Alaskan Fishing Regulations: Behind the Scenes

The policies (and politics) that affect fishing regulations in Alaska can be complicated and difficult to understand. This is mostly due to the fact that the regulations are made by different entities. The State of Alaska is responsible for some of the species while NOAA is responsible for other species. Some of the species are regulated by agreements with other countries while other species are covered by US federal regulations. Still other species have only state regulations. Then there are different groups who all want the fish. The Native Alaskans, the commercial fishermen who fish for an income, and the sport fishermen who fish for fun, all want to have a share in the catch. It can make for a complicated mix of who has the say and who gets the fish.

I won’t get in to right and wrong or opinions of how it should be. My only goal with this post is to try to explain why the regulations are the done the way that they are.

Alaska has five species of salmon, five species of crab, Pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, lingcod, pollock, herring, several species of shrimp, several varieties of rockfish and flatfish,… all oceangoing species. In addition there are many species of trout, steelhead, dolly varden char, and others that are regulated in the rivers, lakes, and streams of Alaska. Just listing all of the species and who has a regulatory interest in them could make for a long list.

Basically, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is over all of the Pacific Halibut regulations while the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is over the most of the other fishing regulations within the state of Alaska and its offshore waters. That being said, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game does have to listen to other groups who help in the decision making and have a vote on the regulations for many of the federally regulated species and species that are of interest to other countries.

Then, one has to consider what is best for the fish. They must be managed in such a way as to keep the species strong and their numbers growing. Their habitat must be protected and their food sources considered.

After all of this, there is the problem of who gets to have the fish that are harvested. The US government has made treaties with the Native Alaskans giving them rights to continue fishing as they have done for years. The commercial fishermen depend on catching and then selling their catch in order to make a living. The sport fishermen like you and I enjoy the chance to go and catch our own dinner. Each group has a legitimate argument and some claim on the available catch.

In all, it makes for a complicated set of regulations in order to give each group AND the fish a fair shake. The end goal is to give Alaskan fishing the best possible future.

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