. "I Resource Dependency and Community Vulnerability." Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment - Special Report 293. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment
erated thousands of jobs in the seafood industry. The dominance of seafood-related employment, however, is not limited to Dutch Harbor; a significant portion of the ownership of Bering Sea–Aleutian Islands vessels and fish processing is based in Seattle. Thus, catastrophic events affecting Dutch Harbor would likely have much broader consequences in the northwest Pacific, and indeed in the nation.
In addition, the income derived by migrant laborers from fish processing is of great value in the foreign nations from which many of these workers come. The phenomenon of circular migration is of substantial economic importance to many developing nations. Because of the diversity and geographic distribution of fisheries in the Aleutians, there is considerable economic and subsistence value dispersed throughout the region. On the commercial side, valuable individual quotas are held in the halibut fishery, and a system of community development quotas (CDQs) in the crab, pollock, halibut, and Pacific cod fisheries provides a mechanism for allocating income to shareholders in participating coastal communities through designated CDQ groups. Again, because a high proportion of local harvest vessels and processing facilities is owned by interests outside of Alaska, incidents that harm the industry are likely to have reverberations far beyond the Aleutian region. In addition, the fishing industry provides revenues that support a high quality of life in Unalaska and Dutch Harbor, one that would be threatened in the event of a spill resulting in the closure of fisheries, as was evident in the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 (Ritchie and Gill 2007). Even if there is no contamination, fisheries can be closed, with substantial loss of income due solely to the perception of contamination (Alaska Oil Spill Commission 1990).
The above discussion illustrates a high level of resource dependency on commercial and subsistence fisheries in the Aleutians—conditions that translate into local populations that are highly vulnerable, both socially and economically. Events such as oil spills can threaten the resource base on which community health and well-being depend, creating social vulnerability. Vulnerability refers to “inherent characteristics of a system that create the potential for harm but are independent of the probabilistic risk of occurrence of any particular hazard or extreme event” (Sarewitz et al. 2003, 805). It is important to consider vulnerability separately from risk. The concept highlights the importance of considering both event risk