Management impact on fishing families studied

In a series of workshops in five Alaska communities, National Marine Fisheries Service hopes to learn more about the impact of fisheries management on Alaska’s fishing families.

Perspectives on fishing family dynamics that emerge from the workshops will inform the next phase of this research, according to Marysia Szymkowiak, a social scientist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau, and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Workshops have already been held in Juneau, Homer, Sitka and Anchorage, and a fifth workshop is slated for June 4 at Kodiak.

During the Anchorage workshop on May 7, several participants spoke about the value of family fisheries as a source of nutritional food, income and family dynamics, particularly in a multi-generational setting, for teaching the next generation a strong work ethic.

At fish camps, everyone has a job to do, and learns to take it seriously, they said. When there is work to be done related to the harvesting of fish and getting those fish then to processing facilities, everyone pitches in until those tasks are completed, and from such practices children learn the importance of hard work, making them more likely to be successful in their adult lives, they said.

“The inter-community themes that are emerging from these workshops are in and of themselves incredibly valuable for people and fisheries managers to understand,” Szymkowiak said.

The second component of this effort is for us to understand what kinds of research may need to follow these workshops, to dig more into specific items or questions that emerge from the discussions.

Szymkowiak noted that over recent decades Alaska’s fisheries have seen many regulatory, environmental, social and economic changes which could differentially affect the dynamics in fishing families.

One participating setnetter spoke of several generations of her large family engaged in commercial fisheries in rural Alaska, and the profound impact fishing as a family has had on their lives.

Principal investigators in the study include Szymkowiak, Sarah Marrinan of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Stephen Kasperski and Alan Haynie, both of Alaska Fisheries Science Center. NMFS plans to finalize the workshops by fall and summarize findings for distribution.

For more information about the study, contact Szymkowiak at marysia.szymkowiak@noaa.gov.