I think it is important to understand that KRSA has drawn conclusions from our report that we ourselves did not make and with which we do not agree. First of all, the finding of our report is that ALL fisheries in Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula are important to local food security. Diversity is a premise of regional resilience and sustainability, and it is our contention that robust local commercial fisheries are an important component of that diversity for the Kenai Peninsula. Note that, while 56% of local residents identify personal use / subsistence as their primary means of acquiring local seafood, and 36% cite sport-fishing (not just on the Kenai), 27% of our respondents report getting fish via barter, trade, or sharing as their primary means; more specifically, barter and trade is especially important among low-income households, and by law barter and trade can only be done with commercially-caught fish. Likewise, I regret that we omitted a figure from our report that showed that nearly 14% of households in the peninsula have a member which participates in some aspect of commercial fishing — thus an important economic contribution to the region in its own right.
More importantly, however, we disagree with KRSA’s contention that strengthening individual access to local fisheries over commercial interests could also be a pathway to greater regional food security. In fact, we have an academic paper about to be published (an unedited proof is attached here, please do not distribute) which finds the opposite – that individual access to local fisheries in this region is overdeveloped at the expense of local commercial markets and local food security. Individual access is very important, but for people without the time, means, or inclination, it leaves local seafood out of reach. We argue that only increased access to commercially-caught fish will increase the social justice of the Kenai food system. We also note that many commercial fishermen are already taking this social justice responsibility upon themselves, by experimenting at much cost to themselves with alternative direct-marketing approaches to bring seafood to local consumers. This story at AlaskaDispatch describes just one example: http://alaskadispatch.com/article/20130417/expanding-program-brings-southeast-catch-direct-anchorage-homes
We are very interested in learning from all commercial fishermen about what barriers exist to bringing more commercially caught seafood to local markets, and this is an ongoing research problem for us.
As you know, we undertook this research with no agenda by way of supporting or detracting from any of the local fisheries, but are interested in supporting only the health and sustainability of Kenai Peninsula communities and fisheries resources. It is a challenge of all research to present data in a way that minimizes how it will be co-opted to particular sectoral agendas, and hopefully we can address any of your concerns by maintaining open communication.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions, and thank you for your continued support!
Philip A Loring, PhD
The Human Dimensions Lab @ WERC
and the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks
You should follow me on twitter: @paloring