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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicators: Crew Employment and Compensation

Key Findings

  • Total groundfish vessel crew positions and crew trips in all home port states, including those with the highest involvement in the groundfish fishery (Massachusetts and Maine), showed a decreasing trend during the baseline period and the initial years of the catch share program.
  • The number of crew positions per vessel did not appreciably change after catch share program implementation.
  • Pre-program implementation trend data for crew pay are unavailable, but by 2013, average crew compensation per day was at a four-year low across all vessel size categories due to low revenues in the groundfish fishery, with the greatest percentage decline in the less than 30 feet size category (91.5 percent) and the smallest decline (3.9 percent) in the above 75 feet size category.
  • Total crew compensation increased from 2009 to 2011, because of higher revenues in 2011 compared to other years, but then declined in 2012 and 2013 as revenues and the number of active vessels decreased.

Interactive Chart Story

Metrics

This indicator shows the number of crew positions and the dollar amount of crew earnings.

In Their Own Words

Although some of the quantitative data analyzed for this indicator exhibited clear trends, it was challenging to discuss the relationships between observed data trends and implementation of the respective catch share programs, especially in the Northeast. The Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares project team believed that those stakeholders most involved in the fishery, either as active participants or as representatives of an involved coalition of participants (e.g., sector managers in the Northeast), would be able to provide insight and help to explain trends seen in the existing quantitative data. The following quotes were selected to illustrate some of those perspectives and highlight trends such as effects on small vessels, the effect of avoiding “choke stocks,” fleet diversification, and product quality. The individual quotes do not represent findings or conclusions for this indicator, nor do they represent a consensus across any category of participants.

“So what affects crew pay is when we have to go buy quota to keep fishing. What most boats do is they take the cost off the top. So that the boat pays for half of it and the crew pays for half of it.”
~ Fishermen

“I think overall I think there has been less crew positions. I mean you’ve had more boats tie up. You’ve had more boats just take one less guy to offset some of these costs. The crews are now paying for the lease fish. It’s coming off the top of the bill. I couldn’t say it’s a downfall but one of the parts of the sector system is that just inherently there are more costs to it versus the old days at sea system. Now with the at sea monitoring component, that’s just another cost that’s coming off the boat. It’s the crew. It’s the captain. That’s who has to pay for these costs.”
~ Industry Representative

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

As the number of active vessels in the groundfish fishery decreased during the baseline years (Vessel Activity by State and Port Group), the total number of crew positions decreased from approximately 2,700 in 2007 to about 2,400 in 2009. Massachusetts—which had the most crew positions—experienced the sharpest decline (12.2 percent). The average crew positions per vessel typically ranged between three and five for most home port states from 2007 to 2009.

Most crew are paid a “crew share,” or a percentage of the total revenue earned by the vessel after certain expenses are deducted. The only year of the baseline period for which crew compensation data in the groundfish fishery are available is 2009. Those data show that average crew compensation per day varied widely depending on the size of the vessel. At $372 per day, crew on vessels 75 feet and above in length received the lowest average crew compensation per day among vessel size classes. The highest compensation—over $1,100 per day—went to crew working on vessels between 30 and 75 feet in length.

In 2009, total crew compensation in the groundfish fishery was approximately $71.7 million (in $2013) of which more than half ($40.8 million) went to crew from Massachusetts. By vessel size category, total crew compensation was highest for vessels 75 feet and above ($31 million), followed by vessels between 50 and 75 feet ($26.6 million). It was lowest for vessels less than 30 feet (just over $110,000, representing less than 0.2 percent of the fishery total).

During Catch Share Program

Total crew positions and total crew trips in the groundfish fishery declined annually following implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program as a result of decrease in the number of active vessels in the groundfish fishery (Vessel Activity by State and Port Group). By 2013, crew positions and crew trips were at four-year lows for the home port states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. Massachusetts had the largest drop between 2010 and 2013, with a 13.4 percent decrease in total crew positions, and an 18.2 percent decrease in total crew trips.

The average number of crew positions per vessel generally increased following the implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program. This increase reflects the increase in the prominence of the largest vessels in the groundfish fishery following implementation of the program (Number of Active Vessels). In those states that are the most involved in the fishery, including Massachusetts and Maine, there an average of six crew positions per vessel by 2013.

For groundfish vessels less than 50 feet or above 75 feet, average crew compensation per day increased in the first year of the catch share program. By 2013, however, average compensation was at a four-year low across all vessel size categories, with the greatest percentage decline in the less than 30 feet size category (91.5 percent) and the smallest decline (3.9 percent) in the above 75 feet size category. This decrease coincides with a decline in revenues in the groundfish fishery (Landings and Revenues by State and Port Group). In contrast, average crew compensation per day in non-groundfish fisheries generally increased from 2009 levels across all vessel size categories. These data, in combination with other information related to shifts in target species (Fishery Diversification), suggest that fishermen found more financial opportunity in fisheries outside of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program.

Total crew compensation in the groundfish fishery increased by 18.2 percent from 2009 to 2010 and an additional 10.2 percent from 2010 to 2011 because of relatively high revenues in the groundfish fishery before decreasing over the next two years as revenues and the number of active vessels declined. The proportion of total compensation across vessel size categories stayed relatively consistent, with most compensation going to crew on vessels 50 feet and above. Massachusetts crew received the highest proportion of crew compensation, totaling near $50 million in 2011 before falling to $37.6 million in 2013.

Information Sources

Kitts, A., et al. 2011. 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2010-April 2011), 2nd Edition. National Marine Fisheries Service MFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 11-19. Woods Hole, MA.

Murphy, T., et al. 2012. 2011 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2011-April 2012). ). National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 12-30. Woods Hole, MA.

Murphy, T., et al. 2013. 2012 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2012-April 2013). ). National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 14-01. Woods Hole, MA.

Murphy, T., et al. 2014. 2013 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2013-April 2014). National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 15-02. Woods Hole, MA. 

Updated: July 2018

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