Disaster Preparedness • Economic Recovery • Resilience

Rebuilding the Fisheries Industry

Both natural and man-made disasters can impact the fisheries industry. Depending on the nature of the disaster, fishing beds may not be impacted, while boats, equipment and other assets suffer damage. Or, the exact opposite can be true. While the disaster may have impacted the industry, it does not always end the entire season. From Maine to Louisiana to Alaska, the fisheries industry’s traits, challenges and strategies can vary considerably. The industry’s historical and cultural significance can be the primary driver for fueling rebuilding efforts. At ports in all 50 states, U.S. fishermen had 9.9 billion pounds of commercial landings in 2011 valued at $5.3 billion. Commercial landings include both edible and industrial harvests.[1] The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 32,000 employed as fishers and related fishery workers in 2010 with projected, although employment in 2020 is projected to decrease by six percent to 30,000.[2]


Understanding the issues that fisheries face will assist in rebuilding the industry. Just as no two communities are exactly alike, no two disasters are identical. The fishery industry in the impacted community may experience one or more of these challenges to recovery.

Very Expensive to Participate

Fishing is an expensive industry to enter and pursue, and it is a career that rarely affords high income levels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for the fisheries industry was $25,590 in May 2010, with the bottom ten percent earning less than $17,300 and the top ten percent earning more than $40,200.[3]With high startup costs in equipment and permits, in addition to regular costs for maintenance and fuel, many fishermen do not have the funds to prepare for disasters nor the savings for recovering post-disaster. When a disaster strikes, the recovery costs may prohibit fishermen from returning to the industry.

Insurance rates can exceed their budgets, so many do not carry insurance on their boats or businesses. For example, a fishing vessel that employs approximately three to four fishermen may receive a bill for insurance premiums of approximately $5,000 per fisherman on the vessel and another $2,000 for the vessel itself. In the event of a disaster, the costs of rebuilding their boats may prohibit some fishermen from returning to the water. Increases in the costs of fuel, especially following a disaster, can contribute to fishermen deciding not to rebuild or return to fishing

Depending on the community, permitting may limit entry into the industry through fees and the number of permits available. While permitting leads to the professionalization of the industry, the costs and restrictions may prohibit fishermen from changing the species they harvest.

Lack of Records

The fishing industry is largely a cash-based business. While reporting requirements on what fish is harvested and sold to processors vary by state government, many fishermen rely on family members to keep records for them or do not keep records at all. Oftentimes, the records that are kept may not meet regulations and need to be estimated. In some communities, fishermen may intend to sell part of their harvest to a processor and keep part for their families and community to consume. Since this harvest dedicated to subsistence is often unrecorded, there are challenges to calculating the source and quantity of the catch.

The United States Internal Revenue Service offers a fishing audit technique guide at http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Fishing-Audit-Technique-Guide.

Impacted by multiple disasters

In communities where disasters have struck multiple times in recent years, the fishing communities’ responsiveness to recovery efforts can be minimal. Fishermen are independent by nature[4] and tend to be unresponsive to surveys, town halls and roundtables, especially following multiple disasters. Very few fishermen own mobile phones or use the internet[5], which makes communicating recovery strategies more difficult. While processors may join an industry association or local chamber of commerce, many harvesters shy away due to their independent nature.

Fishermen may have taken out debt to recover from previous disasters, thereby making it increasingly unlikely that they could take on additional debt in subsequent disasters. This may lead to a reduced number of fishermen returning to the industry following a disaster.

Fisheries disasters can occur without impacting other industries. For instance, the release of fresh water into salt water can cause crop damage. Following three inches of rain without winds, a coastal area can be closed to fishing for days or even weeks for assessments. The Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce can declare a fisheries disaster outside of a presidentially-declared disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Office of Sustainable Fisheries has created a website for fishery disaster determination at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/sf3/disaster.htm.

