Recent Survey of Independent Alaskan Fishermen Reveals Priorities

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Top concerns center around loss of income, community health and safety and the Pebble Mine

Contact: Tyson Fick tyson@salmonstate.org 907-321-9848

Juneau, AK— This April and May, just under 800 Alaska commercial fishermen participated in a survey conducted by SalmonState’s Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP). Chief among their concerns were loss of income due to the Covid-19 crisis, preventing its spread in coastal communities and habitat destruction associated with Pebble Mine. 

“When the coronavirus first started to appear in the U.S. and seafood markets crashed, we were having conversations with lots of fishermen around the state trying to assess the impacts on Alaska’s fishing industry and particularly small boat owner operator businesses who live and operate in Alaska’s rural coastal communities. We quickly realized that the impacts from COVID-19 were so tremendous that we needed to design and launch a survey to get a handle on what fishermen were experiencing and needing. As a result, we have an invaluable snapshot of what Alaskan fishermen want and need right now,” said Tyson Fick, a Southeast Alaska Fisherman and Associate at SalmonState.  

The survey was open from April 14to May 3, with 779 verified Alaska fishermen participating — a notably higher response rate than any other surveys of Alaska fishermen to date. Fishermen who responded primarily fish for salmon as well as other species.  They are both permit holders, crew members or IFQ owners.  Some highlights of the survey results include:

  • When asked about issues facing Alaska’s fisheries prior to COVID-19, there was consensus amongst fishermen that  fish prices (65%), the proposed Pebble Mine (60%), and climate change (53%) were the top three concerns.
  • The primary concerns COVID-19 elicits for fishermen are loss of income (75%); preventing the spread of COVID-19 in coastal communities (69%); and bad policy decisions while fishermen are distracted (regulatory decisions, Pebble, etc.) (58%). 
  • Fishermen are guarding against the negative effects of COVID-19 by doing more work with less time and resources. 51% of respondents indicated they would look for non fishing related work, 27% indicated that they would fish a longer season while only 10% indicated that they would fish less, and 26% indicated that they would fish with fewer crew.
  • By far the most common answer for how emergency relief funds can best help fishermen was “direct funds to affected fishermen,” with over 80% of fishermen selecting this response.  Debt was another common response with debt consolidation and forgiveness getting 33% and 29% of responses respectively. An fairly equal number of fishermen thought that emergency funds would be best spent on increased infrastructure for direct marketing and allowing emergency transfers of permits/quota 

“We hope that decision-makers at the local, state, and federal levels will keep these results in mind as they distribute emergency funds and consider additional ways to support Alaska’s fishermen to stay afloat,” said Fick. 

The full report can be found online here: http://alaskasalmonhabitat.org/publications/ or a direct downloadable pdf file here: https://secureservercdn.net/104.238.71.109/2h2.054.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Alaska-Fishermen-Survey-2020.pdf