Fisheries

fishing boat A gillnet salmon boat fishing in Southeast Alaska.

Alaska is home to some of the largest and most valuable commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries in the nation. Commercial fisheries located in the federal waters of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska produce the highest volumes of groundfish (pollock, cod, rockfish, sablefish, and flatfish) in the country, close to 2 million metric tons per year, valued at $553 million in 2002. For the 14th year in a row, Dutch Harbor–Unalaska was the number-one port in the nation in volume of fish landed, delivering 908 million pounds in 2002.

The wild salmon fisheries in Alaska range from Ketchikan in the south to Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle. More than 12,000 limited-entry permit holders are eligible to use either drift or set gillnets, purse seines, or troll gear to harvest five species of salmon. In 2002, the commercial catch of salmon in Alaska totaled more than 130 million fish worth $141 million.

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery closed in October 2003, after catching over 14 million pounds of crab in five days, valued at over $70 million. Halibut, herring, and shellfish are also important commercial fisheries in the state, worth over $160 million in 2002.

Subsistence fishing in Alaska is critical to the cultural and economic well-being of the more than 100,000 Alaska Natives and non-Natives living in rural Alaska. Currently, the average rural subsistence harvest of fish and wildlife is about 354 pounds of food per person per year. That is more than the U.S. average consumption of 255 pounds of domestic meat, fish, and poultry per year. About 4% of the fish harvested in Alaska is used for subsistence.

Sport fishing in Alaska is also important to residents and nonresidents. The American Sportfishing Association estimates that the expenditures for sport fishing in Alaska in 2001 generated 11,064 jobs and $238 million in wages and salaries.

The Marine Advisory Program provides information and technical assistance to Alaskans involved in commercial, subsistence and sport fishing. We coordinate workshops, carry out applied research, and publish materials of interest to fishermen.

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