Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:17 PM on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NOAA takes steps to conduct survey

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Fine tuning questions to be used in a future survey, Amber Himes, a social scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, and Brian Garber-Yonts, a NOAA economist, spent time in Homer the week of Aug. 29, conducting research interviews with charter fishing operators and guides.

The research will fill gaps in data currently available to aid an analysis of economic effects of decisions impacting saltwater sport fishing participants, including the charter industry and associated communities, said Julie Speegle, public affairs officer for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau.

"To improve the scientific analysis of the effects of regulatory restrictions, currently in place or potential, on charter businesses, labor and associated business and communities, it is necessary to first obtain a better general understanding of the charter industry," said Speegle.

in an email to the Homer News.

Some information is already collected through such avenues as Alaska Department of Fish and Game charter vessel logbooks. However, data on vessel and crew characteristics, services offered to clients, specific information regarding operations and fishing behavior, and costs and earnings must be collected directly from the industry through new data collection surveys.

"Meetings with members and representatives of the charter fishing sector were held in September 2008 in Homer and Sitka to determine the support of conducting a study to gather this type of information," said Speegle. "Attendees expressed some concern about the amount of information they might be asked to provide, and the time costs to them associated with possible data collections, but also were supportive of the idea of collecting information necessary for NOAA Fisheries to better understand the charter vessel harvest sector."

In 2010, researchers from the Alaska Fisheries Service Center or t he National Marine Fisheries Service began evaluating data sources, developing possible survey material and evaluating data collection methods that would minimize the burden on responders and maximize response rates.

Two survey approaches have been develop. First is a survey of Alaska charter business owners to gather annual costs and earnings information about charter businesses and the general business characteristics of charter boat operations. It will include costs and sources for services, equipment and supplies purchased by the businesses, services offered to clients and associated sales revenues, crew and vessel characteristics and historical fishery participation. The second is a trip-based survey of charter guides to supplement what is already reported in the ADF&G logbooks, with data to include travel times and distances, input costs for charter trips, what types of non-fishing activities occur on a trip, if any; client characteristics and factors used by guides to determine trip itineraries.

Both data-collection methods will help establish a baseline understanding of the halibut charter sector that can be used by agencies and the charter industry to understand the impacts of management actions under consideration, said Speegle. The plan is to begin using the surveys next year, pending their completion and clearance by the Office of Management and Budget.

While the survey research is relevant to the catch sharing plan currently being considered by NOAA, Speegle said it is neither motivated by nor timed specifically to address the proposed plan. It is being funded by NMFS Office of Science and Technology.

During Himes and Garber-Yonts visit in Homer, they held eight interviews. Similarly, their colleague and co-principal investigator, Dr. Dan Lew, also conducted interviews with charter operators in Juneau earlier in August.

Statistical summaries and results of the analyzed data gathered will be reported publicly when the research is complete; however, data specific to individual responders is not released.

"Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and NOAA administrative rules, the information collected in the interviews we conducted this week and data reported by individual participants when the surveys are implemented are considered confidential," said Speegle.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.