New model looks to predict economic impacts of fishing closures

Published on
April 11, 2018

Getting ahead of the economic impacts that tend to accompany fisheries' closures is the basis of a new predictive model put together by a team of scientists from NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NFSC) and the University of Washington.

When fisheries shut down, entire communities suffer, the scientific team recognized, and oftentimes, funds doled out to help fishermen weathering rough patches arrive months after they are needed. The new predictive model, which was published recently in the journal Marine Policy, is designed to help mitigate some of this damage, explained Kate Richerson, a marine ecologist at NFSC and the University of Washington, and the lead author of the model.

To develop their predictive standard, Richerson and her team focused on the 2017 closure of the U.S. West Coast's salmon troll fishery, collating fish ticket data as a starting point. 

“We looked at a pretty broad cohort of vessels and found that some of these vessels are almost entirely dependent on salmon, while others are almost entirely dependent on other fisheries," Richerson said. "Then we looked at their predicted behavior and revenue under the conditions of a closure and under the conditions of an average year. And we used that in combination with this economic input-output model, which links fishing revenue to jobs and sales, to make a sort of back-of-the-envelope prediction of what the impacts of the 2017 closure might have been.”

They estimated the closure, leveled to protect struggling Chinook runs on the Klamath River, would cost trollers anywhere from USD 5.8 million (EUR 4.6 million) to USD 8.9 million (EUR 7.2 million), along with 200 to 330 jobs and USD 12.8 million (EUR 10.3 million) to USD 19.6 million (EUR 15.8 million) in sales. The numbers were confined to trollers, and would have likely been far higher with the inclusion of other fisheries, such as gillnetting and recreational fishing.

According to the authors, their model is the industry’s first attempt to predict the cost of closures, and they hope it will function as a template for other fisheries.

“The Dungeness crab fishery would an interesting one to apply it to, because a lot of those people also participate in multiple fisheries, and it’s the largest fishery on the West Coast by a lot of metrics. It’s a really important one and probably has some pretty devastating impacts on local communities when it closes down," Richerson said. "That’s something we have on our radar. We’d like to apply to a few fisheries on the West Coast that face similar issues."

The model may get more work up and down the West Coast as increasingly variable ocean conditions contribute to uncertainty in stocks. 

“To put this in a big picture context, a lot of scientists think that California Current ecosystem is going to become potentially more variable in the future, with more droughts on land. The feeling among people is that closures like this may become more common in the future just because we might see more swings in these stocks that are affected by climate conditions," Richerson said. "So having a framework to predict the economic impact of these closures is hopefully going to be useful in the future."

Photo courtesy of Craig D'Angelo/NOAA Fisheries

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?