4
Adequacy of Social and Economic Data

The 1996 amendments to the MSFCMA and recent court cases have increased pressures on NMFS and the regional FMCs to carry out detailed economic and social impact-assessment analyses of management alternatives. Few data have been systematically collected for that purpose. Preliminary efforts to improve the collection of social and economic data are being undertaken by several bodies, including NMFS, and there is planning for the development of centralized databases at regional science centers.

Although several recent NRC reports (NRC, 1996b; 1998b; 1999a,c; 2000a,b) recognized the importance of social and economic factors for fisheries, virtually no evaluation of social-science data or models appeared in any of these previous reports, even though several committees involved social scientists and addressed social-science questions. With National Standard 1 as a reference point, a review of the ability to perform required economic and social analysis could be based on National Standards 5 and 8 (see Appendix C for a listing of the National Standards). The National Standards of the MSFCMA are not the only legislative mandates that require analysis of the economic and social dimensions of fisheries management. For example, “efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources” in National Standard 5 can refer to the end use of the fishery resource, and management decisions can result in a shift of fish production to lower-valued goods (for example, fish suitable for top-grade human consumption could be shifted to fishmeal production because a “race to fish” results in



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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service 4 Adequacy of Social and Economic Data The 1996 amendments to the MSFCMA and recent court cases have increased pressures on NMFS and the regional FMCs to carry out detailed economic and social impact-assessment analyses of management alternatives. Few data have been systematically collected for that purpose. Preliminary efforts to improve the collection of social and economic data are being undertaken by several bodies, including NMFS, and there is planning for the development of centralized databases at regional science centers. Although several recent NRC reports (NRC, 1996b; 1998b; 1999a,c; 2000a,b) recognized the importance of social and economic factors for fisheries, virtually no evaluation of social-science data or models appeared in any of these previous reports, even though several committees involved social scientists and addressed social-science questions. With National Standard 1 as a reference point, a review of the ability to perform required economic and social analysis could be based on National Standards 5 and 8 (see Appendix C for a listing of the National Standards). The National Standards of the MSFCMA are not the only legislative mandates that require analysis of the economic and social dimensions of fisheries management. For example, “efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources” in National Standard 5 can refer to the end use of the fishery resource, and management decisions can result in a shift of fish production to lower-valued goods (for example, fish suitable for top-grade human consumption could be shifted to fishmeal production because a “race to fish” results in

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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service flooding the market with product). Or it can refer to the cost of harvesting and processing, which can also be affected by management. National Standard 8 requires determining whether “fishing communities” are affected (there are some guidelines, but there is considerable debate about what constitutes a fishing community within the intent of MSFCMA); assessing what is required for their sustained participation in the fisheries and minimizing the economic effects on communities to be consistent with the conservation mandates of National Standard 1; and carrying out economic and social impact analyses. In addition to the MSFCMA, economic impact analyses are required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and have been a focus of litigation and have important social and economic implications. NMFS has taken important steps to address the issue of economic and other social-science research, but much remains to be done. NMFS has developed guidelines for economic analysis of fishery management actions and has recently revised its guidelines for social-impact assessment. Those guidelines specify the types of questions that should be answered (How will income and employment be affected? How will the costs and benefits of an action be distributed among the various stakeholders?) and the types of analyses that are necessary to answer them. If the guidelines were followed in every instance, litigation resulting from noncompliance with the RFA probably would be reduced drastically. However, NMFS and the council system do not have the data or the personnel necessary to complete all such required studies. NMFS has adopted a plan to improve social-science capability in the fisheries management system. The plan calls for 96 new social science positions in the next few years, with a balance of experts to be spread throughout the regions and at NMFS headquarters and hiring that will take place in stages. The first round of searches is currently under way, and some appointments have been made. Until these positions are filled, NMFS’s ability to do the social-science research and monitoring necessary to accomplish its goals will be seriously compromised. NMFS has recently instituted a policy change that will require the regional councils to complete the documentation to comply with NEPA, RFA, and other statutory or executive order requirements for analysis of management alternatives before a final vote on a FMP. In the past, councils and NMFS have been criticized for focusing on one management alternative (the council’s preferred alternative) and then doing the NEPA and RFA analysis to justify the selected option after electing to adopt it; this violates

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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service the intent of the laws. NMFS has provided the councils with supplemental funds to collect data and hire temporary staff to perform the required analysis. The regional approach will be useful because the availability of the required data varies from region to region and from fishery to fishery. In some cases, especially for the more valuable fisheries, the quantity and quality of data appear to be quite good, and the work done in the regions to collect them is commendable. In other cases, virtually no data are available; this is especially true for non-economic data concerning the social and cultural dimensions of fisheries. NMFS hopes this change in procedure will ensure that the analytical requirements of its legal mandates are met and, as a result, should allow NMFS to have greater success in defending its management actions and reducing the number of legal challenges brought against it. However, it was necessary to consider the long-run implications of the policy in terms of the charge to this committee. With respect to adequacy of data, the supplementary funds for data collection may help in the short term, but plans need to be made for the regular collection, storage, and retrieval of this type of data in a manner that is analogous to those of data collected for stock assessment analysis. There have been many reports on what types of social and economic data are necessary to perform the required analyses, but NMFS does not appear to have an organized plan for determining social-science data needs and beginning the collection process. NMFS has cooperated with states and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to carry out a pilot study of the routine collection of economic and social data from commercial fishing enterprises; this is being done through the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program with NMFS port agents collecting the data, but it is not clear whether there will be a sustained federal commitment to the effort or whether the states will follow through. The development of new methods is less of an issue for social-science analyses than for stock assessment. With stock assessment analysis, NMFS scientists make up a substantial proportion of the total professionals in the field, and the issues can be case-specific for a particular stock of fish. Conversely, much of the social-science methodological work that is being done in other areas can be transferred to fisheries in a relatively straightforward manner. Some councils and NMFS regional offices may be able to redirect personnel to accomplish these studies with minimal training. However, considerable innovative social-science research will be necessary to answer questions of population dynamics and resource access and this research must be integrated into assessment methods. The scientific

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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service foundation of economics and other social sciences will also be central to fisheries applications if impact analyses are subject to the same degree of critical review as stock assessment analyses. The new attention of the councils to social and economic impact analysis has not been tested, but there probably will be greater focus by the councils and constituents on socioeconomic analyses and greater demands for high-quality stock assessments. When the analyses of preferred alternatives are presented before council decisions, they will be subject to more critical scrutiny than in the past. The analyses will provide an assessment of the likely distribution of costs and benefits of different regulatory alternatives. Projecting the impacts of regulatory alternatives on small businesses and communities requires dealing with very high levels of uncertainty and complexity; this is analogous to the current situation in fish stock assessment. In addition, new tools, such as geographic information systems, and greater theoretical attention to the spatial dimensions of fishing will require higher levels of training and expertise. NMFS would be wise to assign some of its new social scientists exclusively to monitoring and peer-review activities. NMFS must ensure that the personnel who prepare analyses for management plans are not called on to act in a review capacity as well. In developing a plan for the effective use of its new social scientists, NMFS and the councils should consider other alternatives to ensure high-quality social science by continuing the fellowships in marine resource economics (discussed in the next chapter) but expanding or redefining them to include support for talented doctoral students in other social-science fields, using the existing cooperative agreements and joint institutes to tap the pool of academic social scientists, and by using scientific and statistical committees of the regional councils or similar units for peer review.