A culture of its own

Due to the solitary nature of the fishing industry, the industry tends to be wary of outsiders[6]. Fishermen are unlikely to join organizations—both fishing and civic—and are typically not open to being aggregated. The population tends to be indigenous and is not always interested in the opinions or support of outsiders. These indigenous tendencies also impact the interactions between the multi-generational fishermen operations and those new to the community, including immigrants. Segmentation can exist between the harvesters and the processors due to disagreements on issues like price and quality.

In the Gulf Coast, especially in southeastern Louisiana, there is a large population of fishermen who are immigrants from Cambodia and Vietnam. A significant portion of the region’s immigrant fishermen speak their native tongue and are illiterate in English. The immigrant fishermen can be resistant to working with recovery workers that are not sensitive to or understanding of, their culture. For example, during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, representatives from British Petroleum (BP) used a dialect associated with northern Vietnamese populations, whereas the Gulf fishermen employed a dialect from southern Vietnam. The difference in dialect caused the Vietnamese immigrant fishermen to be wary of working with the BP representatives.

General lack of understanding of industry

One of the main barriers to aiding and rebuilding the fishing industry following a disaster is the limited understanding of the industry itself. Local officials, economic development organizations, recovery workers and citizens are often not well educated on the industry and its impact on their community. Though the industry can be an economic driver, the individualist nature of fishermen can curb the amount of attention that industry regularly receives. A limited number of business retention visits are paid to fisheries, and therefore the strong relationships that are necessary in the event of a disaster are often lacking.

Fishermen typically have a very strong understanding of the supply chain for fisheries. A limited understanding on the supply chain for fisheries can hinder the ability of recovery workers in working with fishermen to rebuild the industry. The rules of supply and demand determine whether shrimp may command a higher price in Mississippi than Louisiana. Knowing where to identify the breaks in the supply chain and opportunities to shift operations in a disaster will aid in rebuilding the industry and demanding higher prices for fishermen.

Infrastructure dependent

Infrastructure development can both aid and hinder economic recovery for the fisheries industry. As more of the coastline opens to residential, commercial and industrial development, the industry loses valuable fishing areas. Furthermore, during a disaster, runoff from waterfront developments can negatively impact a crop to the point of destruction. Conversely, following a disaster fishermen need seafood processing centers to process their harvests; ice docks to properly store their catch; ice to store fish onboard while at sea on multi-day fishing trips; and general-use docks to secure their boats. Many of the fishermen do not consistently keep their boats up to code, except when preparing for a Coast Guard inspection. However, when faced with destruction of both their homes and their boats from a disaster, many fishermen will repair their boats first and reside on them.

Pressures from the global industry

When a disaster strikes the fishing industry, fishermen in that region may no longer be able to harvest their crop. This can lead to a decrease in the domestic crop and an increase in price for domestic product. However, in today’s global market many buyers will choose to purchase imported seafood at lower prices. An influx in imports can cause a drop in the prices of domestic seafood, which may indirectly lead to a decrease in the number of fisheries. When prices drop too low and fuel prices increase, fisheries are no longer able to make a profit and therefore discontinue fishing. Though some fisherman may want to change the type of fish they harvest, the costs of necessary boat conversions and obtaining new permits can be prohibitive.

Lack of brand awareness

The industry has faced several challenges with regard to seafood mislabeling, which has led to seafood fraud and a lack of brand awareness. Farmed seafood has been sold as wild caught, while tilapia has been labeled as red snapper, escolar as white tuna, and Pacific cod as Atlantic cod. Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of how seafood has been mislabeled in the past. While many states are working on seafood branding programs, consumer awareness remains limited. Branding allows for higher prices to be paid for seafood, yet mislabeling or lack of brand awareness drives prices down. For example, in remarks to the 37th Annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum in 2012, Governor Paul LePage recounted a story of being in Florida at a restaurant where he saw Maine Lobster as the special of the day. Governor LePage asked the owner where in Maine he sourced his lobsters, and the restaurant owner admitted that the lobsters were from Massachusetts. Upon returning to Maine, Governor LePage learned that there was no legal action that could be taken for mislabeling, but that the industry could support awareness through branding.[7]

