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Adapting to changes in fishing opportunity portfolios: abundance, availability, and access

To advance current work on socio-economic risk and vulnerabilities in Northeast coastal fisheries, we propose a novel tool that helps communities scope potential adaptation options and connects stakeholders with relevant scientific information on changing ocean conditions. The approach is centered on the “fishing opportunity portfolio”: a weighted aggregate of the fishing opportunities utilized by individuals or communities that integrates social, management, and biophysical factors. This index combines three factors that influence fishing opportunities: (1) Abundance and productivity of the target species, (2) Availability of the target species within the typical area fished, and (3) Access to the fishery – the permits and quota, spatial and temporal restrictions, and other regulatory measures that constrain legal access to the fishery.

The fishing opportunity portfolio will be a useful new tool to highlight leverage points for fishery management that are grounded in human behavioral responses to variability in physical, ecological, and biological processes. Using a mixed methods approach (ethnography and semi-structured questionnaires, surveys, mapping, and modelling techniques), we will generate measures of Access, Abundance, and Availability and examine changes and variability in the fishing opportunity portfolios of fishers within five Northeast U.S. fishing communities: Cushing, ME; Newport, RI; Point Pleasant, NJ; Cape May, NJ; and Wanchese, NC. Sites represent a wide range of geography (Maine to North Carolina) and climate vulnerability (Colburn et al. 2016, Jepson and Colburn 2013). In addition, we will request input from NOAA Sea Grant and local extension programs to adjust these pilot communities if needed. To develop and validate fishing opportunity portfolios, we will combine information on fishing practices in these sites with measures of abundance and availability of fishing stocks. These data will allow us to identify temporal trends in fishing opportunities historically and out to 2050. Finally, we will assess adaptation to changes in the fishing opportunity portfolio and hold meetings to communicate results back to fishers, community leaders, and fishery managers.

This proposal directly addresses the broader CSI goal of providing “Support for innovative, applicable and transferable approaches for decision making, especially for risk characterization in the context of a variable and changing climate.” We also address two of the specific goals of this competition. We develop a new tool to “Assess socio-economic risks and vulnerabilities of fishing communities to climate related variability and change in marine ecosystems.” Our analysis of changes in abundance and productivity for community fishing opportunity portfolios will also be used to “Communicate risks of changing ocean conditions to inform effective planning and management.”

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