Advanced Science Communication Seminar
Working Title: “It’s cheaper just to go to the fish market”: Understanding preferences and motivations of recreational bluefin tuna anglers along the U.S. east coast.
Format: Photo Essay
Photo essay comments/questions:
- At the moment I’m envisioning having the essay divided into three sections: a “beginning,” “middle,” and “end,” as outlined below. For each section, I’m considering having a single paragraph/block of text (~150-200 words), along with “meaty” (2-3 sentence) captions for each image. I’m considering 6-7 images/graphics for each of the three sections. Does that sound reasonable?
- I have a lot of photos from my field work, but am lacking in certain types of shots that I think would lend extra emphasis to some points I would like to make. Is it permissible to use other photos from friends or colleagues provided that I have their permission to do so?
Outline (Potential photos/images in italics)
Introduction: Framing the problem/question
- Recreational fishermen: lots of them spend a lot of time and effort fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna (Angler holding a bluefin)
- Bluefin internationally managed, U.S. needs to keep catches within prescribed limits (Graphic of catch limits, or photo of international meeting?)
- But why do they do it? The balance sheet (fuel + time + tackle, etc.) doesn’t seem to add up to a plate of sushi at the end of the trip. Other factors are at play, but what are they? (Composite image of all of the things that go into a tuna trip; photo of prop wash behind boat, bait, tackle, etc. Then juxtapose with an image of sushi)
- Why do we need this information?
- Can better predict/effort harvest based on regulations/fish availabilityàpredict catches, effort, and keep landings within prescribed limits (Image of juvenile bluefin tuna with caption about recruitment/spawning success; A busy boat ramp, or boats leaving the harbor).
- Understand what makes recreational anglers “tick”—what aspects of the fishery do they value? How much do they value the fishery overall? Help to understand our understanding of the economic importance of this fishery, and to devise regulations to maximize utility/welfare (Happy angler fighting a fish? Action shot of tuna jumping?).
Methods: Tools for understanding angler behavior
- Any decision involves tradeoffs, from the food we eat to the things we buy. By deconstructing a decision into its constituent parts, researchers can understand the value and relative importance of those parts (Maybe include an image of a readily understandable market example, e.g. deciding between the purchase of two smartphones with different brands, memory, size, color, camera quality, price, etc. [I have successfully used this analogy in the past])
- We employed this same technique with fishing trips—surveyed recreational bluefin tuna anglers and offered them hypothetical fishing trips with different levels of relevant factors to see which trip they prefer. By choosing a certain trip, respondents implicitly make tradeoffs among the different factors, which we can tease out through modeling. Emphasize the collaborative nature of this work (focus groups with anglers, need for survey respondents. (Map of study area; image of survey tool; example of pre-survey outreach materials)
- Examples of the kinds of tradeoffs anglers might make—preference for catching and keeping lots of small fish, or catching and releasing one large fish? What about “non-consumptive” factors, like hooking and losing fish, or seeing lots of fish but not hooking one? What about even more general benefits like spending time on the water with family and friends? (I have lots of potential images to use here: several small fish dead on the deck versus one large fish in the water about the be released; an angler casting into a school of feeding tuna and/or hooking a fish; a school of feeding tuna; someone hooked to a tuna surrounded by friends).
Results: Putting the pieces together (I’m still in the analysis stage of my research so I will hopefully have more information to share in the next few weeks as I put together my final product).
- Preliminary survey results
- Nearly 50% of surveyed anglers responded.
- Anglers certainly derive value out of aspects of tuna fishing other than harvesting fish (may be able to share specifics regarding willingness to pay for different aspects of the trip; could provide accompanying images exhibiting these aspects, such as releasing a tuna, or a hook bent or broken by a tuna that got away [it happens!]. Or, could have an infographic showing the average relative importance of different aspects of a trip).
- Marginal effects would be interesting to share if available (e.g., willing to pay a lot to harvest one fish, but substantially less to harvest a second fish) (happy angler posing with a harvested tuna)
- Is heterogeneity—for example, by region—in preferences and motivations (perhaps images of boats with different ports written on the stern, or a boat offshore landing a tuna with the name and homeport of the boat clearly visible).
