From the inbox (1/9/12):
Dear IIFET and NAAFE members,
Below is a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to our friend and colleague Jim Kirkley, who passed away last September. Many thanks to John Walden, Dale Squires, and Sean Pascoe who contributed to this memorial piece.
A shorter version of this memorial will appear in our 2011 year-end printed Newsletter.
Jim Kirkley passed away September 22, 2011 after a three year battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Kathy, three daughters, Kelley, Kara, and Krista, one son, Jamie and four grandchildren, Dylan, Zach, Kylie and Kingston. For those of us who knew and worked with Jim, we have lost a colleague, mentor, and most importantly friend, who touched our lives in different ways. Jim Kirkley will be remembered as one of the most influential economists of his generation for his contributions to United States fisheries policies, and his ground breaking studies of fishing vessel economics, particularly multispecies harvesting, productivity, efficiency and capacity. More generally, he is known for his introduction of rigorous empirical analysis of fisheries, for emphasizing fisher behavior, and for introducing the viewpoint that fisheries can be analyzed as an industrial sector exploiting a natural resource. Jim was among the first field economists for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and his success in Woods Hole spawned an expansion of economics programs within the agency, leading to their integral part within NMFS as both part of the fisheries management process, and also as independent research programs.
It is difficult to cover the breadth of Jim’s legacy in just a few paragraphs, but it is fitting to highlight some of his major accomplishments and contributions. Jim received his M.S. degree in 1975, and his Ph.D. in Agriculture and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland in 1985. Jim's dissertation at Maryland was a revenue function analysis of Georges Bank fisheries, and was among the first empirical applications of dual-based approaches to fisheries analyses. It demonstrated interactions among multiple outputs and inputs, and induced many researchers to follow the dual-based revenue approach. At the time, this was a significant contribution to the fisheries economics literature, and his approach is still being used today, particularly in constructing supply functions when no cost data are available. Perhaps even more fundamental, it initiated rigorous empirically grounded research at the level of the individual vessels using microeconometric principles.
Equally impressive, was that during the time he was writing his dissertation, he was employed by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) stationed in Woods Hole, where he was the lead economist, and also advised the U.S. State Department in their negotiations with Canada in the dispute over the Georges Bank boundary, which was ultimately settled by the World Court. Saying Jim was the "lead economist" somewhat understates his role in Woods Hole. In fact, for some time, he was the only economist in Woods Hole. Jim’s skills must have impressed his superiors, as they had him draft a plan for expanding the economics group in Woods Hole. Twenty-five years after Jim left, his group is still active and has grown to the largest concentration of economists in NMFS.
After finishing his dissertation, Jim left Woods Hole and moved to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, where he was the only economist among numerous natural scientists. This placed Jim in a unique position, and presented him with several challenges, which he handled in his own unique and ultimately highly productive way. First, Jim consistently reached out to others to collaborate on what he thought were interesting problems. He worked with both Dale Squires in La Jolla and Rolf Färe at Oregon State University to model fishing vessel technical efficiency, capacity and productivity. Secondly, in his position at VIMS he was expected to devote time assisting the fishing industry in Virginia with economic questions and problems. This is a large responsibility, especially in a state with maritime interests as great as Virginia’s, which included both commercial and recreational fishing interests. Jim undertook this challenge by reaching out to the fishing industry, and establishing unique working relationships. Jim was one of only a handful of economists who spent time on commercial fishing vessels, and nobody spent anywhere near the time at sea as Jim. This interaction better informed Jim as a researcher and resulted in some of his best research being deeply rooted in this experience. In particular, two of his most cited works, "Characterizing managerial skill and technical efficiency in a fishery", and "Assessing technical efficiency in fisheries: The Mid-Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery" both were developed using data obtained through relationships he developed with commercial fishing vessel owners.
Jim's work in the early 1980's and 1990's was focused on fishing vessel production, and dual based models. However, his research spanned almost all areas of fisheries economics, and included work in the area of aquaculture, input-output analysis, essential fish habitat, recreational fishing, consumer demand, and production economics. His publication track spanned everything from VIMS research reports to widely respected economics journals. He served as a reviewer on over 175 manuscripts for 20 different journals. During the last decade, Jim's primarily focused on measuring capacity, productivity and technical efficiency in fisheries. His work on fishing capacity is the basis for the FAO definition and all of the subsequent research that has followed. In a sense, Jim came full circle back to work he started in 1981 with Ted McConnell and Ivar Strand on a primal (perhaps primitive) analysis of Mid-Atlantic surf clam production, in which economic efficiency was the focus. Excess capacity has been noted as a bane of fisheries for over a century. What better way to demonstrate the inefficiency of fishing (and possibly excess capacity) than to show the differences in productivity across vessels and changes in productivity across time. Jim's work contributed to a much better understanding, and much deeper literature on fishing capacity and technical efficiency than what existed a mere decade ago. This provided not only the essential theoretical backbone for capacity measurement, but also practical approaches for estimating capacity. Jim not only worked to assure capacity and other metrics were applied correctly, he then further expanded these metrics by developing models where such things as discards, and alternative management objectives can be incorporated in capacity measurement. His methods for estimating capacity were adopted internationally, and his capacity work was recognized by NOAA, when they named him an "Environmental Hero" in 2005.
Jim also served in a variety of positions on panels for the Commonwealth of Virginia, for various Government agencies, and for international organizations. He served on plan development teams for the New England fishery Management Council, and on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Gulf, Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. He worked with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as a member of the Committee on Economics and Social Science, served on the U.S. Congressional Investment Task Force, provided advice to the US Congressional research Service, General Accounting Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served as a consultant to FAO, and as an advisor to several E.U. nations. In 2000, he traveled to South Korea and conducted a three-day training workshop on estimating technical efficiency and capacity in fisheries to Korean Maritime Institute employees and graduate students. Jim also assisted the fishing industry, by preparing economic impact statements on the importance of commercial and recreational fishing, and marine development in Virginia. He worked with the National Fisheries Institute, the National Fish Meal and Oil Association, and the American Sport Fishing Institute. He worked on estimating the economic damages brought about by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He helped industry by meeting with Congressional staff to help explain industry positions, and by explaining the regulatory process to industry members.
Jim Kirkley’s professional contributions and publications were impressive, but his most important legacy may well be the intellectual capital he so willingly shared with others. He served as a major advisor to 11 graduate students, and served on committees for 15 others, in addition to participating in over 50 qualifying or comprehensive exams. Jim also reached out to economists working in the National Marine Fisheries Service, and one of his most important contributions which is perhaps often overlooked, was his mentoring of multiple generations of NMFS economists. Jim freely gave advice on tough economic questions, or models that were under development, and his influence touched NMFS economists in every region of the country. He also crossed disciplinary lines to highlight the value of economic analysis to upper level managers in NMFS, and to constituent groups outside of NMFS. The legacy that Jim Kirkley left behind is much broader and deeper than most of us will ever achieve. The time he has spent mentoring, teaching and encouraging current and future fisheries economists will have an impact which will last for decades.