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Small coastal fishing boat. (Photo Credit: Nancy Heise)

New survey gathering data on Northeast commercial fisheries

  (UNITED STATES, 6/12/2013)

Social scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Centre are encouraging crew members to take advantage of the time remaining to respond to a new survey aimed at gathering data on broad social and economic conditions in the Northeast’s commercial fisheries.

Tammy Murphy of NOAA’s Social Sciences Branch at the NEFSC is the point person on several of the centre’s ongoing economic and social survey efforts.

“We know next to nothing about crew, this critical part of the fishing community, which also includes hired captains. This survey collects basic demographic data that we do not have and that we need to understand what’s going on in fishing communities,” she said, emphasizing how essential crew cooperation is to the effort.

The socio-economic survey focuses on information such as availability of work, perceptions of fisheries management, the effectiveness and fairness of fisheries regulations, and fishermen’s day-to-day experiences in their fishing communities. To help design the survey, and to train and deploy interviewers, the science centre contracted with QuanTech, a professional survey research firm that specializes in fishery and environmental subject areas and based in Arlington, Virginia.

Interviewers have been working to survey crew in fifteen ports in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic since last October and plan to finish in August.  So far, about 300 crew interviews have been collected. In June, interviewers are focusing on Rockland and Portland, Maine; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Newport News, Virginia.

Fishing ports were selected in a way intended to capture a representative sample of crew proportional to participation in the fisheries. That means collecting data in different seasons and from crew that work in different fisheries, on vessels that vary length and in gear type.

The crew surveys are being conducted face-to-face and take about half an hour to complete. Interviewers come to the water front, and are trying to time their efforts with when crew are most likely to be available and not busy working. It isn’t easy to get that timing right, and sometimes people are just reluctant to participate.

However, Murphy stresses, the data are extremely valuable and she hopes the number of crew responses will increase significantly as expected activity in many ports increases over the summer months.

“To communicate to decision makers how regulatory actions have affected the people in the fisheries-the fishermen and their families--to tell that story and have it be heard, we need that data,” Murphy said.

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