Commercial fishing is a culturally and economically significant industry on the Oregon coast. The importance of this industry to human communities is often neglected in fisheries research, with economic and ecological data being favored by managers and decision makers. Recent observations in many coastal communities have indicated aging of fishermen and a lack of young people entering the industry, causing a “graying effect” in commercial fishing fleets. This phenomenon could have significant implications for commercial fishing participants as well as the larger communities this industry supports. This qualitative study uses oral history data to examine the graying phenomenon and implications for the resilience of the commercial fishing industry in two coastal communities in Oregon. Extensive research has been conducted on the graying of the fleet in Alaska but research on the phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest is lacking. Results reveal that commercial fishermen, fishing family members, and fishing support industry representatives perceive graying as a threat. This threat was specifically referenced in relation to changing fisheries management such as catch share implementation, as well as shifting motivations to fish and dynamic social influences. Such changes may impact resilience through lost local ecological knowledge, diminished connection to place, and a loss of financial capital that has historically been brought into coastal communities through commercial fishing. This research offers insight into the relationship between fisheries management and community perception, and provides potential strategies that can be used to combat current regulations favoring larger corporate fishing enterprises. The results of this study also add to the literature on the graying of the fleet phenomenon providing much needed background and context for more extensive graying projects into the future.
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