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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicator: Fishing Support Service Employment

Key Findings

Data from the U.S. Census reveal that more than half of the fishery support service businesses in the Northeast are located in New York or New Jersey. Other states in the Northeast also have substantial employment in fishing support-related sectors such as boat sales, marinas, ship building and repair, and transportation equipment and supplies. Available data from 2003 through 2013 cover most of the project baseline and catch share program years. However, the data are generally too aggregated to determine which support service businesses are directly associated with the commercial groundfish fishery or to specifically investigate how the shift to catch shares may be affecting particular types of businesses. Statistics for individual counties, economic sectors, and years can be seen by adjusting the interactive charts above.

Interactive Charts


This indicator shows changes in employment in fishing support services, as a component of local community effects of the catch share program.


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

During the project baseline, employment associated with fishery support service businesses was highest in New York, despite the groundfish fishery being concentrated in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. For the Northeast as a whole, the total number of fishing support businesses was highest in 2007 (2,328) and lowest in 2009 (2,286). While some data have been withheld due to confidentiality, employment estimates showed the highest number of employees in 2008 (18,885) before dropping substantially to 15,298 employees in 2009. Overall, the number of businesses and employees decreased from 2008 to 2009 as a result of the nationwide economic downturn and recession.

Individual Economic Sectors

Boat dealer businesses were most numerous in New York and New Jersey, as were marinas. Massachusetts had a spike in its number of marinas between 2006 (141) and 2007 (173) and then a continued gradual increase. New York has the most ship building and repair businesses. The number of ship building businesses decreased in New Jersey and Massachusetts and increased in Maine; by 2009, Maine had four more ship building and repair businesses than either New Jersey or Massachusetts. The number of transportation equipment and supply businesses, which includes businesses that sell commercial fishing gear, was highest in New York. The total number of those businesses in the region decreased throughout the project baseline.

By County

The county with the largest number of support service businesses was Suffolk County (New York), with a total of 233 in 2008. Boat dealers were generally most numerous in the counties with the highest overall totals of support service businesses. The number of marinas stayed relatively constant for most of the counties in the region, although there were substantial increases in Ocean County (New Jersey) and Essex County (Massachusetts) from 2003 to 2009. Ship building and repair businesses were concentrated in the counties of King (New York), Hancock (Maine), Bristol (Massachusetts), and Essex (Massachusetts). King and Hancock counties had increases during the project baseline, and Bristol and Essex counties had decreases. Transportation equipment and supply businesses were generally most numerous in the counties of Bergen (New Jersey) and Suffolk (New York). Both of those counties experienced a decrease in their respective totals.

During Catch Share Program

In the initial years after implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, most of the northeastern states experienced minor declines in the number of businesses in economic sectors associated with supporting the fishing industry. As described above, most of these sectors decreased during the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, and the total number continued to decline in 2010 (2,238) before reaching its lowest level in 2013 (2,143). While some data have been withheld due to confidentiality, the total number of employees decreased only a small amount from 2009 to 2010 (having experienced a substantial decrease between 2008 and 2009 attributable to the recession), and numbers remained relatively constant before increasing in 2013 to levels similar to 2009.

By State

At the state level, most of the losses occurred in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, each of which lost around 20 to 25 businesses between 2010 and 2013. The number of boat dealers decreased across the region, with the sharpest decrease in New York. The total number of marinas fluctuated from the project baseline into recent years, decreasing only 8 percent in 2013 compared with 2009. The number of ship building businesses initially decreased in 2010 (from 75 to 65) but increased in every year since to a total of 72 businesses in 2013. The total number of transportation equipment businesses decreased from 2009 to 2010 and has since remained relatively constant in the region, with the largest decrease in New York. Since 2010, however, New York has added seven businesses.

By County

Those counties with the most businesses associated with commercial fishing during the project baseline continued to have the most businesses after implementation of the catch shares program. However, every top county aside from Suffolk (New York) experienced decreases in the total number of businesses from 2009 to 2013. This trend was particularly noticeable in Ocean County (New Jersey), which decreased from 148 businesses in 2009 to 129 in 2013.

Data Gaps and Limitations

We used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual County Business Patterns tabulation. The data only go back to 2003 and do not span our full project baseline, which starts in 2002. In addition, the data are based on North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for those industries most closely associated with commercial fishing. NAICS are somewhat broad, however, and include a wide range of businesses. For example, the code for “transportation equipment and supplies (except motor vehicle) merchant wholesalers”, used in our analysis, includes businesses that provide supplies to all kinds of fishing vessels, and those businesses undoubtedly provide goods to vessels inside and outside the multispecies groundfish fishery, including recreational marine vessels. Furthermore, the data include counties with no access to the Atlantic coast and support service businesses in these areas are likely involved in supporting marine activities on the Great Lakes. Finally, the dataset contains some information about employment and payroll, but many data points are considered confidential by the U.S. Census Bureau and are withheld, providing incomplete data for states and counties with low numbers of support service businesses.

Information Sources

U.S. Census Bureau. 2003 through 2013. Geography Area Series: County Business Patterns. Available online: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

Information displayed for the “Fishing Support Service Employment” and “Seafood Processor Employment” indicators are from U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns datasets. Only data for those states most involved in the multispecies groundfish fishery were tabulated, including (from north to south): Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

County Business Pattern data are updated annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and are available from 2003 (the 2004 County Business Patterns include data for 2003 and 2004; from 2005 onward, County Business Pattern data are only for one year). All counties within selected states were tabulated regardless of their access to the Atlantic coast. County Business Pattern data are available by 6-digit North American Industry Classification System code. The social indicator team reviewed available 6-digit codes and selected those industries most applicable to the commercial multispecies groundfish fishery. For fishery support services, these included codes for ship building and repairing (336611), boat dealers (441222), marinas (713930), and transportation equipment and supplies (except motor vehicles) merchant wholesalers (423860). For seafood processor employment, these included codes for seafood product preparation and packaging (31171, which is a 5-digit code that includes different kinds of custom products), fish and seafood merchant wholesalers (424460), and fish and seafood markets (445220).

Updated: August 2015

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