An Assessment of Social Indicators for Fishing Communities in Hawaii

The Human Dimensions Research Program has embarked on the first phase of an assessment of social indicators for fishing communities in Hawaii. The PIFSC research, covering the western Pacific, is part of a national effort involving social scientists from all six NOAA Fisheries Science Centers. By integrating readily available socioeconomic information with fisheries information, PIFSC researchers are working to create a set of social indicators that can be used to gauge the well-being of coastal communities and their reliance on and engagement in fisheries. The results will provide a way to compare fishing communities and identify their relative vulnerability to changes in their fisheries within and across regions.

Following in the tradition of assessing social-ecological systems as units, NOAA Fisheries social scientists are developing indicators to describe fish stock sustainability as well as vulnerability and resilience of the human communities that rely upon fish stocks. PIFSC researchers Courtney Beavers and Dawn Kotowicz are undertaking research to establish a set of social indicators to gauge relative vulnerability to change in Hawaii's fishing communities. These indicators describe reliance of communities on recreational and commercial fishing, economic status, and coastal hazards. The indicators are derived from information gathered primarily from the U.S. Census, American Community Survey, and regional fisheries data.

The use of secondary data for social indicators, however, provides an incomplete picture of these communities because they are not specific to local circumstances. Beavers and Kotowicz are using an ethnographic approach to supplement this information and explore the validity of these social indicators in specific fishing communities. The work will validate the social indicators for Hawaii and help not only to establish the broad utility of the indicators, but also assess their relationship to other key variables commonly used to describe fishing communities.

Ten communities in Hawaii have been identified in which to conduct this research. These communities represent the spectrum of different fishery sectors and exhibit different socioeconomic profiles. In the coming months, PIFSC researchers will be speaking with representatives from each community about the role that fishing plays in the community and the community's level of engagement in and reliance on commercial and non-commercial fisheries. The communities selected for this research include: Honolulu and Waianae on Oahu; Lihue and Hanalei on Kauai; Hana and Kihei (including Maalaea Harbor) on Maui; Hilo and North Kona on Big Island; East Molokai; and Lanai.