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Marine Fisheries - Social Economic Reports

Marine Fisheries

A Different Kind of Fisheries Science

By Patricia Smith
Fish Eye News
Archive: July 2009

When it comes to fisheries science, most people think of biologists on a boat measuring the length of a red drum or a technician in a lab dissecting a striped bass stomach.

That’s not always the case.

Fisheries science is not just about fish; it’s about people too. People like to catch fish. People like to eat fish. People make a living off fish. People like to watch fish swim.

To some extent, the value of fish directly correlates to the fish’s value to people.

That’s the area of science where Scott Crosson comes in. As manager of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Socio-economics Program, Crosson studies fisheries as they pertain to communities and to money matters.

“There’s a general consensus that fisheries managers can’t effectively manage fish and implement policies unless they know what the social and economic impacts will be,” Crosson said.

Every fishery management plan developed by the Division of Marine Fisheries includes a socio-economics section written by Crosson. He assesses the socio-economic impacts of every rule the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopts.

Some of the impacts are easy to figure, Crosson said. There are computer models that calculate the impact of direct monetary expenditures of the fishing industry, such as purchases for packaging, fuel, boat maintenance, trucking and other goods. These models also figure the impact of those expenditures on the economy as businesses and employees spend the money they earn on other goods around the state.

“We stop tracking the impact when it leaves the state borders,” Crosson said.

Then there are impacts that are more intangible, the social values, the worth that prompts a grandfather to take a grandson fishing, regardless of how many fish they catch. The cost that would force the grandfather to cease these fishing trips might be higher than the trip is monetarily worth.

The same is true for commercial fishing, where entire communities evolve around a fishery, Crosson said.

“Just because something is hard to quantify doesn’t mean that it’s not real or that it doesn’t have value,” Crosson said.

The influence of Crosson and other professionals in his field will likely become more important in the coming years as federal authorities implement recent changes in federal law.

State and federal laws already required a socio-economics section for every Fishery Management Plan. Now, federal fisheries councils, such the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, will be required to adopt fishery management plans that stay within catch limits specified by its science and statistical committees.

That means that socio-economists like Crosson, as well as other scientists who sit on the science committees of these councils, will have more say how marine fisheries operate.

/fen-07-09  
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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