A Social Census of Georgia’s Working Waterfronts
Georgia’s seafood industry is of great importance to the state and national economy. In 2015, over five million pounds of seafood were landed, totaling over $16 million dollars in value (DNR, 2016). Despite its obvious importance, the stability of this industry is uncertain. In the 1990s, Benjamin Blount described a dying Georgia seafood industry, even going so far as to predict its collapse (Blount, 2007).
Despite this dire prediction, the seafood industry lives on. However, previous investigations have shown that the industry is merely surviving. Of primary concern is the lack of data available on the industry and its members. The last comprehensive dock census was performed in 1975 (Nix, Glenn, and Whitted) meaning little is known in regards to industry demographics, economics, and social conditions. Without additional knowledge, the economic stability of the industry is unknown, the workforce composition unrecorded, and plans for growth left undeveloped.
We seek to address this information gap by gathering information regarding industry demographics, economic conditions, the workforce characterization, worker well-being, geographic distribution of infrastructure, industry sustainability and challenges facing the workforce. These data will be collected via a census of historic and current industry infrastructure, case studies, spatial analysis, a survey of seafood industry participants, and in-depth interviews.
Infrastructure and geographic data were collected with the help of undergraduate students at Emory University enrolled in the field course “Coastal Georgia: Geography, History and Politics of Fishing Culture”. Students traveled to the Georgia coast to speak with members of the fishing community and collect GPS data for historic and current fishery locations. They documented their experience in blogs, which are posted online.
Additionally, a graduate team is developing social network research tools and social network analysis. These data will provide information regarding who in the industry, according to their peers, is deemed the most reliable, forward-thinking and likely to succeed at leading workforce development efforts (Maiolo 2007).
The use of various data sources and multiple methods results in the incorporation of anthropological, economic, and institutional policy analysis perspectives, which not only enable us to document and analyze the industry from an academic perspective, but also provide information for use in regulatory decision-making at federal and state levels in an effort to help sustain the industry. The results of this study will be used in future research and published on the Georgia Coastal Atlas.
This project is funded by Georgia Sea Grant (grant number NA180AR4170084), awarded to Georgia Southern University (Jennifer Sweeney Tookes PI) and a sub-award to Emory University (Tracy Yandle Co-PI). Student research supported by Emory Environmental Science Turner Funds.
This project was a collaborative effort:
- Jennifer Tookes (PI, Assistant Professor, Georgia Southern University
- Tracy Yandle (Co-PI, Associate Professor, Emory University)
- Brian Fleuch (University of Georgia Extension, Public Service Assistant & Associate Director, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant)
Gina Shamshak, (Consultant, Associate Professor, Goucher College)