Over the past several decades, managers have limited access to many of California’s commercial fisheries. The aim of these restrictions has been to ensure fishing safety and sustainability and to protect the environment. However, this has contributed to increasing reliance of fishers on fewer and fewer fish stocks, leaving them less prepared to handle years with poor conditions, management changes, or economic shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic. As fishers face an uncertain future, research is needed to help managers and commercial fishers to maintain a sustainable business.
There are two main ways for fishers to diversify their portfolios: either they can target different species during different seasons, or they can target different species that are fished during the same seasonal period, meaning that during years of poor productivity for the primary target, an alternative could substitute that income. This project will analyze fisheries data for the last 15 years to develop a substitutability index for pairs of fisheries in the state that quantifies the similarity of the fishing seasons. The researchers will then analyze how fishing portfolios with different substitutability indices performed during fisheries disasters including the 2015-2016 domoic acid closures, 2017 salmon fisheries closures, and COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The results of this project will provide a better understanding for fishers and fisheries managers of how two types of portfolio diversification can provide fishers with alternative sources of income. Results will be shared with fisheries managers as well as fishing groups and cooperatives.