Human Communities and Fisheries in the Southeast

Southport, NC


Where is Southport located?

Southport has a population of 2,833 and is classified by the census as falling within an urbanized area. Rural to urban is really a continuum. Increasing urbanization indicates that a community has more jobs overall, more kinds of jobs, and more services like hospitals, social workers and job training centers. However, increasing urbanization can also mean greater pressure to transform working waterfronts for alternative uses, such as hotels or tourist shops.

Involvement in Fisheries


What species are landed in Southport?

The landings associated with a fishing community tell us what species are important to that community. The diversity of species caught also is indicative of a community’s ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions (e.g. populations of specific fish stocks) or changes in fishing regulations that restrict access to resources.

The local quotient (LQ) graph specifies the top species which were most important in terms of pounds landed and value out of all species landed within the community.

*Scale is logarithmic and although bars may seem close in value, they may actually be far apart. Hover over bars to see actual values.

What are the characteristics of the fishing vessels in Southport?

The number of fishing vessels in a given port provides a sense of the scale of fishing in that port. Where a large port may serve as the homeport for hundreds of vessels, a smaller one may only have a handful. The number of vessels also may provide a rough sense of the number of fishing-related jobs (e.g. crew positions, jobs in shoreside industries) available in a given location. In addition, the type (commercial or recreational) of fishing vessels provides a sense of the importance of that sector to the community. In the Southeast, commercial and recreational fishing are important to local communities. Both commercial vessels and for-hire recreational vessels are federally permitted.

Size also matters. Larger commercial vessels can travel farther offshore and stay out for longer periods more easily than smaller vessels. These differences also affect family life. Smaller dayboat fishermen tend to return home every day whereas fishermen on larger vessels may be away from home for weeks on long and distant fishing expeditions. The Gulf shrimp vessels may at times have month long trips, while the longline fishery may stay at sea for a week. There are two categories of for-hire recreational vessels, headboats including party boats (larger in size with a larger customer capacity) and charter boats (smaller in size with a smaller customer capacity). All these characteristics help illuminate the potential impacts of regulatory changes on a given community.

Demographic Attributes


Educational Attainment

The level of educational attainment in a community is associated with issues important for community development, such as income and poverty levels, unemployment rates, and local participation in community activities.

How do people make a living in Southport?

Just as the range of fish species harvested by town residents speaks to their ability to adapt to environmental change, the diversity in local occupations indicates the ability of a community to adapt to economic changes, including changes in the local fishing economy. Is there one predominant industry, for instance, or is there a range of economic opportunities? How many occupations are available that offer incomes similar to fishing or require skills and education common to the average fisherman? How many jobs are available that would provide a working environment that fishermen would be comfortable with?

Unemployment Rate: 3.2%

National Rate: 7.9%*

The unemployment rate in a community is one indicator of the level of opportunity that may exist for fishermen who lose their jobs to find alternative ways of making a living. The unemployment rate may also indicate the desirability of fishing in the face of other opportunities.

*Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Median Household Income: $48,333.00

National Average: $51,914.00 (2011)

Individuals in Southport living in poverty: 13.1%

The poverty threshold for an individual is defined by the US Census for 2010 as $11,139. The percentage of a town’s population living under this economic threshold is an indicator of the residents’ ability to adjust to loss of income and job opportunities in fishing-related and other local industries.

Age structure of residents

Age structure provides potential indications of many broader community issues and institutions. A large number of older residents may be associated with a retirement community or an out-migration of young people. For many fishing communities, an aging population can indicate gentrification, a process that may affect fishermen’s access to the waterfront. In some remote coastal communities, people in their late teens or early twenties may leave to look for work or pursue an education outside of their community. A very large population of young people, on the other hand, may indicate the presence of universities or a military base.

Median age: 56

National median: 37.2

Ethnicity and Race

These factors give a sense of the cultural context of the community, and the relationship of fishing families and groups to the community in which they live. Is this community racially and ethnically diverse? In the southeast region, ethnic diversity reflects historical patterns of settlement and recent migration of new residents. A long history of retiree migration along the coasts has changed the demographic profile over the years. In South Florida, the immigration of Cubans to that area has had an impact on the seafood industry there, as the recent placement of Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s has along the Gulf coast. Also, the participation of Hispanics in the seafood industry in Texas has long been a part of that state’s history.

Language and Marginalization

Fishing regulations can be complex. Documents are rarely translated from English into other languages such as Spanish and Vietnamese when deemed necessary. In some areas of the Gulf of Mexico there are substantial populations of these minorities. Lack of strong English language skills could affect participants’ ability to engage effectively in the fisheries management process. While these numbers correspond to the overall community in Southport they may indicate a population needing assistance in integrating their needs and concerns into the process.

Foreign Born: 1%

National Average: 12.7%

Speak English less than very well: 0%

National Average: 8.7%

Social Indicators


Social indicators are quantitative measures that describe the well-being of communities and are used to describe social phenomena over time. Below are a series of indices for Southport that provide measures of fishing engagement, social vulnerability, and gentrification. An index combines variables of interest and are used to evaluate well-being in terms of social, economic and psychological welfare.

Fishing engagement and reliance indices portray the importance or level of dependence of commercial or recreational fishing to coastal communities. The indices include: Commercial Engagement, Commercial Reliance, Recreational Engagement and Recreational Reliance.

Social vulnerability indices represent social factors that can shape either an individual or community’s ability to adapt to change. These factors exist within all communities regardless of the importance of fishing. The indices include: Poverty, Population Composition, and Personal Disruption.

Gentrification Pressure indices characterize those factors that, over time may indicate a threat to the viability of a commercial or recreational working waterfront, including infrastructure. The indices include: Retire Migration, Urban Sprawl, Natural Amenities and Housing Disruption.


The factor scores for each index are normalized so that zero is the mean. Therefore, a higher value implies more engagement or reliance upon fishing or higher social vulnerability or vulnerability to gentrification. Learn more about the social indicators for fishing communities.



View full-length profile of this community, last updated 2002/2005