Economic Value and Trends of Commercial Fisheries at CNREP by Jim Delbene

At night, the brass band and crowds of Bourbon Street rung through the hotel walls. But, during the day discussions on coastal resilience flowed throughout the conference rooms reserved for the Challenges of Natural Resource Economics and Policy: 6th National Forum on Socioeconomic Research in Coastal Systems (CNREP).

UnknownNot only is New Orleans ground zero for combating sea-level rise and land subsidence, but it is regularly exposed to natural disasters. This was my third time visiting the city, but first time learning about how Louisiana and other states are working to increase the resilience of their coasts and communities.

CNREP brought scholars, students, state and federal resource managers, and non-profits together to foster and share socioeconomic research focused on coastal resilience and fisheries. As a graduate student from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at William & Mary, I immersed myself in new ideas and presented my research during the session titled, “Economic Value and Trends of Commercial Fisheries.”


My research on commercial crabber preferences for derelict (i.e., lost or abandoned) blue crab pot mitigation activities intrigued attendees from other states, such as Louisiana and Texas. These states have productive blue crab fisheries that are also dealing with the issue of derelict pots in their waters. Derelict pots can capture and kill valuable recreational and commercial organisms, and even reduce blue crab harvests by attracting blue crabs away from pots that are regularly baited by commercial crabbers. I used a mail survey to engage with Virginia commercial crabbers and provide an avenue for their collective voice to be heard on the issue. It is essential to include commercial crabbers in developing effective management practices that can reduce negative impacts caused by derelict pots.

The importance of stakeholder engagement and science communication echoed throughout many of the conference’s talks. Whether encouraging homeowners to fortify their homes to resist hurricane wind damage or urging policymakers to draft legislation that addresses climate change, there was a clear need for engagement.

At a conference full of economists, money was ranked as the best tool to promote engagement. Money is universally valuable and can attract the attention of almost any audience. Dr. Pawan Patil, Senior Economist for the Environment at the World Bank, preached this message during his Keynote Presentation. Dr. Patil stressed the importance of treating the ocean as an economy, a “blue economy,” that we must value and protect through sustainable practices. He conveyed the power of money through examples of countries that resisted change to improve coastal resilience and human health but jumped into action whenever change ensured an increase in their gross domestic production (GDP).

I left CNREP with a newfound network of likeminded individuals and a broadened understanding of coastal resilience and fisheries. The sounds and flavor of New Orleans may have filled the air at night, but during the day, thought-provoking discourse shed hope for enhancements in coastal resilience and fisheries that will sustain future generations.

October 22nd, 2019


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