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Social and Economic Research on California’s Ocean, Coastal, and Freshwater Resources

Our team studies social and economic issues important to the management of fisheries, protected species, and ecosystems.

A program of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Fisheries Ecology Division.

The Fisheries Economics Team conducts social science research on issues important to the management of fisheries, protected species, and ecosystems. We focus on three areas:

  • Water quality and allocation issues affecting habitat used by threatened and endangered salmonids
  • Usage and economic value of ocean and coastal resources, and public preferences regarding resource management policies
  • Economic and social dynamics of fishing communities and fleets, with an emphasis on groundfish and salmon fisheries

All our research is centered around the linkages between ecological and social systems, and projecting and mitigating impacts of climate and other ecosystem changes on coastal communities.

Our Research

Salmonid Habitat and Water Resource Economics

Threatened and endangered salmonids require high quality habitat in freshwater rivers and streams. Much of this critical habitat in California and southern Oregon is affected by chronic low-streamflow conditions or other water quality problems associated with diversion of water for human use. To aid in the recovery of these protected species, we study water allocation issues in the region, including:

  • The relationship between water extraction, instream flow requirements, and the agricultural economy
  • Benefits, costs, and distributional impacts of dam removal and other habitat improvement projects

Ecosystem Values and Public Preferences

Setting effective fishery and ecosystem management objectives requires knowledge of public preferences for the use of ecosystem services. We contribute to this knowledge by studying people’s use of ocean and coastal resources in the United States, the economic value of these resources, and preferences for alternative policy options. Our research includes surveys and analysis of:

  • Ocean recreational activities, including recreational fishing demand
  • Marine protected area values
  • Seafood demand and trade
  • Potential use of restored fish habitat for recreation

Fishing Fleets and Communities

To aid in the management of West Coast groundfish and salmon fisheries, we study the economic and social dynamics of fishing communities. Our research focuses on:

  • The role of cooperative organizations in fishing communities
  • Productivity among fishing vessels
  • Geographic distribution of commercial fishery landings

We also work to improve data collection and data access to produce better assessments of the relationship between ecosystem services and human well-being. Projects include:

  • Development of data and measures on the spatial location of fishing
  • Production of a database of socioeconomic data

Our Service

Fisheries Economics Team members currently serve on scientific advisory bodies including the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (PSMFC) PacFIN Committee. Indirect technical support includes collaborating with the PSMFC to develop data tools that will enable more efficient access to existing data sources for other researchers, resource managers, and the general public.

Our Collaborations

Our team collaborates with many government and academic partners. Government partners includes colleagues at other regional NOAA Fisheries Science Centers, the PSMFC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Sea Grant. Academic collaborators include faculty, staff, and students affiliated with the University of California Santa Cruz, University of Dayton, University of Nebraska’s Water for Food Institute, Idaho State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California State University Monterey Bay, Resources for the Future, and the French Research Institute for the Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER).

Our Team

Team Leader: Cameron Speir