing industry with valuable economic information (e.g., market demands, possible revenues from skate seafood products, best harvest strategies for a sustainable fishery).