Southwest Alaska Fisheries Are Subject of 30-Year Analysis

The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference has a new report out on Southwest Alaska fisheries resource allocations over a 30-year period. The report says that the absolute number of permits held by residents fell from 14,085 to 9,258, a factor of 34 percent from the peak to present. Graphs included in the report show that the number of permits for crab, herring and salmon declined, permits for shellfish and halibut are about the same and groundfish and sablefish have increased over the 30- year period of study.

Groundfish, sablefish and halibut fisheries experienced an increase in permits in the years prior to rationalization and a sharp drop after programs were implemented. Crab fisheries did not follow the increasing trend, although there was a sharp fall after program implementation, the report said.

The most drastic increase in licenses can be seen leading up to the individual fishing quota system instilled in the halibut fishery in 1995. Similar trends can be identified in groundfish during the comprehensive rationalization program discussion from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, leading to the inshore/offshore allocations in 1992 and raising again prior to the actual implementation of the American Fisheries Act in 1999, which rationalized the Bering Sea Pollock fishery. “These fisheries appear to be trending downward, post rationalization, as the industry consolidates toward fewer, more efficient operations,” the report said.

While the number of permits fell, every permit by species became more valuable in terms of nominal gross earnings per fishery. This is expected since resource allocation allows for the number of licenses to be reduced to remove less productive operations, the report said.

SWAMC announced the report this week in its online newsletter, noting that the information was compiled to offer an understanding of the period. Aggregate data on each sub-region of Southwest Alaska has been analyzed in the report for various resource access categories, along with the entire region as a whole.