• Challenges in Restructuring Alaska's Salmon Fisheries

      Ulmer, Fran; Knapp, Gunnar (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2004)
      Over the past fifteen years, Alaska’s salmon industry has experienced dramatic losses in income, market share, permit and boat values, and tax revenues to communities and the state. The economic crisis in the salmon industry—driven by competition from farmed salmon and other factors—has prompted numerous task forces and summits to call for improved quality, new products, better marketing, and other measures to enable Alaska’s salmon industry to compete more effectively in world salmon markets. However, there has been relatively little discussion of restructuring Alaska’s salmon fisheries....In this paper, we argue that public debate and action on restructuring have been limited by several factors: the complexity and controversial nature of restructuring, the absence of leadership on this issue from either the industry or government, and the ambiguity of responsibility and authority within state government for the economic success of Alaska’s fisheries. The Board of Fisheries and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have a clear mandate to conserve Alaska’s salmon and authority to enact regulations necessary to achieve that objective. But that mandate and authority do not extend to the more complex and difficult objective of managing Alaska’s salmon resources for the “maximum benefit” of Alaskans, as the Alaska Constitution requires. Editor’s Note (September 2005): Fran Ulmer and Gunnar Knapp wrote this paper in November 2004. Near the end of the paper, they discuss the Chignik salmon cooperative and the then-pending Alaska Supreme Court decision about whether the Board of Fisheries had the authority to issue an allocation to the co-op. Page 34 says, “if the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the Superior Court [that the Board did have this authority], it will have the effect of extending the extent to which the board has clear authority to restructure fisheries for economic purposes.” Since the paper was written, there have been several court decisions affecting the status of the Chignik fishing cooperative. The fundamental legal issues at stake relate to the board’s authority and the legislature’s intent in the Limited Entry Act. As of fall 2005, the future of the co-op was uncertain, pending a final ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court. This continuing legal battle reinforces a central point of the paper: that absence of clear authority to make changes in fishery management represents an important obstacle to restructuring. The authors have also written a more recent short paper on restructuring, “Changing Alaska’s Salmon Harvesting System: What Are the Challenges?” in Understanding Alaska, Research Summary No. 5, September 2005.