Individuals relying on natural resource extraction for their livelihood (e.g. fishermen) face high income variability driven by a mix of environmental, biological, management, and economic factors.

This study documents the effect of individual-level changes in fished species diversity on revenue and revenue variability. The analysis provides a synthetic view of the effects of species diversity on individuals over 30 years in one of the most productive fishing regions in the world (Alaska). However, the authors expect that their results are largely generalizable to other productive and intensely managed fishing regions.

The study finds that individuals with sets of permits that allow high levels of species diversity tend to have lower revenue variability, and adding a fisheries permit usually increases revenue and decreases revenue variability. However, it is stated that within the constraints of a permit strategy and accounting for effort, specializing tends to increase revenue, while changes to fished species diversity tend to correlate with greater revenue variability. Thus, the most effective mechanism by which species diversity can lower revenue variability for individual fishers (switching or adding permits) is expensive, limited by regulations, and consequently unavailable to many individuals.

The authors highlight that with increasing environmental variability and extreme events in a changing climate, it is particularly important that individuals who rely on natural resources, such as fishers, have effective strategies to reduce risk. And state that while diversification can provide a powerful form of risk buffering, the relationship between individual changes to diversification and income variability is complex and context-specific.

Anderson SC, Ward EJ, Shelton AO, Adkison MD, Beaudreau AH, Brenner RE, Haynie AC, Shriver JC, Watson JT, Williams BC (2017) Benefits and risks of diversification for individual fishersPNAS 2017 114 (40) 10797-10802