Community impact—a ripple effect

When there is a fisheries disaster, it not only impacts the fishermen but the entire community. In communities that collect and depend on a raw-fish tax, there is a decrease in revenues that could eventually be lost entirely if the industry is not rebuilt. Most fishing communities also support a supply chain that depends on fishermen bringing in seafood. When disaster strikes, a ripple effect may impact processors, brokers, marketers, fuel companies, boat repair mechanics and service providers. Since there are a limited number of fishing communities in the country, there may not be another fishing community to connect workers to jobs or relocate their businesses. Additionally, it takes time for the fishermen to learn to navigate new waters and learn to harvest a different crop.

An older workforce

Following a disaster, the fishing industry struggles to retain and attract workers. There are fewer younger workers who want to enter into the industry, especially as technology improves; fishermen need to stay out to sea longer than past generations. Older fishermen have been fishing a certain way for generations and are resistant to change, especially upgrading their skills, even if it means they would be better prepared for disasters. Rebuilding post-disaster can require an upgrade in technology or harvesting skills to which the older workforce may no longer have the ability to adapt. Or, they may no longer have the passion to return to the water. Some fishermen are unable to move into other industries without first addressing issues of illiteracy, limited transferable skills and fear of change and technology.

Recovery Strategies

There is not a single solution to rebuilding the fishery industry after a disaster. However, a combination of the following fifteen strategies will help local economic developers to set the industry on the right direction to rebuilding and thriving post-disaster.

Addressing fishermen needs

Depending on the disaster, fishermen may have a wide variety of needs. A disaster may impact their crop, but their boats and equipment may be fully functional, or vice versa. The industry’s needs will vary depending on the disaster. However, within a week of the disaster, it is beneficial to have a town-hall-style meeting with members of the fisheries industry and representatives from government and trade associations. The meeting should explain what steps the community is taking to aid in recovery from the disaster, the resources that are available and how the fishermen can access these resources. As this industry can shy away from electronic communication, it is recommended that representatives be sent to provide notices, post flyers at service providers, and utilize any networks available to spread the word about the meeting.

When speaking with the fishing community, it is necessary to understand whether the community is English speaking and their level of literacy. Local organizations that work with the fishing community may be good partners to aid in communicating with fishermen to ensure their understanding of the process and paperwork they are signing. If there is a language barrier, translators who can aid in translating documents should be brought into the community. All documents should be translated into the languages spoken in the fishing community to avoid misunderstandings. Following the Deepwater Horizon oils spill, many lawyers descended to fishing communities along the Gulf Coast seeking to work with the fishermen. Many of the Vietnamese immigrant fishermen did not fully understand what was occurring, as they were not fluent in English and were illiterate. The fishermen were signing papers they could not read because they were told to sign and did not question the document. Without being able to read what they were signing, many of the fishermen gave away their rights to pursue other legal actions. For some, the opportunity to receive a disaster payment without understanding all of their options incentivized the fishermen to sign.

Address Mental Health Issues

Fishing is a way of life. As fishing is primarily a cash business, many fishermen do not use banks or set aside savings. When fishermen are unable to fish, they lose their source of income and ability to provide for themselves and family. While there may be opportunities to find work in the recovery efforts, it is not long term. During the recovery period, local businesses may lose customers and workers and be faced with uncertainty of their future. These disruptions to their way of life can spark a wide range of emotions and cause long-term mental health issues. In many communities, there may not be the resources to address these mental health issues. Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council created a Coping with Technological Disasters guidebook to direct communities and individuals in addressing the man-made disaster. As part of the guidebook, Dr. J. Steven Picou at the University of Southern Alabama created a Peer Listening training program to teach community members how to provide counseling to one another during the disaster. This program was used in Prince William Sound’s fishing community and was updated in 2010 by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill economic recovery response. Electronic copies of the guidebook can be found at http://www.pwsrcac.org/programs/oil-spill-prevention/coping-with-technological-disasters/. By addressing the mental health issues, the community can work with the fishermen to explore options to return to fishing or enter new industries.