- How results can be used:
- Explain the idea of “consumer surplus,” which is a recreational angler’s analog to profit (willingness to pay minus amount actually paid). We can use our willingness-to-pay estimates in conjunction with existing expenditure and effort information to estimate the overall value/benefits that anglers derive from this fishery, and could also inform how certain changes to regulations could further increase those benefits (Potential infographic here: calculating consumer surplus).
- We will share findings with managers, who can use this information to better predict effort and harvest and prevent the U.S. from exceeding its quota while providing more stable regulations to anglers that are in alignment with preferences/maximize consumer surplus (e.g., would anglers rather harvest one 150-pound tuna or three 50-pound tuna?) (Angler fighting a tuna; or hooked tuna swimming next to the boat).
- Spur further collaboration among scientists and tuna fishermen both on and off the water; we have a lot to learn from one another and together can create a healthier fishery for both the fishermen and the fish (Image of me with a captain deploying a satellite tag?).
The Atlantic bluefin tuna, while considered overfished, supports a popular, high-economic-output recreational fishery along the U.S. east coast from Maine to North Carolina. Due to the highly migratory nature of bluefin tuna, the species is managed internationally throughout the Atlantic Ocean, with the United States receiving an annual allocation as a percentage of the Atlantic-wide total allowable catch, which it apportions domestically among different users (i.e., commercial and recreational fishermen). It is imperative that the United States maintain its landings within the designated quota in order to avoid international sanctions.
While domestic commercial landings can be monitored in near-real-time due to strict reporting requirements for fishermen and seafood dealers, tracking recreational bluefin tuna harvest has presented a persistent challenge for the National Marine Fisheries Service. While catch reporting is also required for the recreational fishery, compliance is extremely low, estimated at about 20%. In addition, landings by the recreational sector can fluctuate widely from year to year due to changes in fish availability or to regulations, each of which can affect angler behavior—for example, the number of anglers participating in the fishery, and the intensity of their fishing effort. Better understanding the drivers of bluefin tuna angler effort is critical for predicting bluefin tuna harvest by the recreational sector and preventing landings that exceed the United States’ internationally designated quota. At the same time, examining the decision-making, preferences, and values of recreational Atlantic bluefin tuna anglers will serve to quantify the benefits that recreational fishermen derive from the resource, as well as to identify the components of the fishing experience that contribute to those benefits. By surveying recreational anglers and employing econometric modeling techniques to tease out their motivations, preferences, and values, my research will inform the development of management strategies that maximize angler welfare while maintaining catches within prescribed limits.
I believe that the recreational bluefin tuna fishing community along the U.S. east coast would benefit from learning about my research and its implications. Specific examples of audiences I may target include charter boat association members, visitors to recreational fishing trade shows/exhibitions, and big-game tournament participants. I have observed many recreational anglers exhibit a sense of distrust and lack of confidence in the domestic fishery management system; I believe that such sentiments are largely due to a) a lack of understanding of the work that is occurring and its purpose, and b) the absence of a personal connection or sense of solidarity with individuals who are conducting such research. Given the highly collaborative nature of this work, which relies on survey data, my economic research represents an excellent opportunity to communicate the type of research that is being conducted on behalf of recreational anglers while also demonstrating the benefits that can result when fishermen, fisheries scientists, and managers work together toward a common goal.
The product I intend to develop will be a photo essay for exhibition to recreational anglers. The photo essay will explain the challenges of managing the recreational bluefin tuna fishery while illustrating the methods that I will use to tease out the motivations and values of anglers. For example, how much do anglers value harvesting a tuna compared to catching and releasing a tuna? Through my field work with bluefin tuna fishermen, I have assembled a broad array of compelling images to engage the audience and provide tangible examples of how my research relates to—and seeks to benefit—recreational bluefin tuna anglers. While the photo essay will touch on the goal of being able to better predict angler effort and harvest, I will focus my photo essay on the need for quantifying the benefits recreational anglers derive from the fishery, which can be a difficult concept to explain (most fishermen tend to think more about expenditures when they hear fisheries economics). The photo essay will be exhibited on a large poster, or perhaps a series of posters. While I do not know the full range of venues at which I would present the final product, I am currently scheduled to speak about my research to the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association (http://stellwagenbank.org/) on April 11, 2017, and would certainly display the photo essay there.