Fishing boats against a white sky.
Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Boats at the dock in Aleknagik, Alaska.

For people who make a living by harvesting natural resources, income volatility is a persistent threat. Crops could fail. Fisheries could collapse. Forests could burn. These and other factors — including changing management regulations and practices — can lower harvests and depress incomes. But the ways that these forces interact to impact income, especially at the level of the individual worker, have been difficult to track.

A team of scientists from UW and other institutions has evaluated income volatility among those employed in an area with some of the largest, most valuable fisheries in the world — the waters surrounding Alaska. Their findings, published September 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed nearly 30 years of revenue and permitting records for individuals fishing in Alaska, tracking how their fishing choices influenced their year-to-year income volatility.

Their findings indicate that people who purchased multiple permits and diversified their catch had much less income variability than people who specialized by fishing one species or obtaining a single type of permit.

“Previous work has shown that individuals who fish commercially have higher income variability than farmers. Our analysis showed that fishers holding single permits expose themselves to exceptional risk of high year-to-year income variability” said lead author Sean Anderson, who conducted this research as a postdoctoral researcher in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Read more at UW Today »