A Description of Economic Changes in Commercial Salmon Fisheries in a Region of Mixed Subsistence and Market Economies
Commercial salmon fisheries in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region of Alaska generally provide a cash supplement to the subsistence way of life of the rural residents, who make up the bulk of the commercial fishers. Changes have occurred in commercial salmon fishery sales and exvessel values in the region during the period 1976-97. While commercial sales of chum salmon have declined in recent years, Chinook salmon sales have been more stable, and those of Coho salmon were on an increasing trend until the weak return in 1997. Price drops have been most pronounced for Chum salmon. These changes have brought shifts in composition of commercial salmon fishery exvessel values. Exvessel value grew from $4.4 million in 1976 to relatively stable levels during the 1980s and early 1990s, except for a record value of $29.2 million in 1988; values then declined in the mid 1990s to only $7.5 million in 1997. The 1993-97 exvessel values, when adjusted for inflation, are the lowest since 1976. It is not known whether exvessel values will rebound, making the current downturn temporary, or whether the declines will persist. However, impacts of supply on a broader scale pose a serious problem for the commercial salmon fisheries in this remote region of Alaska, where the areas with the largest commercial salmon fisheries also have the lowest per capita incomes in the state. World supply trends for salmon are a supply-side factor in these economic changes. Impacts to the fishers at the local level are described in practical terms.