Economic factors are among the considerations taken into account by fisheries regulators, such as the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, when making allocative and other regulatory decisions. Virtually every fishery management and regulatory decision has some direct or indirect allocation effect with inevitable economic consequences.
In the past, fisheries regulatory bodies often made regulatory decisions motivated by economic considerations that were not open to public discussion and debate. Any such economic analyses focus almost exclusively on the economy of the seafood industry (harvesters and processors) and its private use of a public resource (fish), to the exclusion of the recreation industry (sport fishing, personal use) and the public’s use of a public resource.
Today, as information for the economic values generated by the recreation industry and sport fishing become better understood and documented, fisheries regulatory processes are now pressured to provide an effective avenue for active and open involvement of a broad cross-section of the public in management decisions for all fisheries. This opening of the decision making process fosters more comprehensive resource stewardship, consideration of the diverse needs and values of all stakeholders, and balanced decision-making and addresses the need to create benefits for the State of Alaska.
To that end, KRSA produced a landmark report: Economic Values of Sport, Personal Use, and Commercial Salmon Fishing in Upper Cook Inlet . The report reviews the available studies and agency data assessing the economic values associated with salmon in Upper Cook Inlet to serve as background for evaluating the potential impacts of fishery allocation decisions. The report includes information on participation, economic significance, net economic values, and economic impact analysis, as well as allocation.
The comprehensive nature of KRSA’s report serves as a blueprint in other areas where there is a lack of such compiled data for fisheries regulators, managers and the general public. Why is this important? Because without such data readily available, the default assumption of many fishery regulators and managers that only the seafood industry generates substantial economic values from allocations of our public fisheries resources is never confronted and challenged.
The KRSA economic report shows that Upper Cook Inlet is unique in all of Alaska’s fisheries, supporting the state’s largest and most economically valuable recreational and personal use fisheries, where the values of sport and personal use salmon fisheries greatly surpass those of the commercial salmon fisheries by every available measure. The compiled economic data presents a complex new challenge to Alaska – how do we adhere to regulatory and management policies and practices that recognize the central economic role of sport and personal use fisheries in a region long administered principally as a commercial fishery.
For salmon in Upper Cook Inlet, more than 80% of the economic values are generated from the 20% allocation to sport fishing and personal use, while less than 20% of the economic values are generated from the 80% allocation to commercial harvesters and processors.
Yet for salmon in Upper Cook Inlet, commercial fisheries still maintain a default priority over sport fisheries in the decision making processes of most fishery regulators and managers. If the public’s use of a public resource generates higher economic values than comparable values associated with the private (commercial) use of that public resource, on what grounds is such "commercial" priority still granted and justified?