“Fishing reform drives inequality in Alaska”

A Blog Post by guest bloggers Michelle Dowling, Chibu Okezie, and Dalton Hedin from EMP 462: Coastal and Marine Planning

High Country News and Investigate-West collaborated on an article titled “Fishing reform drives inequality in Alaska”. This article provides a local fisherman’s perspective of how the Alaska Individual Fishing Quota Halibut and Sablefish Program has negatively impacted the economy of tribes in Kake, Alaska.


The author interviews Henrich Kadake, the mayor of Kake and a board member of the tribal corporation. He has lived in Kake most of his life and has seen how reform has caused economic inequality to grow over the years. Fishing had historically been the main source of work in the area. Prior to the program implementation, the area was known for its chaotic and unsustainable halibut fishing seasons.

In 1995 the National Marine Fisheries Service created the catch-share program to award a permanent allotment of halibut fishing rights, based on historic catches, to a limited number of boat owners. Because of this, fishermen with quota allotments were then able to fish for longer seasons. This provided more flexibility to go out in safer weather and deliver fresh fish regularly rather than annually. Each quota-holder is allowed a certain percentage of the total catch. Each year the feds re-assess the halibut population and determine what that total catch should be.

The quota program was intended as an incentive to keep fish populations healthy and to advance conservation and economic goals. Yet as a result the local fishing economy has experienced a severe decline. Over the last five years, the village’s population has dropped by half, to 500, as people leave to seek work elsewhere. However, another coastal town, Petersburg, lies just fifty miles southeast. In contrast, Petersburg, is a predominantly white, wealthy, fishing community who has continued to prosper since the reform.

The economic hardships of Kake were a result of several variables including rural isolation, harsh winters, a lack of cash flow, poor fishing infrastructure, and a dramatic spike in fuel prices. All of this prompted many locals to sell their quota to fishermen in other towns, such as Petersburg, in order to pay for basic necessities such as heat and food. When the program began, forty-two Kake fishermen owned halibut and sablefish quota.  As of 2012 only nine did. Kake’s share of the catch dropped from 277,256 pounds of halibut to 64,053 pounds. The community is currently advocating for a $40 million federal project that would help to build better roads for improved access to other towns, and a local hydroelectric power plant that could provide affordable, local, power.

This case study is an example of how there is a complicated marriage linking fisheries and economics. It is important to take into account systemic disproportionate economic advantages, access, and opportunities between stakeholders when planning policy and programs in order to minimize any negative unintended consequences.

What is the Secret to Sustainable Seafood? The Pacific halibut fishery may hold the answer

by guest Bloggers Kevin Courtain, Forrest Hansen, Max Niehaus from EMP 462: Coastal and Marine Planning

Orion McCarthy, a graduate from the University of Maryland, wrote a lovely article summarizing thhalibute hardships facing fisheries today. From over fishing, to lack of scientific knowledge, to destruction of habitat, McCarthy referenced sources such as Wikipedia, YouTube videos, and to provide substantial “peer reviewed data” in this article.

McCarthy’s focus is on the Pacific Halibut fisheries of the North West coast of the United States, referencing the International Pacific Halibut Commission as the source of scientific data drawn for fisheries purposes. McCarthy states, “The International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC for short, is an international organization established through a treaty between the United States and Canada in 1923 to manage populations of Pacific halibut from the coast of California up to the Bering Sea in Alaska.”

The data cited on the IPHC is accurate and his sources check out. However, upon further investigation of the sources later in the article, McCarthy lacks academic sources with empirical scientific data. The data collected through IPHC acts as a good reference for other marine fisheries management and ecosystem analyses as a whole. When referencing the methods used for halibut fishing, he claims that line fishing is the lesser impacting method compared to trawling, gillnetting, and purse seining, yet his sources only describe the process and do not establish a comparative analysis.

McCarthy wraps up his informative article on the Pacific Halibut by addressing YOU, the reader, and the methods you can use to prevent overfishing. He states that, “Apps such as Seafood Watch, created by the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, offer clear and informative reviews of different types of seafood, labeling them as best choice, good alternative, or avoid.”

