Social Indicators and Measurements of Vulnerability for Gulf Coast Fishing Communities



Social indicators as measures of economic or social well-being have existed since the early 1970s. It is only recently that the use of social indicators have become of some utility to fisheries management. Prior to the revision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the addition of National Standard 8, there were only a handful of studies that collected the types of data that could be used to create such indices. However, with the addition of a provision to define and identify fishing communities in the Act (National Standard 8), the ongoing collection of census and other statistical data on fishing communities has been instituted. This article describes the creation of a “vulnerability index” consisting of measures of employment opportunity and community well-being from census and other data sources that was used as part of the social impact discussion. The index provides an indication of which fishing communities might be affected the most by the choice of several management alternatives included in a recent Environmental Impact Statement for the Essential Fish Habitat Amendment for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. This article concludes with a discussion of the need for improved data and methods to assist fishery managers with social impacts and the personnel to write and review such assessments, as fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico are rapidly changing.