Sociological Aspects of Alaskan Salmon Fisheries

The Alaskan salmon fisheries encompass many fishing locations and involve diverse groups of fishers. Although salmon fishers are united through their occupation, the fishery is inherently competitive due to the glut of salmon in the international market. This competition results in many divisions among fishing groups based on ethnicity, geographic residence, and experience differences that affect social interactions and fishing practices among salmon fishers. Despite competitive and social divisions, a salmon fishing community exists that unites groups of fishers in Alaska.

Management policies

Sustainable salmon fishery management needs to consider all the social aspects of fisher groups in Alaska. The management strategy of individual transferrable quotas (ITQs) has sharply divided the community of Sitka between those skippers with ITQs and those without. Deckhands have been replaced by family members in sharing fishing profit because of the ITQ policy (Busch 1996). Fisher groups formed for information sharing dissolve in a quota system because no self-repsecting skipper would acknowledge that they need help from others "just to catch the quota" (Gatewood 1984). Dynamics between groups and the values that the fishers share will influence the success of management plans. Compromises between existing opportunist claims to fisheries and established camps held by Tlingit and White fishers along the Alsek river must be resolved. The Quinault Indian system of allocating riverbank land and its adjacent fishery according to social status is an effective method within that society (Barsch 1982), but its applications outside Quinault villages are limited and should be explored. An understanding of the motivations of Alaskan salmon fishers and the relationships between them is essential to developing management strategies that fishers are willing to accept and will not further divide the fishing community or eliminate the fishery and their ways of life.

An overview of the Sociological Perspective on Fisheries Management

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