Southeast Alaska’s Salmon and Trout Fisheries
January 19, 2011
This is the first study that takes a combined look at the economic value of all four sectors of the region’s salmonid fisheries – commercial, sport, subsistence/personal use and hatchery production. Previous studies have looked at each of the sectors separately.
“The study shows the healthy and abundant salmon and trout populations of Southeast Alaska are a huge driver of the regional economy. The reason we have such rich and sustainable fisheries is careful harvest management as well as a lack of the dams, pollution, and agricultural and urban development that have decimated so many runs in the Lower 48,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited Alaska.
Southeast fishermen and regulators agree.
“I hope this study helps to raise awareness of the critical importance of coldwater fish to the economy, ecology and identity of this region. I think we as Southeast Alaskans sometimes take salmon for granted—and yet it’s literally the lifeblood of our communities,” said Linda Behnken, a Sitka-based commercial longliner/troller and executive director of Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association.
Although past timber harvesting has degraded fish habitat in some Southeast Alaska watersheds, Southeast still supports a disproportionately high share of the wild stocks of trout and salmon remaining in the Pacific Northwest. Limiting habitat degradation, restoring impacted streams and riparian areas and minimizing the negative impacts of climate change will be key to continuing Southeast Alaska’s salmon success story.
“As someone who worked in the timber industry 35 years ago, I welcome the chance to be involved with efforts to restore impacted high-value, fish-producing watersheds. Especially given the economic and environmental importance of salmon to the communities within the Tongass National Forest, I’d also like to see some intact watersheds safeguarded from future development that could negatively affect the productivity of these areas,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, general manager of Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.
The study, conducted by economist Thomas Wegge of TCW Economics, used 2007 as a snapshot year. Wegge determined that Southeast Alaska’s salmon and trout populations contribute nearly $1 billion to the region’s economy by calculating the economic values and impacts of Tongass fisheries. Use values measure the monetary importance of these fisheries to those who participate in them. Economic impacts, on the other hand, measure the contribution the fisheries make to economic activity within a region, as measured in terms of jobs and personal income. An input-output model developed by Wegge’s colleagues for the Southeast Alaska economy specifically allowed Wegge to estimate how fishery economic activity multiplies as it ripples through the regional economy.
The following are some of the study’s highlights:
“With this study, we can now say conclusively that salmon and trout are a cornerstone of the Southeast Alaska economy and that maintaining and enhancing the conditions that allow these fish to thrive should be a key goal for land managers and everyone else who cares about jobs in this state,” said Bruce Wallace, a Juneau-based purse seiner who has commercially fished Southeast Alaska waters for three decades. Wallace also sits on various boards including United Fishermen of Alaska and the Southern Southeast Alaska Regional Aquaculture Association.
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