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Economic Interactions between U.S. Longline Fisheries

Progress Reports: FY 2001, FY 2000, FY 1999, FY 1998 (see below)

Project Overview
The recent history of Hawaiian pelagic fisheries gives insights into the factors causing significant geographical migrations of longliners. Betweem 1988 and 1991, the number of longliners based in Hawaii increased from around 50 to over 140 while total longline trips increased from about 700 to 1700. Most of the new vessels came from either the Gulf of Mexico or the North Atlantic, though some also came from the West Coast. The collapse of the Atlantic swordfish stocks undoubtedly contributed greatly to the migration of vessels to Hawaii.

In response to the sizable influx of vessels into the Hawaii longline fishery the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council imposed a "limited entry system" that placed a fixed cap on the number of longline vessels operating out of Hawaii. Numerous vessels have continued to migrate in and out of the Hawaii fishery, though more have left than entered. Of particular importance was the departure of over 20 vessels in 1994. This helped cause a decline in longline catch from approximately 26.5 million pounds in 1993 to 19.2 million pounds in 1994 (27% decrease). This decline was almost entirely due to a decrease in swordfish landings.

Dramatic changes in fishery size (measured by the number of vessels) can indicate significant changes in the fishery, as well as create changes. The primary objective of this study is to determine what causes these changes in fleet size. Determining how fishermen decide where to go is the second objective of this study. As part of this three-year study information will be collected from fisheries with longline capabilities: the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, West Coast (primarily southern California), South Pacific and Hawaii fisheries.

Project findings published as part of the SOEST-JIMAR publication series:
"Cost-earnings study of the Atlantic-based U.S. pelagic longline fleet", 2001. Richard M. Porter, Maribeth Wendt, Michael D. Travis, and Ivar Strand. SOEST 01-02, JIMAR Contribution 01-337

See SOEST-JIMAR Publications page for other PFRP reports

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Michael Travis
National Marine Fisheries Service
Southeast Regional Office
Fisheries Economics
9721 Executive Center Drive N.
Koger Bldg., 2nd floor
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
Phone (813) 570-5335
email: Mike.Travis@noaa.gov

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PI: Michael Travis

Purpose of the Project

Dramatic changes in fleet size can indicate significant changes in a fishery and/or alternative fisheries as well as create them. For example, a significant decrease in fishery size can cause significant decreases in effort and catch, which in turn leads losses of income and jobs for fishermen, industry suppliers and fish dealers. Assuming the existence of multiplier effects, the loss of income and jobs to the local economy will be further magnified. However, in the case of multi-species fisheries, a decline in one component of the fishery can simply result in a reallocation of vessels and effort and subsequent growth in another component of the fishery. For example, in the case of Hawaii's pelagic longline fishery, a decline in the swordfish directed component of the fishery could lead to an increase in the tuna directed component. Alternatively, a decline in the entire fishery's fleet size could indicate that vessels and effort have been reallocated to other U.S. longline fisheries. Thus, one region's loss would be another region's gain. In regions where fleet sizes are expanding, management is likely to respond with increased monitoring and measures intended to curb further expansion. Although the impacts of variations in fleet size are not the primary focus of the proposed research, they do illustrate the importance of such changes. Given that importance, it is necessary to determine what causes these changes in fleet size (i.e. what causes a vessel to leave, enter, or remain in a fishery). This is the primary purpose of the proposed research. Given that a vessel or group of vessels has decided to leave a particular fishery, how do they decide which fishery to enter? Determining how fishermen answer that question is the second purpose of the proposed research.

Activities and Progress During FY1998

Various events have precluded significant progress on the project within the past fiscal year. First, Mr. Steve Huffman, who was the primary assistant on this project in the previous year, decided to pursue other employment options as of May 1997. The original intent was to hire a replacement for Mr. Huffman in order to complete the documentation and database for the updated survey of Hawaii longliners conducted in spring and early summer of 1997. The main purpose of that survey was to obtain information on fishermen and/or vessels which had entered the fishery since the completion of the previous survey in 1994. The database and documentation for such remain incomplete at this time due to lack of personnel. The PI intended to hire additional personnel as the survey was expanded to the fleets in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Strand and Associates, the sub-contractor on the project, had similar plans. However, year 2 funds were not received until May 1998. As a result, the project is approximately 9 months or so behind schedule.

As indicated in the PI's last annual report, some economic information was to be provided by the NMFS' Southeast Science Center in Miami. This data is being collected on a voluntary basis via an add-on to logbook forms. However, a review of this data has indicated that only 13.5% of all longline trips in 1996 reported this economic information. And of the data that was provided, much of it was of an incomplete or inconsistent (e.g. inputs reported in different units of measurement) nature and thus unusable for purposes of modeling individual fisherman decisions and behavior. Thus, the need for in-person surveying is even greater than originally believed.

Given the delays in funding and the surveying effort, the previously acquired 1996 data on catch, effort, permits, landings, and prices has become obsolete. In order to match up data for the same time period, the 1997 data must be acquired. On a positive note, the PI has recently been able to obtain this data. Unfortunately, voluntary compliance by the fishermen in supply the voluntary economic data via logbooks has not improved. There appears to be significant problems with the structure/content of the economic questions and the logistics of collecting such information via logbooks. In addition, the structure of the 1997 logbook data is different from that in previous years due to changes in the logbook forms. As a result, the database has become of an immense size and somewhat unwieldy to use via PCs.

With respect to other data procurement issues, the PI was also able to obtain some catch and effort information on U.S. longliners which operated in Fiji during 1995 and 1996. As noted by the providing agency, the South Pacific Commission, the data is not comprehensive since not all trips are included nor does each recorded trip contain all the requested catch and effort data. Still, the PI should be able to make some use of the data, given additional information obtained via interviews with the owners and operators of vessels which had fished in Fiji during that time. In addition, the NMFS' Honolulu Lab has been able to obtain hard copies of logbook forms submitted to California's Department of Fish and Game. Unfortunately, Fish and Game staff did not enter the data into a computerized file, thus leaving this task for Lab staff. The PI has requested that this data be provided to the project. Unfortunately, due to personnel limitations, the Lab has not yet been able to fulfill this request. It is hoped that the data will be in hand within the next few months.

The PI is continuing to work with Dr. Lisa Jordan, now on staff at the University of Minnesota, on research involving labor and wage structures in longline fisheries. We believe the survey data from the Gulf and Atlantic will enhance our research efforts in this area.

Four papers have been completed and reviewed by peers during this past year and should be published in the near future. Two of the papers critically analyze fisheries research methodology as employed in biological, bioeconomic, and economic research. Another paper documents the chronological development of the Hawaii longline industry's regulatory structure. A fourth paper provides a preliminary analysis of factors affecting the entry and exit behavior of fishermen in longline fisheries. The latter paper was presented at the November 1997 PI's Meeting. Another presentation at that meeting dealt with a theoretical model of the fisheries management system. That is, it hopes to explain what managers manage and why. This presentation has not yet resulted in a formal paper. Another presentation was made at the Society and Natural Resource Management Conference held at the University of Missouri from May 27-31, 1998. The presentation's topic was: The Role of Ethnicity and Culture in the Development of Hawaii's Longline Fishery. The presentation has resulted in a draft paper which will be circulated for peer review purposes later this year.

Plans for this Fiscal Year

The PI anticipates that personnel will be brought on board and the survey of the Gulf and Atlantic longline fleets will be undertaken within the next six months. Pre-testing of a new survey instrument with the longline industry is already underway. Thus, surveying should be complete by the end of calendar year 1998. The surveying effort will likely be combined with workshops conducted by NMFS/HMS/HQ in order to promote fisherman participation. The project has developed a five part structure for these fleets composed of the following fisheries:

  1. the Gulf of Mexico Yellowfin tuna fishery,
  2. the South Atlantic Swordfish fishery,
  3. the Mid-Atlantic and New England Swordfish and Bigeye tuna fishery,
  4. the Caribbean Island tuna and Swordfish fishery, and
  5. the Atlantic Distant Water Swordfish fishery
We will use this structure to the extent possible in stratifying our survey sample. Based on the number of active vessels in 1997 and other assorted factors, the population of pelagic longline vessels is approximately 230 vessels.

The PI will lead in coordinating the surveying effort as well as in building a descriptive model of the structure and behavior of the pelagic longline fleets and fishermen. NMFS/HMS/HQ has recently awarded a small contract to a researcher from Louisiana State University, the intended purpose of such is to build production models for the pelagic fisheries. The PI will be working closely with this researcher to ensure that the work ties in with the needs and purposes of the JIMAR project. The sub-contractor will lead in linking data from the various data sources on an individual vessel basis. The sub-contractor will also lead in developing a predictive model of fishermen behavior, particularly with respect to enter/remain/exit decisions. Linking of data (exclusive of the new survey data) and some descriptive analysis should be available by the end of Summer 1998. The predictive model and analysis should be complete in time for the FY1999 Annual Report.

Papers Published in Refereed Journals


Other Papers, Technical Reports, etc.

"What Did He Say? Language Differences Compromise Fisheries Communication", Commercial Fisheries News, February 1997, Vol. 24, No. 6, pp. 48-49.

Students Graduating with MS or Ph.D. Degrees


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This page updated August 17, 2006