2015 Summer Internship Program
Perceptions on Entry and Upward Mobility in the Managed Bering Sea Crab Fisheries
In the summer of 2015, I worked at NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) for the duration of my JISAO internship. I investigated perceptions about changes to entry and upward mobility in the Bering Sea crab fisheries since 2005, when the rationalization management program was enacted. For my summer job, I conducted semi-structured interviews with Bering Sea crab fishermen who had 30 years’ experience or more in these crab fisheries. In addition to these, I also talked with a long-time crew member, and the wife of an experienced crab fisherman who had also fished in Alaska herself.
Before the management program of rationalization was put in place, the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands crab fisheries were open access fisheries. This means that any fisherman who could obtain a boat and crab pots could partake in the race for crab. After 2005, the crab fisheries became privatized. The crab resource was divided up into quota shares and issued to its participants. Currently, one has to either own quota or lease it from someone else in order to fish crab. Limited entry and upward mobility are serious issues in the managed crab fisheries, because currently, we are observing the graying of the fleet, a trend in which the owners and operators of the fisheries are getting older and older. If the fisheries are going to continue, the structure of the management program must allow younger entrants to replace these older participants as they retire.
After talking to crab fishermen over the phone (and doing one in-person interview with an experienced crab fisherman and his son), I typed up the recordings and notes taken during the interviews. I also obtained interviews done last year with these same participants in which they mentioned problems or changes with entry and upward mobility. This was in order to get more raw data to analyze. Then, I used a qualitative analysis program, Atlas.ti, to assign categories (or “codes” as social scientists call them) to sections of the text of the interviews. After all interview documents were coded, I had hundreds of pages of text coded with over a hundred-seventy codes. I then began drafting a journal article in order to neatly summarize the findings. From this analysis, I noticed that a common perception among the participants was that entry and at least some form of upward mobility were still possible in the rationalized fisheries. However, the experienced participants weren’t seeing very many crew members that had both the abilities and desire to ascend in the ranks. Quite a few of our participants shared that there were many other better investment opportunities than investing in the current crab fisheries. The older crab fishermen are looking for younger, qualified fishermen to rise in the ranks, but it seems like not many want to dedicate themselves to the crab fisheries, because of barriers directly associated with rationalization and for reasons out of the program’s control.
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