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Social Science Supporting Fishery Management in West Coast Fisheries

We collect, analyze, and report social science data in multiple contexts to inform fisheries management and meet fisheries regulations, such as National Standard 8. Our studies aim to understand further and incorporate social science in the management.

Three different studies under this project currently support fisheries management with social science data.  

  1. The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Social Study collects survey and interview data to measure social changes associated with the groundfish trawl catch shares program on the West Coast.  
  2. The Fishing Community by Gear/Species project utilizes existing data to characterize fishing communities' involvement with different federally managed fisheries. The additional analysis highlights fishing diversity within selected communities, and the gear diversity as well.  
  3. The third project utilizes oral histories from a wide range of fishing communities to preserve local knowledge contributing to an extensive historical database housed at the Voices website. Each of these studies provides a wealth of social science data, and, together, they support concepts, and provide a great source of information to support management. 

West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery Social Study

In 2011, the West Coast Groundfish Fishery implemented a catch shares program. We have collected socio-cultural data over time to understand the effects on the fishermen and their communities. We conducted a baseline data collection effort in 2010, before the implementation of the program. We undertook a second round of data collection in 2012, one-year post-implementation, and a third-round in 2016 one year post-quota share trading. We expect to proceed with future data collection on a five-year cycle from 2016. The results contributed to the initial five-year review of the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share program in 2017 and will add to the next five-year reviews in 2022 or 2023.   

Fishing Communities by Gear and Species

Federally managed fisheries operate under Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), National Standard 8, requires that we consider human fishing communities and the potential impact of management to those communities when significant actions are taken under these plans. This project will make extensive information about fishing communities' involvement in various fisheries readily available on-demand to fisheries managers and other stakeholders for management applications as needed. The objectives are to:

  • Understand which communities are important to each FMP and vice versa.
  • Within each of those communities, to understand the diversity of fisheries each of those communities participates in.
  • Understand the diversity of gear they utilize. 

Voices from the West Coast

Voices is a national oral histories archives database that houses thousands of oral history accounts. In 2013, we initiated an extra effort to increase the West Coast contributions and named Voices from the West Coast. At the time, the national Voices collection only contained five oral histories from the West Coast. After securing Preserve America Grant funding in 2013, we began collecting oral histories from fishing and coastal community members on the West Coast. We have collected over 150 oral histories and aim to continue to preserve the knowledge of marine resource stakeholders well into the future.'


Russell, S.M., M. Van Oostenburg, A. Vizek. 2018.  Adapting to Catch Shares: Perspectives of West Coast Groundfish Trawl Participants. Coastal Management. 46:6, 603-620, doi:https://10.1080/08920753.2018.15222491.

Steiner, E., S. Russell., A. Vizek, L. Pfeiffer, A. Warlick. 2018. Crew in the West Coast Groundfish Catch Share Program: Changes in Compensation and Job Satisfaction. Coastal Management. 46:6, 656-676. doi:https://10.1080/08920753.2018.1522495.

Cramer, L.A., Flathers, D., D. Caracciolo, S. Russell, F. Conway, 2018. Graying of the Fleet: Perceived Impacts on Coastal Resilience and Local Policy. Marine Policy, 96:27-35.

PFMC and NMFS. 2017. West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program: Five-year review.  Approved by the Pacific Fishery Management Council November 16th 2017, Costa Mesa, CA. 

Russell. S.M., A. Vizek, M. Van Oostenburg.  In prep.  The Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Social Study: Part 1- A Multi-Year Analysis by Study Participant Role. Program.U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech Memo.  NMFS-NWFSC-10X

Russell. S.M., A. Arias-Arthur, K. Sparks, A. Varney.  2016. West Coast Communities and Catch Shares:  The Early Years of Social Change. 2016. Coastal Management.  44(5), 1-11.

Calhoun. S., F. Conway, S. Russell.  2016. Acknowledging the Voice of Women: Implications for Fisheries Management and Policy.  Marine Policy. 74. 292-299.

Russell, S.M., K. Sparks, A. Arias-Arthurs, and A. Varney. 2014.  The Pacific Groundfish Fishery Social Study: An Initial Theme Based Report. Agenda Item J5b. NWFSC Report 5. November 2014.  Report for the Pacific Fishery Management Council. 


Suzanne Russell
Julia Whyte
Brianna Haugen