NOAA employee researches the economic effects of changes in commercial and recreational fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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FISH AND WILDLIFE ECONOMIST
Jerry Leonard

What do you do? I’m an economist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. My primary focus is estimating the economic impact of changes in commercial fishing harvest and recreational fishing effort. For example, if the landings of Chinook salmon increased by 1,000 metric tons in Washington, it would contribute to about 525 new jobs in the state. I developed and maintain the Input Output Model for Pacific Coast Fisheries (IO-PAC model), which is currently used by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to estimate the regional economic impacts of groundfish and salmon management alternatives.

How did you get started in that field? While completing a MS in economics at Montana State University, I researched a variety of natural resource related applications of economics. After bouncing around a bit, I took an economist job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), where my primary duties involved estimating recreation participation, expenditures and the economic impacts generated therefrom. I used this experience to land my current position.

What’s a typical day like? I’m usually researching the economic effects of changes or prospective changes in either commercial fish harvest or recreational fishing effort. However, I have a variety of other research topics to keep things interesting. For example, I recently completed a project, with some folks at the FWS, which examined the trend in recruitment of new anglers and the retention of current and former anglers.

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What’s the best part of the work? I really enjoy getting to act as a detective of sorts and uncover some interesting piece of information or trend using data collected at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. It’s also great working with scientists from other fields, such as ecology, anthropology and biology.

What surprises people about what you do? Honestly, what surprises people the most is that economics has anything to do with fish and wildlife. An attorney friend once said to me, “Since when do fish and wildlife need investment advice?” This misunderstanding of what economists do is not unusual. It happens all the time.

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