Fishing areas, which prohibit harvests too far offshore where the incidental catch of salmon bound for other rivers would be too high, or too close inshore where the salmon are crowded, and too vulnerable.
In managing the fisheries on an in-season, day-to-day basis, Alaska’s fishery managers can open and close certain areas to fishing, in response to fish behavior, water levels, and other conditions.
This allows a reasonable separation of salmon, so that each fishery targets a specific run of fish.Fishing vessel licenses are rigidly limited by a system known as “limited entry”. This means that anyone wishing to fish for salmon must buy an existing license from another fisher, because new licenses are not issued. This allows for rational management of the fishery without undue impacts to the long-term health of the salmon stocks.
Fishing gear such as purse seines and gillnets must be constructed of multi-filament mesh, rather than the less-visible monofilament. They must float at the surface, where their catch can be observed. All nets are limited in their length, depth, and periods of operation, as are the gear and operation of troll (hook) gear.
Trawl nets are not allowed for salmon. The fishing gear itself, and the way it is fished, virtually eliminates incidental catch of marine mammals or birds.
Alaska’s fisheries management system is well-crafted and has served well for almost four decades, as demonstrated by the sustainability of Alaska’s salmon harvests. The Alaska Board of Fisheries sets harvest policies, regulations, and allocations, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) conducts biological research, and enforces the board’s decisions.
The dominant goal is the harvest policy known as fixed escapement.
This means that management’s first priority is to ensure that sufficient numbers of adult spawning salmon escape capture in the fishery in the ocean and are allowed to spawn in the rivers, thus maintaining the long-term health of the stocks.
Escapement goals can be reliably achieved for each species, each stock, every year.
All human uses of salmon, especially commercial fishing, are subordinate to this guiding principle. Because of the natural variability of environmental conditions such as El Niño, the total number of adult fish returning to spawn may vary. In order to maintain escapement, it is the commercial harvest that fluctuates from year to year.The salmon fisheries are tactically managed while they are actually taking place. Alaska has led the way with its in-season salmon management approach, which has become recognized among fisheries management agencies around the world. In addition, the in-season management decisions are made from a local office, by the biologists most knowledgeable in that fishery, rather than in some distant headquarters. This allows ADFG to account for the natural variability of the runs.
ADFG manages over 15,000 salmon streams throughout the state. Alaska’s abundant, well-managed commercial salmon fisheries support a thriving commercial fishing and seafood processing industry; by far the largest employment sector in the state.
The overwhelming majority of Alaska’s salmon are landed and processed at seafood plants in scores of small coastal communities all along Alaska’s 47,300 miles of coastline. These long-established villages and towns depend on salmon as their economic base, and therefore have a strong incentive to support long-term, sustainable management of the fisheries.
The abundance of these species of predators and carrion-eaters which depend on salmon is a living testimony to the success of the salmon fishing resources management policy in Alaska. Alaskan salmon is an important integral part of the natural ecosystem in which these species live. In contrast to other parts of the world, the populations of Alaskan salmon are not threatened or in danger of extinction