This article brought an enthusiasm for scientific fisheries management within the Pacific Halibut realm, but did not offer substantial scientific articles as references causing disconnect between McCarthy’s claims and the sources he cited.

Four Fish Discussion Blog Post: The State of Atlantic Cod

By EMP 462 Guest Bloggers: Woody Vernard, Kyle Johnson, and Kelly Fox

According to recent report by WGBH Boston, The North Atlantic cod fishery was once world famous for the unbelievable numbers of fish found there. When John Cabot first discovered George’s Bank, he said that one could have walked on the fish, they were so thick. In the 1950’s, new technology such as flash freezers, sonar, radar, and increased engine power and range allowed fisherman to decimate the cod population. Fisherman were so efficient, that by 1992, the fishery had collapsed and Canada closed the fishery with no opening in site.


PhD student Craig Knickle accompanies researcher George Rose, who has been studying North Atlantic fisheries. (Source: WGBH)

Today, the effects of this closure are still felt in small towns in Canada, such as Petley, as fishing village in Newfoundland, according to WGBH. Without cod to provide jobs, the local economy collapsed as well. People left in alarming rates. Today, Petley has almost no young children.

“Young people are wiped out,” Clenche said. “I have a two and a half year old at home and he has no playmates. Children are almost a thing of the past here.”

Canadian politicians are looking for a resurgence in cod numbers to provide jobs once more, and while signs are looking up, scientists are still skeptical. George Rose, and expert on Atlantic cod and author says that while cod numbers are definitely rebounded, the number is still only a fraction of what the fishery used to be. He cautions that more time is needed for cod to attain historic numbers, and that research in the Atlantic is complicated and difficult. Just because there is an uptick in numbers does not mean that the fishery should be reopened.

Humboldt County faces a similar dilemma. Salmon stocks here used to support many families, but numbers of salmon have steadily declined across California, and many experts believe salmonids will become extinct within 50 years in our state. With the example of the Atlantic cod collapse and its effects on local economies, hopefully Humboldt County will be able to help salmonids recover before it is too late.

Chile is Ready for Coastal Earthquake Hazards, Are We?

Posted by guest bloggers: Rob Dumouchel, Monique Gil, Evan Johnson, and Austin Theriault from EMP 462: Coastal and Marine Planning

Ships are seen in the street after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Coquimbo city, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Mauricio Ubilla

Ships are seen in the street after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Coquimbo city, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Mauricio Ubilla

Chile is no stranger to earthquakes, on September 16th Chileans experienced their third quake over magnitude 8 since 2010. The quake was paired with a tsunami which hit the Chilean coast (and triggered warnings along large portions of the California coast as well) resulting in a remarkably low death toll, and minimal damage to property. How did the coastal communities of Chile manage to absorb the consequences of these hazards so well?

The New York Times, reporting on the event (in  an article titled “Why Chile’s Latest Big Earthquake Has a Smaller Death Toll”) found that while Chile’s success was in part geographic and geologic luck, preparation and planning for resiliency were substantial factors in reducing the magnitude of the disaster. Chile learned from past experiences (such as the 1960 Valdivia earthquake) the importance of preemptive measures (such as building codes) and has since implemented standards (similar to what we have in California) that today make the country much better prepared for disaster events, such as the earthquake and tsunami experienced last week. Chile also prepares for disasters by practicing earthquake drills with coastal communities and improving emergency response and warning systems. Chileans are alerted quickly and know exactly how to respond when an earthquake or tsunami strikes.

As Coastal & Marine Planning students, we wonder how Humboldt County would hold up to large seismic activity and an accompanying tsunami. We need to plan for  numerous hazards that would be triggered by a magnitude 8+ earthquake, beyond the event itself. For example, a tsunami wave is a major concern for the coastal towns Manila and Samoa. Aldaron Laird has identified levee breaches that are a major concern all along the coast of Humboldt Bay. Landslides along the 3 roadways into the county could effectively cut us off from the rest of the state, making it difficult to evacuate or have outside help sent in. Various forms of infrastructure, including wastewater processing facilities, power generation facilities, hospitals, water treatment plants, a fuel depot and a decommissioned nuclear power plant would potentially be inundated and destroyed.

