Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 7803
Title: Subsistence Fishing in a 21st Century Capitalist Society: from commodity to gift
Author: Melissa R. Poe, P. S. Levin, N. Tolimieri, K. C. Norman
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: Ecological Economics
Volume: 116
Pages: 241-250
Keywords: subsistence,fisheries,trends

We examine the extent, range, and diversity of noncommercial wild ocean seafood
subsistence harvests among commercial fishing operators in Washington and California, USA and test
the relationship between market drivers and subsistence behavior. We show that over 37.5 million
pounds of fish and shellfish were kept for personal use. We highlight the top ten species kept, and we
test a prevailing rational economic theory for its potential to explain patterns of personal use by two
participant groups: tribal (indigenous) commercial operators and nontribal operators. Out of the
species tested, only one fit the market relationship with statistical significance and the model failed to
predict personal use patterns for any of the other species. We conclude that the market is not a reliable
driver for subsistence and fails to explain why fishing operators keep seafood for personal and
community use. Although a nominal figure in the overall seafood catch, the presence of subsistence
practices among 21st century market-based commercial fishing operators reveals a more diverse array
of economic systems than previously imagined. We suggest that alternative economies, including
subsistence and community share systems, increase food security, support social networks, and
improve wellbeing.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Describe the interaction between human activities, particularly harvest of marine resources, and ecosystem function.
Assess ecosystem status and trends.