Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Commercial Fishing Livelihoods, Permit Loss, and the Next Generation in Bristol Bay, Alaska
by Coleman, Jesse M., Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2019, 195; 22592339
Abstract (Summary)

Fishing people across the globe have experienced a fundamental restructuring of their livelihoods, communities, and economies as the result of shifts to rights-based fisheries management in the past half-century. The ideological underpinnings of this movement are based in neoliberalism, which is a belief system that values individualism, competition, private property, and governance by the free market. I examine some of the long-term and latent effects of this and other significant historical transitions in the fishery-dependent Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Relationships between humans and salmon in Bristol Bay evolved over thousands of years and inform the way that many fishing livelihoods are pursued today. In addition to these foundational relationships, many significant changes have occurred that have shocked and stressed the livelihood “fabric” woven many interlocking threads (i.e., the sociocultural, economic, knowledge/skill, political, natural, physical building blocks needed to construct a fishing livelihood in the region). Informed by literature review and ethnography, I describe in detail four such changes: colonization of Bristol Bay’s Indigenous peoples, industrialization of the commercial fishery, implementation of a rights-based access regime (i.e., limited entry permit program), and the sockeye salmon price crash of the early 2000s. These effects linger today and raise questions for the future of the Bay and its fisheries, with respect to two particular issues: the uncertainty around the next generation of fishermen, and the severe loss of locally held permits in the Bay. To address the former, I conducted a survey of local students to measure their perceptions of the fishing industry and of community life. The results of this survey suggest that familial fishing ties, experience in the fishery, subsistence fishing activity, and household economic dependence on commercial fishing income are strong predictors of a student’s desire to be engaged in commercial fishing as an adult. I examine the second issue—the loss of locally held fishing rights since the implementation of limited entry—through the combined analysis of qualitative ethnographic data and quantitative data on commercial fishery permit holdings, subsistence activity, permit holder age, and new entry trends by community and residence category. The immense loss of limited entry permits continues to challenge livelihoods because access to local fisheries is the foundation of not only the region’s economy, but also of the shared identity, history, and culture of local people, family and social networks, and the mechanism by which fishing knowledge, skills, values, and ethics are transferred to the next generation. I suggest that policymakers and fishery managers dispense with neoliberal panaceas, and design fisheries policies that reflect the multiplicity of worldviews held by the policy’s target populations by diversifying their own means and methods for understanding fishery systems.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Carothers, Courtney
Commitee: Donkersloot, Rachel, Adkison, Milo, Greenberg, Joshua
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Fisheries
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social research, Public policy, Aquatic sciences
Keywords: Alaska, Bristol Bay, Fishing communities, Livelihoods, Permit loss, Privatization
Publication Number: 22592339
ISBN: 9781085708043
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