A Brief History of Early Alaskan Fisheries

In the pre-Russian period, Alaska’s fisheries were managed by individual tribes (Eskimo, Indian, or Aleut) or villages based on customs, religion, or tribal law. Some individuals were given rights to harvest from a specific area or stream. During this time about over 12 million salmon were harvested annually. When the Russians landed in 1741, this led to a period of exploitation by fur traders. Fish were mostly harvested for subsistence use, but there was some commercialization. In 1799 the Russian government commissioned the Russian American company. Here the only Fishery management that occurred was directed towards commercial which led to more exploitation of resources at the expense of others in the region.

In 1867 The United States purchased Alaska; the U.S. commission of fish and fisheries conducted many studies on the fisheries resources of Alaska, however they did not play an active role in managing these fisheries. Compared to today’s fisheries, early fisheries were not as widespread or complex, and thus little attention was showed in the management of individual stocks. In 1878 the first cannery was established in southeast Alaska, and thus the fishery expanded.  By the 1930’s research and investigation of Alaskan fisheries raised an alarm that better management of individual stocks and areas needed to exist, in order to prevent mass decline of stocks. This led to federal actions to protect the stocks, which still occurs today.


mfr50433 early Alaska



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