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Professor’s fisheries management work improves conservation and economies

One of the greatest traditions of the land-grant university is its mandate to give back to society. Serving that tradition well is Scott Matulich, professor, School of Economic Sciences, who has been at WSU since 1976.

Over the last decade, Matulich’s research has focused on redesigning the management policies in the largest U.S. fisheries off the coast of Alaska. His efforts have changed conventional economic wisdom and resulted in two national fisheries policies, each providing a substantial impact on marine ecosystems, fisheries conservation and the economies of Washington and Alaska.

Because of his success, Matulich is the 2005 recipient of the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service.

Historically fisheries have been managed as license-limited “open access” property, which means no one owns the fish until caught. Matulich’s research has shown that this system is costly to the fishing industry, depriving it of wealth and personal safety, and that some sort of transferable quota system, in which individuals own a share of the overall quota, can work better.

Matulich did not stop with the peer-reviewed publication of his research insights; he helped put them into public policy. He took every opportunity to present his ideas before the impacted parties — fishermen, processors and fishery-dependent coastal communities — trying to explain to them how to turn the misery of open access into a win-win-win situation for all stakeholders.

Speaking of Matulich’s innovative policy to “rationalize” the North Pacific crab fisheries, former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles noted, “Professor Matulich’s commitment to educate policy makers, stakeholders and the general public enabled the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…to refine the policy and build consensus.”

Matulich’s research and policy outreach have greatly benefited the state of Washington, since almost all of the Alaska fish processors and most of the fleet reside in Washington.

“He is one of WSU’s leading examples of the land-grant tradition, where disciplinary knowledge is applied to real-world problems of society to improve the welfare of the citizens of Washington State and of the nation,” said Regents Professor Ron Mittelhammer.

“This is a very special award to me because it embraces both the uniqueness and the defining essence of WSU,” Matulich said. “It honors the soul of our land-grant tradition and our responsibility to serve the public through discovery and outreach.”

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