Financial literacy education

Fishermen tend to earn all of their annual income during their crop season and often have little to no savings. As a largely cash-based industry, the fishermen may not have accounts or relationships at banks. While a disaster may not wipe out an entire season, fishermen may not have enough to make ends meet until the next season. However, their independent nature may lead the fishermen not to request assistance. When presenting available recovery resources for the fishery industry, social assistance opportunities should be included. Additionally, hosting workshops on financial literacy are helpful to fishermen in learning how to address the need for keeping accurate records and creating savings.

Building resilient infrastructure

The fishing industry is highly dependent on its infrastructure. When a disaster strikes, the ice plants used to store the fish for processing and wholesale can be lost. Ice is needed to slow the fish’s metabolism and inhibit bacteria growth until the harvest can be sent to an operating processor, possibly in another community if the local processor is unavailable. The faster fish is frozen, the less bacteria growth and better taste of the product. Creating floating ice plants will help the fishermen access the ice needed and even support their fishing trips until they are able to bring the fish to a processor. Floating ice plants are located in the water instead of on land. These plants allow fish to be frozen at sea and can be operated by a semi-skilled worker. This allows fishermen to be out at sea longer and harvest a larger catch. When a storm approaches, many of these plants can be moved to safety by tugboat.

Privately owned processors can face challenges in reopening after a disaster due to a range of reasons including a lack of insurance and access to funding to rebuild. In some communities a cooperative processing plant is developed with public funding from federal, state and local grants and loans as well as private financing. The cooperative processing plants create jobs for the community and aid in rebuilding the industry after a disaster. Starting a cooperative processing plant is a long-term process. The plant may be delayed due to legislative and legal procedures and receive resistance from private processors. A plant may also be delayed by health and food safety regulations, difficulty obtaining financing, and uncooperative fishermen. A positive example is in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Following Hurricane Katrina, the seafood byproduct waste needed to be transported daily to a landfill 55 miles north of the city. The Gulf Coast Agricultural & Seafood Co-Op waste processing facility was funded by a U.S. Department of Commerce grant for $3.2 million to the Alabama Farmers Market Authority and the Mobile County Commission in 2009. Of that total, $250,000 came from the state of Alabama, $30,000 came from Mobile County and $750,000 loan came from a private loan. Construction began on May 27, 2010,[8] and the facility was unveiled on Monday, March 28, 2011. The Gulf Coast Agricultural & Seafood Co-op leases and operates the facility from the Alabama Farmers Market Authority.[9]  IEDC has created a step-by-step guide to developing a seafood cooperative, which can be found at http://restoreyoureconomy.org/establishing-seafood-cooperative/.

As communities navigate the post-disaster redevelopment process, it is possible that they will want to consider their waterfront for development and associated tourism opportunities. Waterfront property sells at a premium and provides communities with higher real estate taxes. However, as more waterfront real estate is sold, suitable fishing areas become minimized and can be further damaged by runoff from nearby developments. Communities with working waterfronts should explore zoning opportunities to protect and expand their fishing industry.

Diversifying the economic base

Following a disaster within the industry, many communities look for strategies to diversify their economic base. In order to establish the industry, trained workers are needed to attract and start companies. One of the primary steps is to survey the job attitude of the workers in order to measure their interest in changing industries and receiving new job training. In 1997, the wild salmon runs in Alaska had declined and salmon farms were driving salmon prices down. Therefore, the state of Alaska declared a fisheries disaster in western Alaska. In 1999, the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development (ADCED) received a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to conduct a job attitude survey of the fishing permit holders and crew in the disaster region for the purpose of developing an economic diversification strategy. The survey provided ADCED with insights into the types of training and other industries the workers were interested in. Surprisingly to ADCED, the respondents to the survey showed to be highly interested in training, especially in other industries to either replace or supplement their income. Learn more about the survey including the process, methodology and conclusions at: http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/pub/FA_Report.pdf.

