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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicator: Fishing Support Service Employment

Short Answer: Fishing support service employment may have decreased, according to a literature review and interviews. Quantitative data are not available.

Beyond direct harvesting and processing engagement in a range of fisheries, some fishing communities derive benefits from a range of support service businesses that cater in whole or in part to the commercial fishing industry. Importantly, these businesses add to a “local multiplier” where money earned in direct fishing activities gets spent in the community, supporting additional employment and income opportunities, along with a variety of indirect economic benefits. Common types of specialized vessel support services may include marine hardware, gear, and tackle supply services; marine hydraulics, welding, electronics, mechanical, and electrical services, among others; other types of waterfront services patronized by commercial vessels often include marine fuel sales, ice suppliers, and boatyard services; and some types of businesses with more generalized clientele, such as grocery stores, may derive a substantial portion of revenues from vessel support activities. Similarly, shore-based processing entities also generate demand for support services.

The existence, composition, and vitality of a fishing support services sector is an important indicator to track at the community level as it provides an additional measure of the community’s dependence on the commercial fishing industry and helps to illustrate the nature, breadth, and depth of that dependence.

A review of the literature and information gathered during the limited fieldwork phase of this project would suggest that adverse impacts to support services may have occurred across multiple communities as a result of fishery changes that occurred with a shift to a catch share system (e.g., vessel consolidation). Unfortunately for the purposes of this analysis, however, no systematically collected data are available on these types of businesses that would illuminate their absolute or relative dependency on federally managed commercial fisheries, much less in a form disaggregated to the degree that would be necessary for attribution of business changes to the impacts of specific management programs in individual fisheries. Initially, analysis was attempted using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, but this information was not fine-grained enough to differentiate, for example, businesses that supply marine commercial fishing vessel services from those that supply services focused on fresh water sport fisheries.

Additionally, interviews conducted during the field effort for this project would suggest that a continuing trend of change in fishing support services in both the Northeast and on the West Coast, with fewer service entities becoming more concentrated in fewer and larger ports over time, pre-dates the implementation of catch share programs. Interviews would also suggest that the catch share programs may have accelerated those trends (e.g., with decreasing numbers of active catcher vessels), but available data do not allow for definitive analysis or causal attribution. This remains an important data gap in understanding the full impact of fishery management programs on communities.

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