Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust Releases Report To Highlight Fishery Access Barriers, Opportunities

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust:

New report about fishery access in Southeast Alaska highlights current barriers and opportunities for local communities

SITKA, AK – The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust has released a new report, “From Tide to Table: Fisheries Access in Southeast Alaska,” looking at changes to local participation in fisheries and sentiments around fishery access in Southeast Alaska. The report summarizes findings from a regional survey that ASFT distributed to community members this spring in collaboration with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) and offers recommendations for addressing some of the barriers and issues identified. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) hopes the report, which was funded by Southeast Conference through the USDA’s Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy (SASS) initiative, will assist local communities by providing data and information for future dialogues and community development planning, increasing awareness, and encouraging future funding for fishery access-related projects. 

With the help of SSP’s local and regional ambassadors (a.k.a., ‘catalysts’), the report’s researchers and authors, Ann Robertson (AKWA-DC) and Jamie O’Connor (Intertidal Consulting), connected with local residents through electronic surveys, public meetings, and phone interviews. All local marine users were invited to participate in the study, including traditional use, commercial, and recreational harvesters. Survey participants represented communities throughout Southeast Alaska, including the communities of Angoon, Craig, Haines, Kake, Ketchikan, Klawock, Klukwan, Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, and Yakutat. 

In the survey responses, fisheries were universally identified as a crucial element of Southeast Alaska’s culture and economy moving forward. Another key theme that emerged was that people are concerned about “their ability to access and derive sustainable livelihoods from local fishery resources – whether through traditional harvesting, commercial fishing, or recreational fishing.” When it came to what people thought about fishery access challenges and strategies to address those challenges, responses varied by community, underscoring the unique status and role that fisheries play in each community and each community’s unique needs.

“Based on what we heard from the dozens of community members who participated in our survey, it is clear that Southeast’s communities, particularly Indigenous communities are losing access to fisheries and their future access remains uncertain. However, it is also clear that we have some real opportunities when it comes to designing and implementing new tools to help restore this access and ensure that local needs are being factored into larger discussions and decisions concerning Southeast’s economy,” said Linda Behnken, ASFT Board President. 

The report discusses some of the key concerns identified by local residents, including:

  • The climate and environment in Southeast Alaska are undergoing change, creating a sense of unpredictability for the future of marine resources. There is a lack of confidence that currently entrenched scientific approaches to fishery management will be adequate in light of the significant changes affecting the region and its resources due to climate change. 
  • Existing systems of governance challenge access to local fishery resources – this was especially the case for traditional use harvesters, who repeatedly cited discrepancies in regulation enforcement. 
  • Community members reported challenges with limited access management at both the state and federal levels. 
  • Loss of community infrastructure such as processors, fish buyers, cold storage, marine services, and/or transportation often initiated the trend in outmigration of fishery access in remote communities.  
  • For many respondents, the utmost priority is the protection and perpetuation of a traditional way of life, with commercial fishing considered secondary – as a tool to bridge the traditional and cash economies. The loss of commercial harvesting capacity degrades subsistence access that often has similar needs relating to boats, gear, and  workforce. 
  • The rapid growth of tourism in Southeast Alaska is feeding competition and tensions between local-commercial and traditional-use harvesters and non-local harvesters in the sportfish sector. 

When it comes to how to address these concerns, the report’s authors outlined several recommendations for building more equitable and accessible fisheries in Southeast Alaska based on community responses and priorities. These recommendations include: 

  • Incorporate climate change variability and unpredictability into fishery management actions and tools to facilitate fishery access
  • Ensure that other industries (tourism, mariculture) do not further limit fishery access
  • Make policy processes more accessible to stakeholders with increased leadership from state/federal agencies
  • Establish a regional entity to hold quota/permits (e.g., regional Community Quota Entities and Regional Fisheries Trusts)
  • More investment in community infrastructure
  • Leverage federal funding opportunities for community-led fishery access projects 

In addition, the report’s authors encouraged further work be done to better understand what kind of access and participation local residents want in Southeast’s fisheries, and how to achieve that – i.e., community members should inform and guide future solutions and actions.

“We are deeply grateful to all the community members who were willing to share their stories and perspectives about such a complex and sometimes sensitive topic. We hope that this report will uplift their voices and be a chance for the public, policy-makers, and others to better understand some of the challenges that many Southeast residents are facing so that we can collectively find solutions and build a resilient and vibrant future for Southeast’s fisheries and communities,” said Behnken.

To read the full “From Tide to Table” report, click here

To read the “From Tide to Table” summary handout, click here

For community members who were unable to participate in the fishery access survey this spring, ASFT will be keeping its survey open through the summer. Southeast Alaska residents are invited to take the survey online or by contacting to schedule an interview.


The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust aims to educate, activate, and inspire consumers, while engaging community-based fishermen in programs that promote healthy fisheries. By combining ecology, economics, and the common good, the Trust works to ensure resilient communities and robust resources throughout coastal Alaska with the ultimate goal of protecting both communities and the fisheries that sustain them.