 New industry clusters related to the fishing industry may be developed, such as coastal restoration and aquaculture. Following Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation (MQVNCDC) explored aquaculture and aquaponics as industries that would use the fishermen and their skills while providing jobs and economic opportunities to the community. A workshop was held in 2010 to explore opportunities for community members, most of whom were supportive of the initiative. In 2011, the MQVNCDC partnered with the John Hopkins Carey School of Business to conduct a business plan and economic and technological feasibility study. In the first class, fourteen community members are growing vegetation and fish in their backyards and selling the vegetation to the community market. For more information about the program, visit: http://www.mqvncdc.org/projects/viet-village-aquaponics/. In New York State, the Cornell Cooperative Extension and New York Sea Grant funded a report titled New York Aquaculture Industry: Status, Constraints and Opportunities. This report can be accessed at: http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/Images/Uploads/PDFs/themeareas/Fisheries/NYAquacultureIndustry04.pdf.

Sustainability programs driving recovery

In the short term, fishermen may benefit from jobs that are part of the recovery process. For example, through partnerships with research scientists, fishermen can use their boats to transport researchers into open water.

In 2009, the Oregon Fishing Industry Partnership to Restore Marine Habitat received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to remove derelict Dungeness crab pots from Pacific Ocean and study the baseline and loss rates of the derelict pots. The partnership included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the State of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, the fishing community and the Oregon State Police, and it was funded through a NOAA grant from the ARRA. Commercial fishermen worked with state employees and partners from coastal communities in the offseason to remove the derelict pots from the ocean and recycle parts for new pots. The ARRA grant funded the payment for the offseason fishermen. Read more about the program at: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/sept11/or-fishing.html.

Create a community-supported fishery (CSF) program

Similar to community-supported agriculture, consumers buy directly from fisheries at a predetermined price and time. The customers pay the full amount at the start of the season and are provided fresh seafood at regular intervals (typically weekly or monthly). The payment in full at the beginning of the season aids fishermen with upfront costs, including repairs following a disaster, and provides them with an income they can depend on for the season. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust provides a step -by -step toolkit for setting up a CSF at: http://thealaskatrust.org/develop-csf.php.

Analyzing the workforce for new opportunities

In the fishing industry, many fishermen focus on one species, and a number of the species tend to be seasonal, such as shrimp and crabs. During the offseason, some fishermen will work part-time or in seasonal jobs such as marine sales, processing, construction and auto repair. When a disaster strikes and impacts the fishing season, fishermen need to find other sources of income to survive until the next fishing season. Using skills from their part-time and offseason jobs, along with the transferrable skills learned in the fishing industry, fishermen may be able to find work in alternative jobs and industries such as carpentry, mechanical, electrical and plumbing. Communities should consider conducting a skillshed analysis to determine potential industries and occupations that could use the skills of the fishermen and the region to grow emerging industries. A brochure with additional information on skillshed analysis can be found at: http://www.iowaworkforce.org/lmi/labsur/skillshed_gap_report_guide.pdf.

Strengthening the workforce

To rebuild a strong and thriving workforce, the fishing industry needs to focus on attracting younger workers to replace the older workers who exit the industry following a disaster. Whereas older workers may lose their passion to rebuild after a disaster or adopt new technology that helps them be prepared for a future disaster, younger workers may not face the same hesitations.

New technologies are continuously created for the fishing industry that will help fishermen be better prepared for future disasters such as advance warning systems through mobile phones. To train fishermen to adopt new technology, fishermen must be allowed to test the technology and discover how it can improve their abilities. Fishing is a hands-on industry, and many fishermen are illiterate or possess only basic reading and writing skills. For any training provided, it is important that the courses be applied as opposed to being offered via classroom lecture. An incentive may be needed to encourage fishermen to incorporate new technologies into their harvesting routines and to encourage fishermen to participate in a series of trainings.

