Alaska's Fishing Industry


With over 3 million lakes, 3,000 rivers and 34,000 miles of coastline, Alaska is one of the most bountiful fishing regions in the world, producing a wide variety of seafood. All five species of Pacific salmon, four species of crab, many kinds of groundfish, shrimp, herring, sablefish, pollock, and Pacific halibut are all harvested from Alaska. The fisheries of Alaska are recognized as some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, providing tens of thousands of seasonal and full time jobs and a vital, long term economic engine for Alaska communities and the state. Alaska’s constitutionally-mandated commitment to sustainable management practices ensures that all Alaska commercially harvested seafood species in Alaska are sustainable for future, as well as current generations.

Alaska is the only state to have coastlines on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Over half of the nation’s commercially harvested fish come from Alaska, nearly four times more than the next largest seafood producing state. Eight of Alaska's ports consistently rate in the top 30 U.S. ports in terms of volume or value of seafood delivered. The City of Unalaska – Port of Dutch Harbor has ranked as the top port in the nation for 22 years in terms of seafood pounds harvested, landing 706 million pounds in 2011 and was second in the nation in terms of value at $207 million.

Seafood has been and remains one of Alaska’s top export commodities. In 2011, the ex-vessel value of the state’s seafood exports was $2.3 billion, up 29 percent decrease from the year prior. This amounted to over half of the state’s total exports. China has taken the lead as Alaska’s largest customer of seafood, with exports to Japan, Central Europe, Korea, and Canada following.

The vast fishery resources of Alaska are of tremendous importance to the economies of the state and the nation. These resources are self-renewing if properly managed, and it is the mission of both state and federal fishery management agencies to sustainably manage and maximize the economic benefits from these resources for generations to come.

Facts & Economic Impact

  • 5.35 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth over $3.0 billion were harvested in Alaska waters in 2011, putting Alaska in first place for value of landings.
  • Bristol Bay’s 2010 sockeye salmon harvest of 28.6 million fish was the 11th largest since 1959. The ex-vessel value was worth $165 million, greater than the total value of fish harvests in a combined 41 states.
  • In terms of value of landings nationwide in 2011, Alaska led with $2.3 billion, distantly followed by Maine with $527 million.
  • Fishing is the core economy for much of coastal Alaska where fish harvesting and processing often provide the only significant opportunities for private sector employment and where fisheries support sector businesses provide property and sales tax as the largest source of local government revenues. Seafood harvesting and processing jobs provide more than 50 percent of the private sector employment in coastal Alaska.
  • All geographic areas of the state benefit greatly from the fact the seafood industry provides an important “back haul” for shippers that otherwise primarily bring goods and supplies north to Alaska. One major shipping company has estimated freight rates to Alaska would be 10 percent higher without the back haul of seafood shipped out of Alaska.
  • Salmon generate more harvesting jobs than any other fishery, but in terms of value and volume of the catch, the state’s largest fishery is groundfish where a relatively smaller number of boats catch an enormous amount of fish, predominantly pollock.
  • In recent years, the fishing industry generated nearly 60,000 jobs. However, many of these jobs were of short seasonal duration, ranging from one week to several months. On a monthly average adjusted basis, there were 8,061 direct fulltime equivalent jobs in Alaska attributed to the fishing industry in 2011.
  • Revenues generated by the fishing industry in FY12 totaled more than $100 million in state and local taxes. These revenues ranged from fish processing and corporate taxes to fishery resource landing taxes, license fees, and seafood marketing assessments.
  • At the end of 2012, Alaska residents held over 7,000 commercial fishing permits, and nearly 12,000 full-year crewmember licenses. Estimated earnings by Alaska based permitholders was $681 million.
  • The Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program is a unique fishery management system that allocates a portion of the total allowable catch for all federally-managed Aleutian Island and Bering Sea fishery species to eligible communities in Western Alaska. Revenue largely earned from the harvest of this quota funds infrastructure, local fisheries development and other community and economic development activities. Since its 1992 inception, the CDQ program has generated more than $521 million in direct wages, payments to resident fishermen, scholarships and training benefits. In 2011 alone, the six CDQ entities invested more than $176 million in its communities and fisheries activities.
  • The CDQ program has allowed development of processing facilities in some villages in the six CDQ regions, and the revenue generated from the program has allowed some CDQ groups to invest and take ownership positions in many major seafood companies in the North Pacific as well as ownership in many harvesting and processing vessels, that work the various fisheries in the North Pacific. The CDQ groups are now major players in all fishery activity that accrues in the North Pacific.
  • Alaska’s state fish, the King salmon, can weigh up to 100 pounds.

Web Links


  • Alaska Department of Fish & Game
  • Alaska Department of Labor
  • Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
  • World Trade Center Alaska
  • North Pacific Fishery Management Council