Although no one knows when the next big earthquake will hit Humboldt County, there are plans in place which have been developed by the County’s Office of Emergency Management to help us get through future natural disasters. You can view Humboldt’s Emergency Operations Plan here, or check out the various contingency plans for different events here and decide for yourself – are we ready?

Planning for Sea Level Rise in the San Fransico Bay Area

by guest bloggers: Jason Landers, German Gordo, Rodilei Silva Morais, and Chad Yoakley from EMP 462: Coastal & Marine Planning

It is common knowledge that climate change will bring about new and potentially irreversible impacts to many coastal communities throughout the nation. Climate science proves that coastal communities are vulnerable to sea level rise (SLR), however, many counties and cities are not effectively planning for the threat of SLR. A recent article by Emily Dugdale in the San Francisco Public Press surveyed 13 cities and counties in the Bay Area to assess their SLR planning efforts.

According to their findings, few counties and cities are effectively planning for SLR and limiting growth along the coast. Most of the participating cities and counties are studying SLR, but many of the proposed projects in the Bay Area do not incorporate the threat of a rising ocean nor are the projects required to be flood-proofed. Further, less than half of the cities and counties have completed vulnerability assessments in their coastal zones.

The results of this survey revealed that there is a significant gap in public awareness of sea level rise and its impacts on vulnerable communities in the future. Of the 13 participants, only four – San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View, and Santa Clara – have put significant effort into planning for SLR.

The table below highlights the actions that Bay Area cities and counties are currently taking.


Are We Prepared for Off-Shore Drilling in the Arctic? Because it’s coming.

Prirazlomnoye-rig-250A recent Yale Environment 360 article highlights some genuine concerns about our lack of preparedness for off-shore drilling in the Arctic. Russia, Canada, and the USA are making serious strides towards drilling in the Arctic but there are a number of concerns about whether countries and companies are ready to safely drill in the harsh environment of the Arctic. The article doesn’t touch much on the many issues that befell US attempts to conduct exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in 2012. The drilling program ran into numerous problems, including the grounding of one of their drilling rigs on Sitkalidak Island – part of Kodiak Island and near to the Alaska Native village of Old Harbor where we have conducted fisheries research. The Department of the Interior released a report that reviewed Shell’s 2012 Oil and Gas Exploration Program and it was not pretty.

“The company experienced major problems with its 2012 program, some of which have been well-publicized. Shell’s difficulties have raised serious questions regarding its ability to operate safely and responsibly in the challenging and unpredictable conditions offshore Alaska.”

“The review has confirmed that Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans…Likewise additional problems encountered by Shell…also indicate serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore in Alaska.”

An oil spill in the Arctic could have devastating consequences for marine life, fisheries, and Alaska Native communities that reside in the area. It doesn’t sound like we are near prepared to do it safely.

Netflix Documentary Touts MPAs as the Marine Conservation Solution — What do you think?

Netflix released a trailer for a new marine conservation documentary called Mission Blue. I am excited to see it. Sylvia Earle seems like a unique woman with an impressive history. At the end of the trailer they reveal the ultimate mission of Mission Blue. “To protect the ocean in the same way that we now protect the land.” Earle says, “I wish for a global network of marine protected areas to save and restore the ocean.”

This mission brings up some questions:

(1) Will a land-based model of conservation fully work for the fluid environment of the sea? Can MPAs help conserve fish, marine mammal, and shark populations that move long distances and easily cross boundaries?

(2) The land model of conservation through protected areas has a troubled history of dispossession of Indigenous groups from their land, of disenfranchisement of locals from important livelihood activities, and of top-down implementation and management. How can we make sure that the ocean model doesn’t replicate those troubling patterns?

We’ll have to see if the documentary addresses any of these questions when it comes out August 15th.


Laurie Richmond
Department of Environmental Science & Management
Humboldt State University
1 Harspt St. Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 826-3202
Natural Resources Building Room 218