Community Partner

Thomas Swearingen, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

First Advisor

Elise Granek

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Professional Science Master in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management




Fisheries -- Oregon -- Fishing effort, Family-owned business enterprises -- Succession, Marine parks and reserves -- Oregon, Fisheries -- Economic aspects -- Oregon, Fish trade




Since the industrial revolution, natural resource systems have rapidly modernized and globalized. Commercial fishing industries have expanded and optimized resource extraction but have often times exceeded sustainable levels of harvest. In the Pacific Northwestern United States, the commercial fishing industry is one of particular economic and cultural importance. Due to reduced yield of many native fish stocks, marine reserves have been implemented in Oregon’s nearshore waters in an effort to conserve biodiversity. While spatial closures of marine reserves seek to preserve and stabilize Oregon’s ocean ecosystems, adverse socioeconomic implications are inevitably created when profitable waters are set aside. A main challenge of marine policy is achieving conservation goals while simultaneously protecting and maintaining the socioeconomic livelihood of ocean users. As policy makers push for aggressive conservation policy, it is imperative to understand the ways in which different groups of stakeholders will be impacted by regulation.

The objectives of this study were to (1) assess potential fishing displacement from marine reserve designation and identify internal and external socioeconomic factors explaining variability in fishing behavior, and (2) evaluate shifting familial succession patterns across fisheries and port groups within Oregon’s nearshore fisheries. A mail survey dispersed to permit holders in Oregon’s commercial Dungeness crab, salmon, and groundfish fisheries (total permit N=1,371) contained questions regarding spatial and temporal shifts in fishing behavior, operating expenditures, as well as demographic information. A total of 205 surveys were returned, representing 270 individual permits (20% response rate).

The first study objective was to assess impacts of marine reserve designation on the ways that fishing effort is exerted and how efforts differ between fishing communities and fleets in Oregon’s nearshore environment over time. Quantitative and spatial measurements of fishing effort can help determine which areas are most heavily fished, which areas are collectively perceived to be the best and worst fishing grounds and how fisher’s behaviors are responding to market, regulatory, ecological, and climatic variability. A repeated measures analysis of variance revealed that fishing effort was not reduced or displaced by marine reserve implementation, but rather driven by fishery closures resulting from low stock health linked to climatic variability. Linear mixed effects models revealed that large-scale fishing operations are more resilient and flexible to climatic, regulatory, economic, and ecological variability.

The second study objective evaluated familial succession in Oregon’s nearshore fisheries. Many rural industries, such as agriculture, timber and commercial fishing, are experiencing reduced youth recruitment and participation. Rural to urban migration patterns and large barriers to entry have been cited as reasons for the graying of Oregon’s commercial fishing industry. It is important to understand which socioeconomic factors drive recruitment into the fishery in order to successfully manage and communicate with fishery participants. A binomial logistic regression model revealed that fishers with largescale fishing operations are much more likely to participate in familial succession within the industry, compared to a fisher with a relatively small business. Chi-squared goodness of fit analyses indicated that in some regions along the coast, succession often mirrors the health and economic viability of a fishery and dynamics of local economies.

In order to holistically quantify and assess fishery dynamics, social, ecological, climatic, and economic factors need to be considered and incorporated into models that aim to explain human behavior.


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A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Science Master in Environmental Science and Management.

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