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Catch Share Policy and Job Satisfaction in the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery

Colin Robert Sayre

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Abstract: In 2011, the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program introduced an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system to commercial fisheries in Oregon, and Washington, and California. Introduction of catch shares was expected to change the context for decisions fishermen are required to make to operate in this fishery; particularly in trading, purchasing, and leasing quota for target and bycatch species. Such occupational restructuring potentially alters job satisfaction, a component of human well-being in a fisheries social-ecological system. Job satisfaction is connected to health and longevity, mental stress, work performance, and social factors related to family and community relationships. Fishermen in particular may value the “satisfaction bonus” provided by working on the water. There are few alternative occupations which provide similar levels satisfaction. Semi-structured interviews conducted among active fishermen of the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery (WCGTF) sought to elicit patterns in job satisfaction that developed in the five years since ITQ introduction. Ten detailed in person interviews provided representative insights into new business decisions made and the current structure of job satisfaction in the WCGTF. Analysis of interviews was conducted using tested indicator attributes of job satisfaction within a three-tiered framework based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Interview responses were categorized based on positive or negative patterns in description of satisfaction attributes. Effects of ITQ policy on job satisfaction vary by vessel role, between independent owner operators, hired skippers, and crew. Despite respondents’ generally negative feelings toward the catch share program, overall satisfaction was described as “good” to “excellent,” potentially resulting from the maintenance of “self actualizing” satisfaction attributes fishermen value highly; the challenge and adventure of working on the water. However, negative elements of satisfaction are associated with a decreased feeling of control and community solidarity. Increased operating costs resulting from fees for quota leasing, and at-sea observer monitoring contribute to a present sense of unpredictability in earnings for independent owner operators and crew, in contrast to positive feelings of stability for hired skippers and crew employed by processing companies. Policy elements of the catch share program related to quota leasing and at-sea observers may represent or affect attributes of satisfaction in contemporary ITQ managed fisheries requiring further study.

Date: 2016-01-05
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DOI: 10.31219/

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