Socioeconomic considerations of the commercial weathervane scallop fishery off Alaska using SWOT analysis
We conducted a socioeconomic assessment of the commercial weathervane scallop (Patinopecten caurinus) fishery off Alaska. The research was structured within the framework of an SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, a strategy commonly used to analyze the internal (strengths, weaknesses) and external (opportunities, threats) components of an industry. Specifically, we focused on five categories: social, technological, economic, environmental, and regulatory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 participants who had detailed knowledge of the fishery, including industry members, fishery managers, biologists, and members of coastal communities who interact with the fishery. We addressed topics such as attitudes of the Alaskan public towards scallop dredging, impacts of the scallop industry on Alaskan coastal communities, market influences of U.S. east coast and imported scallops, changes in the management of the fishery, and a number of environmental considerations. Several unifying opinions emerged from this study, including a lack of awareness of the fishery in many Alaskan communities and fears about rising fuel costs and diminishing harvest levels. Whereas the data-poor status of the stock appears to be the fishery's biggest weakness, the greatest strengths come in the form of conservative management, industry self-regulation, and the small footprint of the fishery. Impending threats include stock decline, unknown long-term detrimental effects of dredging, and changes in the management and structure of the fishery with the sunset of the State of Alaska's limited entry permit program. Most participants consider the fishery to be managed sustainably, although lack of data on scallop recruitment and abundance is a large concern. This analysis provides relevant information to both fishery managers and scallop industry members to contribute to the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the scallop fishery.