The livelihoods of fishermen who work in large marine ecosystems are heavily influenced by the variability inherent in biological and oceanic systems, as well as by the intrinsic uncertainty of economic and management structures. However, as fishermen adapt to these changes by moving across fisheries, their actions may strongly impact them and their communities, as well as influence local ecosystem dynamics. The linkages between environmental variability and ecological, economic, and social outcomes in marine ecosystems are poorly understood. Developing this knowledge is important so that regulators may adopt fisheries management approaches that allow fishermen to adapt to environmental variability while at the same time enhancing the social and economic value of fisheries and mitigating risks to both ecosystems and livelihoods. In this project, ecologists, economists and social scientists will collaborate and integrate primary survey research, modeling, and outreach to: 1) understand how environmental variability affects, and is affected by, linked social and ecological processes; 2) investigate how more integrated fisheries management can enhance social and ecological resilience; and 3) engage state and federal fisheries managers and fishing communities in the development and application of modeling approaches to better achieve ecological and social goals.
To better operationalize ecosystem-based fisheries management, the researchers will use time series approaches to identify the effects of environmental variability on fish population dynamics and spatial distributions, and to identify 'portfolios' of species whose productivity varies synchronously or asynchronously, in the context of the fisheries of the California Current marine ecosystem on the U.S. West Coast. To better understand fishermen's patterns of participation across multiple fisheries, this research will combine data from ethnographic interviews and structured surveys of fishermen, with data on fishing participation, revenues and costs, to develop an empirical model of fishing supply behavior that integrates economic motivations (e.g., profits, financial risks, and outside employment opportunities) with non-monetary considerations (e.g., psychological satisfaction from fishing or strong social ties to the fishing community). Finally, the researchers will integrate the model of fishing supply with models of the population dynamics of key fish stocks under environmental variability to create a coupled ecological-economic simulation model of West Coast fisheries. This model will be used by the researchers, in conjunction with fishery managers and stakeholders, to consider how alternative management approaches may enhance or hamper the resilience of the fishery by affecting fishermen's adaptive behavior. The research from this study would provide society benefits through providing an important tool to operationalize ecosystem-based fishery management, a stated priority for state and federal agencies.
National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology