Social Indicators for Fishing Communities

NOAA Fisheries developed social indicators to characterize community well-being for coastal communities engaged in fishing activities.

Credit Amber Himes Cornell (Location Petersburg).jpg

Boats in a harbor in Petersburg, Alaska (Photo credit: Amber Himes-Cornell)

Social indicators are numerical measures that describe and evaluate the social, economic, and psychological well-being of individuals or communities. They were developed to characterize community well-being for coastal communities engaged in fishing activities. Social indicators comprise one variable or several components combined into an index.

NOAA Fisheries Social Indicators Toolbox is comprised of a suite of social, economic, and environmental indicators that describe and evaluate a community’s ability to respond to change. In addition, the Toolbox includes several metrics that reflect the relative level of each community’s involvement in commercial and recreational fishing, placing fisheries dependence into a human context. The indicator map and graphing tool enables users to conduct and download custom queries for over 4,600 coastal communities in 23 states. Explore the indicator map and graphing tool.

Why Use Social Indicators?

It is broadly recognized that social vulnerability and resilience influence a community’s ability to respond and adapt to change. Fishing communities can face considerable uncertainty from unanticipated fluctuations in harvest, which directly affect fishermen’s household income. Changes in regulations may also affect fishing households and communities. Further, fishing communities, like all coastal communities, increasingly face threats from severe storms, flooding, and, more long term, sea level rise. Over time, all of these factors may affect the social vulnerability and resilience of a community.


Are Fishing Communities More Vulnerable than Other Coastal Communities?

NOAA Fisheries Social Indicators highlight the relationship between people and the environment and the importance of that connection. In addition, our research demonstrates that these indicators are an important tool for Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management. For example, as shown below, communities that are dependent on commercial fishing can be more socially vulnerable than other communities, underscoring the need to determine which communities may be affected by changing management and environmental conditions.


Social Vulnerability in Commercial Fishing Communities


Last updated by Office of Science and Technology on November 08, 2019