Geospatial Analysis Tool Links Fisheries Data with Census Data to Help Define Fishing Communities

National Standard 8 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management establishes that when adopting conservation and management measures, NOAA must take into account the social and economic importance of marine resources to local "fishing communities". One of the first orders of business is therefore to define fishing communities. NOAA researchers Stewart Allen and Matt Austin have developed a software tool to aid in this task. Allen is a social scientist with the PIFSC Fisheries Monitoring and Socioeconomics Division, Human Dimensions Program, and Austin is a geospatial analyst with NOAA's National Ocean Service in Silver Spring, MD. Their "Fishing Ecosystem Analysis Tool (FEAT)" is a system for analyzing and spatially displaying commercial and recreational fishing catch data. It is applied in combination with the place-based approach to defining and measuring fishing communities

Fishing communities in Hawaii are currently defined at the island level, a scale too broad for much social impact analysis. FEAT utilizes Zip Code Tabulation Areas which the U.S. Bureau of the Census developed by aggregating census blocks. FEAT refers to these smaller areas as Socioeconomic Zones because they are characterized using census socioeconomic variables such household income, poverty level, education, ethnicity, and income assistance.

Using ZIP Code Tabulation Areas as a geographic unit, FEAT enables analysts to link fishery statistics, such as catch, to socioeconomic profiles of the fishers. The software uses State of Hawaii fishery databases and U.S. Bureau of Census databases.

FEAT links these Socioeconomic Zones to catch data for commercial marine license holders and recreational fishers using commercial marine license zip codes. This allows for spatial analysis and reporting of catch variables such as species of fish caught, amount of catch landed, port of landing, fishing gear used, and fishing location (using State of Hawaii reporting grids). FEAT then associates any of these variables with the anglers' socioeconomic zones and characteristics. Data from 10 years of commercial marine license catch reports and 7 years of recreational catch data currently are entered into the database.

FEAT has a simple front end that allows users of the tool to make data queries by checking off choices in a drop-down menu. Variables in the drop-down boxes which can be specified by the user currently include time period, island, species (including all 200+ species in the commercial marine license database), gear type (all 40+ gear types), and fishing zone (8 categories of aggregated fishing grids).

FEAT output can be displayed in several formats, including Google Earth maps and as GeoPDF—a file in PDF format that can be easily displayed using the free Adobe Reader software. The FEAT user can turn layers of information on or off and display data for any unit of analysis. For example, clicking on a Socioeconomic Zone displays information about that zone, such as the percent of residents receiving income assistance, as well as catch information and statistics specific to the query. Clicking on a fishing grid location will yield statistics about the catch in that grid and its proportion of the total.