Principle 7

Do managers consider social and economic needs?


North Pacific fishery managers protect marine resources that provide more than half the US seafood harvest, sustain coastal communities across Alaska and the Northwest, drive Alaska’s largest source of private-sector jobs, and export billions of dollars worth of high-quality protein.

Fishermen, their families, coastal communities, and consumers rely on a transparent decision-making process to sustain the resources on which they depend —and to provide equitable access to the public’s fish. When the Council sets catch limits, quota shares, harvest allocations, timing of fishing openings, or conservation measures, they act in open public meetings. Some of the people most affected are often watching from a few feet away. Do managers consider social and economic needs? You bet they do.


Sustaining Fishing Communities and the Nation’s Seafood Supply

Total seafood harvest in Alaska in 2014 was 5.7 billion pounds which was 60% of the volume of seafood produced domestically and 67.5% of the domestic groundfish production. 

The Alaska processing sector - which consists of 176 shore-based plants, 73 catcher-processors, and 12 floating processors – contributed $2.3 billion in added value that year.

  • Direct seafood jobs in Alaska: 59,539
  • Nationwide FTE jobs created by Alaska seafood (direct + indirect): 111,800
  • Number of Alaska-resident commercial fishermen in 2014: 17,634
  • Total number of skippers & crew employed in 2014: 31,819
  • Alaska seafood industry national economic output, (direct + indirect): $14.6 billion



Catch Shares

Crafting Catch Shares to Serve People and Ecosystems

The creation of America’s 200-mile EEZ—a boon for fishermen and coastal communities—spurred one unfortunate consequence: The race for opportunity at sea drove vessel owners to overbuild. By the 1990s many fleets were too crowded to thrive. There are no painless solutions when the adage comes true: “Too many boats chasing too few fish.”  The North Pacific’s catch share programs emerged from this crucible. All required years of careful –and very public—balancing of socio-economic and ecological needs.  Do they deliver?

In many ways yes, though caveats come with the terrain. Dividing the allowable harvest into individual or cooperative shares ends the “race for fish.”  This has yielded real-world benefits for fishermen and communities in the North Pacific. In halibut and sablefish, Bering Sea pollock, crab and non-pollock groundfish, Gulf of Alaska rockfish, catch shares have delivered:

  • Improved compliance with commercial halibut and sablefish catch limits
  • Reduced overcapitalized fleets and vastly increased efficiency for long time participants
  • Improved crew safety
  • Increased earnings for active vessels and crews
  • Enabled improvements in product quality, product forms, and value-added.
  • Strengthened capacity to reduce bycatch, especially in trawl fleets
  • Included measures to lower barriers to new entrants and fishing communities in crab and halibut/sablefish
  • Increased Community Development Quotas to benefit Western Alaska
  • Crab crewmembers received right of first offer on crab quota shares. They snapped up 60% of all direct quota transfers in 2015-2016.
  • Alaska community ownership of crab quota grew by 62% during the first six years of the crab program in Bristol Bay red king crab, and by 68% among snow crab catcher vessel owners capacity.




Increased Safety in Crab Fleet

Until 2005, Bering Sea crab tragically earned its reputation as the Deadliest Catch. Much has changed. Under the new quota program, fatalities dropped by 87.5%, averaging just one per year during 2005-2013. Tighter safety rules and training contributed to this improvement, but slowing the race for fish dialed back much of the risk that was once routine. Waiting out dangerous storms? Keeping crews well fed and rested? Safety drills? Drug testing? These are standard practice now.




Community Development Quota benefits in Western Alaska

The Council first proposed reserving a portion of allowable harvests for Western Alaska coastal communities back in 1991. Today Community Development Quotas (CDQ) groups are a rising power in the North Pacific. No longer just leasing out their quota, they own a large share of Alaska’s seafood industry.

  • More than $521 million in direct wages, payments to resident fishermen, scholarships and training benefits in the decade ending 2011.
  • More than $176 million invested in community and fisheries activities in 2011.
  • Employment, infrastructure, and median income have improved in all communities.
  • CDQ groups in 2014 owned all or part of ~85 fishing and processing vessels (mainly groundfish and crab) and equity stakes in major seafood firms.
Photos: courtesy of WACDA




Encouraging Participation

In Alaska’s Bering Sea crab and halibut and sablefish fisheries, low-interest loan programs help new fishermen buy quota. Individuals typically must be crew members buying small amounts of quota to qualify. New entrants to the fishery may borrow up to 80% of the cost of the quota; to qualify, an individual’s total quota ownership must be below a limit. The loan programs have been successful in helping new entrants and those who own small amounts of quota acquire more viable quantities of quota.

In the halibut and sablefish fisheries, eligible community entities are able to purchase quota to be fished in the coastal community by residents. While the program has not been used to a great extent, it remains in place to help communities get into the longline business.




Fish for Hunger Relief

Paddy O’Donnell, owner of the trawler F/V Caravelle in Kodiak, is one proud contributor to food banks. By allowing fishermen to donate fish that otherwise must be discarded under bycatch regulations, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council unleashed a new supply of seafood for the hungry. Fishermen and processors were happy to end the once-mandatory waste of food-grade fish. SeaShare, the industry-sponsored nonprofit that pioneered this approach, reports that participants have donated more than 200 million seafood servings to foodbanks.



Community Outreach in remote Alaska communities

One of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council policy priorities has been to reach out to remote Alaskan regions and Alaska Native entities, encouraging their participation in fishery management decisions that may affect their communities. The Council developed a rural outreach committee and has annually budgeted funds for meetings and travel to remote regions to discuss issues such as management of salmon bycatch. Comprehensive outreach efforts for rural Alaska communities have included statewide teleconferences and participation in a series of meetings with fishery and resource management groups in Western Alaska.

Early in his administration President Obama issued Executive Order 13175 which reaffirmed the importance of tribal consultations as part of all decision making by federal agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service. In recent years both the Council and NMFS have travelled to rural Alaska communities, especially in the Arctic, Yukon and Kuskokwim regions. The effort seems to have paid off based on increased written comments and oral public testimony to the Council by stakeholders from those regions.



Principle 7 Closures

Interactive Map: History and Purpose of Closures