Aquaculture training programs

For fishermen who are unable to return to the open waters after a disaster, aquaculture provides the opportunity for them to use their skills from fishing and adapt them for a career on land. Aquaculture training programs have been created at a number of community colleges around the nation. Many of these programs offer options for students to earn a one semester certificate, one year diploma or a two year associate’s degree. There are opportunities for those who want to learn online, those who want to start a new career or those looking for a refresher.

Apprenticeships to train future fishermen

Following a disaster, there may be some workers who decide not to return to fishing. New fishermen have to take the place of the fishermen who decided not to return, or the industry will dwindle. Apprenticeship programs have proved successful in training future fishermen. From Alaska to New Hampshire, and many states in between, apprenticeship licenses are available to students and those under 18 years of age. These allow future fishermen to learn the trade while still in school and prepare for a career in fishing. Many in the fishing industry start fishing with their family as a child and eventually join the family upon graduation. A number of formal apprenticeship training programs have been created in countries around the globe to train future fishermen, including in New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. In communities where there is a significant fishing industry, K-12 educators may incorporate fisheries -specific lessons into their curriculum to educate future generations about the industry. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers curricula for educators that on Alaska’s wildlife at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=curricula.main.

Promote the industry

A strong marketing campaign will help to restore customers’ demand for local seafood. After a manmade or natural disaster, all possibly affected seafood should be tested to ensure safety for consumption. If it is safe, the testing results should be used to highlight the availability of quality local seafood and to encourage customers to purchase domestically.

Professionalization will help promote the industry both domestically and internationally. Permit restrictions can help create a limited-entry program to better manage the resources and products harvested. A fishery-wide sustainable certification program that tags seafood will not only attract higher prices but will create seafood brand recognition.

Communities should collaborate to form a regional seafood marketing association with the goal of developing domestic and internationally recognized markets for their fishing communities. Representatives from the association should be sent to international industry trade shows to market the local fishing community. The association should also work to create a brand for local seafood and to grow awareness for the fishing community. Once the brand is established, a marketing campaign, which includes fishermen telling their stories in order to inspire the food-to-table consumer preferences, should be created.

Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Greater New Orleans, Inc. and Chevron created the Coastal Vitality Project . The project focuses on marketing, workforce development and small-business capacity building and development. As part of the project, a public relations toolkit was developed that includes talking points for fishermen. Learn more about the project and review the public relations toolkit at: http://www.coastalvitalityproject.org/.

In Alaska, fishermen pay a 2 percent tax to support the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI). For almost a decade prior to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS), ASMI had been marketing the Alaskan seafood industry, especially the salmon industry in the face of the increased market share of farm-raised salmon. Following EVOS, ASMI hired a public relations and research firm to analyze the impacts on various markets. Using the results, ASMI re-shifted its marketing approaches following EVOS. One initiative was to focus on “origin branding” of Alaskan salmon. Another initiative focused on sustainability of the Alaskan salmon industry. A public relations representative was hired from within the industry to conduct media training for members and fishermen following the oil spill.

Collaborate with regional partners

Recovery does not occur single-handedly. To rebuild the fisheries industry, it is beneficial to include multiple partners, including economic and community development organizations; fishery organizations; county/parish, state and regional fisheries councils; marketing organizations; universities and colleges; and workforce development organizations.

In 1966, Congress passed the National Sea Grant College and Program Act, which established sea grant programs on the east coast, west coast, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. There are currently 32 programs across the United States that focus on research, education and outreach. Local Sea Grant programs include, but are not limited to, independently assessing what occurred during a disaster, providing expert testimony, aiding in rebuilding efforts, working with businesses to identify risks, creating materials and delivering trainings to aid communities and businesses to prepare for disasters and bringing together stakeholders.

