UW researchers studying Bristol Bay permit ownership, loss

Mar 24, 2016

The numbers are clear. Fewer Bristol Bay residents hold fishing permits now than did when they were first issued. What’s less clear is why that’s happened.

A team of researchers are in Dillingham this spring to get a better understanding of rural permit loss and its consequences. University of Washington PhD student Jennifer Meredith is surveying past and present permit holders to learn more.

“We’re asking people things about their story,” Meredith said. “Their life history, where they’ve lived, the kind of jobs they’ve done, what their kids do, where their kids live, and then things about their participation in the fishery, social ties, “All the kind of factors that might influence why people move around the region, why they might sell their permit, and also what the consequences might be if they have sold their permit.”

Step one? Practicing the survey. Right now, it’s been taking about 45 minutes to an hour. Permit holders willing to serve as a guinea pig are asked to call Neil Liotta at 843-2705. As an incentive, the team has gift cards for coffee to give out.

In a couple weeks, Meredith and her colleagues will switch to using the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission database to try and capture a random sample.

“We’re randomly selecting our respondents to try and get a real representative sample,” she said. “We’re looking for a couple different groups of people. One is people that were initially allocated a permit in ’75, people that were given a nontransferable permit after the lawsuit, and people that were never given a permit but were around back then, and also people who have had a permit more recently.”

The survey includes Dillingham, and six or seven other Bristol Bay communities, which are still being selected. Meredith said she’s hoping to have about 500 participants. The goal is to get it all done this spring, although Meredith said she’ll stick around longer if needed to get the surveying done. Once she finishes up the work, she’ll still have to put together the surveys and analyze the results. Then, she said she’ll try to come back and present her findings to the community.

Meredith is funding the survey with money she is receiving through her SeaGrant NMFS fellowship.