The research team led by Anne Beaudreau, a professor at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, found that the overall number of fishermen with multiple fishing permits declined from 30 percent of permit holders in 1988 to 20 percent in 2014. That data prompted Beaudreau to ask, “…as Alaska fisheries become more specialized, how resilient will fishing communities be to future change?”
The researchers are part of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Prince William Sound Herring Research and Monitoring Program, and Gulf Watch Alaska.
Previous studies of Alaska fisheries found that harvesters, vessels and communities with broader access to more species or permit types tend to have more stable incomes due to diversification. Researchers said this reduced diversity may be caused by several barriers such as a limit on the number of fishing permits allowed in many fisheries, including halibut and sablefish. Additional obstacles to diversification may be socioeconomic, as permit prices and equipment costs rose significantly since the 1970s.
Researchers were also interested in how fishery participation and fishing portfolio diversity responded to biomass declines, management changed, fluctuations in prices and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
According to Beaudreau, salmon have become an increasingly important part of fishing portfolios statewide. While harvesters have become less diverse in the permits they hold, many continue to participate and specialize in salmon fisheries.