A good example can be found in the Louisiana State University Sea Grant program. In 2005, 2008 and 2010, the Louisiana State University Sea Grant program brought together a Louisiana Fisheries Community Recovery Coalition within two weeks of the disaster. The recovery coalition was started via weekly conference calls with experts at the university and local parish officials to discuss what they were experiencing. The calls grew to host over 100 participants weekly following Hurricane Katrina. Due to the size of participation on the calls, there was a need for strong moderation and a focus on reports to accurately assess the damage. As the community became more mobile post-disaster, the calls turned into in-person meetings on a monthly basis with presentations on the recovery initiatives in the communities. The disaster assessment models have improved significantly as well from taking two years to complete the model in 2006 to two three weeks in 2008 following Hurricane Ike. Currently, it takes about a month to run the models, collect the information and publish the data.

Understanding the industry

Outsiders often have a difficult time understanding the fishing industry. Post disaster, case managers need to be educated on how the industry works to better address the needs of fishermen and the industry as a whole. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration FishWatch webpage is an excellent resource to learn about the fisheries industry and read the latest news impacting fisheries. The government-run website can be found at: www.fishwatch.gov.

In addition to understanding the fisheries industry, it is also necessary to understand the federal fisheries management process, including the regulations that impact local fisheries. A fantastic resource is the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program and the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center’s guidebook entitled Understanding Fisheries Management: A Manual for Understanding the Federal Fisheries Management Process, Including Analysis of the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act, which can be downloaded at: http://masglp.olemiss.edu/fishman.pdf.

The United States Department of Commerce can provide disaster assistance to fisheries through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Sustainable Fisheries. This ability is provided by sections 308(b) or 308(d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA)(16 U.S.C. 4107), as amended, and section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1861). Guidance on the responding to fisheries disasters can be found at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/sf3/disaster.htm.

Preparing for future disasters

There are several steps that can be taken to prepare for future disasters within the fishing industry. For instance, an industry-specific business retention and expansion program should be prepared. If economic developers know fisherman in their communities in advance of a disaster, they can better understand their needs and priorities in times of trouble. Building relationships within the industry will assist in working with fishermen, especially those who are weary of outsiders. During the business retention and expansion visits, economic developers should address the fishermen’s preferred method for communication and strategies to reach them during a disaster. Creating a communication strategy for disasters, including identifying a potential spokesperson for the industry, will be helpful in advance of a disaster.

The more fishermen know, the better organized they are for a disaster. Workshops on business skills should include record keeping, preparing a savings fund and business continuity planning to help prepare fishermen for responding to a disaster and subsequently returning to operations. Through workshops and local relationships, potential leaders in the industry may stand out. These leaders should be encouraged to become part of local disaster response groups and participate in preparedness trainings. The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program has created Fishbiz, a business training and educational program for Alaska’s seafood industry participants and dependent coastal communities. Fishbiz provides regular workshops in Alaska’s fishing communities. Their website includes business of fisheries workshop subjects, past presentations and handouts, business and financial tools for fisheries and business publications at: http://seagrant.uaf.edu/map/fishbiz/.

Asset maps of the fishing grounds and shore side in preparation for disasters will aid responders in recovery efforts and document what existed prior to the disaster. Additionally, the asset maps can be used to identify opportunities to diversify the economy and creation jobs, as they will highlight opportunities in the tourism, coastal restoration and food processing industries.


[1] Lowther, A. National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology. (2011). Fisheries of the United States (Current Fishery Statistics No. 2011). Retrieved from website: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/Assets/commercial/fus/fus11/01_front2011.pdf
[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Fishers and Related Fishing Workers,   on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/fishers-and-related-fishing-workers.htm (visited July 09, 2013).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Observation provided through interviews with experts.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Betts, S. (2012, March 02). LePage wants to protect Maine seafood brand. Bangor Daily News. Retrieved from http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/02/business/lepage-wants-to-protect-maine-seafood-brand/
[8] City of Bayou La Batre. (2010, May 27). Bayou la Batre breaks ground on by-product processing facility. Retrieved from http://www.visitbayoulabatre.com/news_5.27.10.html
[9] Kramer, J. (2011, March 29). Mobile Press-Register. Retrieved from http://blog.al.com/live/2011/03/bayou_la_batre_seafood_waste_p.html