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UAF Study Examines Economic Impact of Halibut-Sablefish Quota System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2/4/2010

Fairbanks, Alaska—In 1995, Alaska’s longline sablefish and halibut fleet went from a frenzied, injury-plagued, free-for-all to a slower, safer, quota-based system that allowed only specific fishermen to take part. Almost overnight, fishermen who were left without catch shares lost their jobs, their boats, and their livelihoods.

But it wasn’t all bad. Fishermen who received quota shares became more efficient, delivering higher quality product that commanded higher prices. The derby-style fishery was eliminated and fishermen were allowed to fish just about whenever they wanted, and at a slower pace that lessened injuries and fatalities. For consumers, the new management system meant fresh fish at the market throughout the year.

But aside from higher fish prices and better product, what has been the impact to Alaska communities themselves? Economically speaking, are Alaska’s coastal communities better off now, or worse, as a result?

Alexander Kotlarov is a Ph.D. student of economics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For the past eight years, Kotlarov prepared statistical reports as an economist for the State of Alaska and as an analyst for NOAA Fisheries. As part of his doctoral research, Kotlarov has begun studying how income and spending patterns have changed in Alaska’s federally managed sablefish and halibut fisheries since the quota system began in 1995.

Kotlarov is especially interested in understanding how the quota-share system has altered coastal community economies, for better and worse. He says fisheries managers, armed with some insight on the impacts of their decisions, will be able to design better IFQ systems, and improve existing ones.

“My university research looks at the fisheries changes since 1995, when the fishery went from an open fishery to one managed by quota shares to specific individuals,” Kotlarov said. “I’m interested in understanding how, economically, the quota system impacted people and communities. No one has gone back and looked at these fisheries since quota shares were implemented to see the effects.”

To get at these thorny issues, Kotlarov is asking halibut and sablefish fishermen and quota share owners to take a short survey. The survey asks questions about where crews live and work, and how they spend their money.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program, a marine research, education and advisory program at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, is funding the survey.

Halibut and sablefish fishermen who complete the survey will be entered to win $100 in fishing gear and other prizes. All entries are confidential, and will be destroyed at the end of the project. Only the compiled anonymous survey results will be available to managers and the public. The deadline to complete the survey is March 31, 2010.

View and take the survey.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a statewide marine research, education, communication, and extension service at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Alaska Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the State of Alaska and private industry.

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is a statewide university extension and technical assistance program that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy Alaska's marine and coastal resources.

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