The issue of responsible fisheries management (RFM) is becoming more and more complex, and at the same time, its importance is increasingly crucial.
Since 1959, Alaska has included in its Constitution that “fishery resources … should be used, developed and conserved based on the principle of sustainable yield.”
In practice, this means that all stakeholders – fishermen, scientists and citizens – collaborate to determine how to responsibly manage Alaska’s fisheries, so that the sea can continue to offer abundant fish resources for today and tomorrow.
Due to global recognition of the importance of protecting the fishing industry, an RFM certification program has been launched according to FAO standards, which assesses fisheries against the criteria of the code of conduct for responsible fishing and the FAO ecolabel guidelines.
The Alaskan fishing industry is committed to the development of this model because it is based directly on the world’s most comprehensive and respected fisheries management guidelines, developed through collaboration between governments, scientists, and conservationists.
Today, the Alaska Fisheries Management System is the global model for responsibility and sustainability. All industry stakeholders have agreed to prioritize long-term ecosystem conservation, over short-term commercial gains from over-exploitation.
In Alaska we work hard to ensure that RFM is being carried out correctly, the attached PDF answer s further questions concerning how fisheries management works in Alaska.
It is the body that establishes the policies, regulations and adjudication system of the fishing exploitation, and the Department of Fish and Game of the Alaska government (ADFG) conducts biological investigations and executes the decisions put forward by the ABF.
The prohibition of fishing too far from shore, in areas where too many salmon heading to other rivers could be accidentally caught, and too close to shore, in areas where there are large concentrations of salmon and are for both excessively vulnerable.
The management of Alaska’s fisheries resources is adapted to the circumstances of each fishing season and day to day, and those responsible for such management can allow or prohibit fishing in certain waters based on the behavior of the salmon, the level of the water and other circumstances.
This system makes it possible to reasonably discriminate between different types of salmon, so that each fishery exploits only salmon from a given migration. The granting of a limited number of fishing licenses according to a system of restricted admission or “numerus clausus”, that is to say, in which no new licenses are granted, so the interested person must buy an old license from another salmon fisherman. This system allows a rational management of fishery resources that protects the vigor of salmon stocks in the long term. Fishing gear such as seine and gill nets should be made of monofilament mesh which is less visible. The nets must float in the shallow area where the fishing can be observed. There are restrictions on the length, depth and periods of use of the networks. Trolling (with hooks) is also regulated. The use of trawl nets for salmon fishing is not allowed. The characteristics of the fishing gear and techniques used practically prevent the accidental capture of marine mammals or birds.
The fundamental objective is to apply a policy of fishing exploitation known as a “fixed escapement”. This means that the main objective of the management is to ensure that a sufficient number of salmon that have reached maturity to spawn avoid being caught in the ocean by the fishing fleet and manage to spawn in rivers, so that salmon populations remain in a size that guarantees its long-term survival. It is thus intended to maintain the target spawning figures for all populations of each of the species every year.
All forms of exploitation by man of salmon resources, particularly commercial fishing, are thus subordinated to this guiding principle. Due to the intrinsic variability of natural weather events such as “El Niño”, the total number of adult salmon that return to spawn may vary. In order for the number of spawning salmon to remain constant from season to season, commercial catches are adjusted each year to existing conditions. Salmon fishing is managed according to tactical decisions that are adjusted in real time. This Alaskan salmon fishery management system that adapts to seasonal conditions has been followed and praised by fishery resource managers around the world.
Additionally, resource management decisions are made each season from a local office in each fishery, by biologists who know the fishery best, and not from a distant central office. This system allows the ADGF to take into account the natural variability of migrations. The ADGF manages more than 15,000 salmon rivers throughout the state. Alaska’s many salmon fisheries are well managed and are the foundation of a powerful fishery and seafood processing industry that is by far the most employing sector in the state. Most of the salmon caught in Alaska is processed in hundreds of industries in small fishing communities along Alaska’s 76,000 km of coastline. These ancient towns and cities are economically dependent on salmon and therefore have a keen interest in continuing long-term sustainable exploitation of fishery resources.
Scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the US marine fisheries agency, continually conduct thorough studies on aspects of the biology of Alaskan whitefish species, such as their biotic and physical environment in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.
The staff of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) carry out similar studies on halibut at various points in their habitat, from California to Russia.
Professionals from the NMFS and the IPHC, in collaboration with other specialists in marine biology from the public administration and universities, calculate using scientific methods the biomass of the different species and the natural incorporation rates of young fish into the population.
In this way, they manage to approximate the fraction of said biomass that can be captured safely and sustainably. It is a methodical process carried out applying the most advanced biological models of fisheries.
NMFS and IPHC scientists also prorate the values calculated between the various statistical areas of the North American coast according to the abundance of fish in each of those areas, called Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) or catches biologically acceptable (CBA).
Other strengths and advantages of the individual fishing quota system in Alaska are as follows: