Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 18, 2004
Publication Date: July 20, 2011
Citation: Smiley, S., Bechtel, P.J. 2011. Fisheries. In: Duffy, A., Duffy, L., Kelly, J., Erickson, K., editors. Land and Environment in the North. Fairbanks: Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, University of Alaska. p. 59-85.
Artifacts from early coastal settlements show that fishing was an important activity for the inhabitants of Alaska. Today, the fish harvested from the waters around Alaska are in excess of two million metric tones per year. The industry is vitally important to the economy of coastal communities. There are many different methods used to harvest fish, from large nets to baited hooks. Most of the seafood harvested in Alaska is delivered to shoreside processing plants; however, factory trawlers that process the fish at sea account for about one-quarter of the landings in Alaska. To maintain quality, fish must be kept cold and processed rapidly after being harvested. Modern fish-processing plants use automated equipment to make a variety of products, including fresh, frozen, dried, smoked, and canned items. In addition, fish is continually being developed as a component in ready-to-eat meals. Fish muscle proteins are also used to make surimi, a freezer-stable protein mix that can be incorporated into a variety of new food forms such as imitation crab or lobster. Per capita fish consumption is increasing in the United States, in part because of the discovery of the healthful nature of omega-3 fish lipids and the high-quality protein that fish contains. Maintaining sustainable stocks is a goal shared by all interested parties. Many regulations have been promulgated in support of the effective and efficient use of our marine resources. These regulations include quarterly harvest quotas for individual species, controls over the bycatch of certain species, and the handling of the by-products of seafood processing. Scientists in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service are studying the fish stocks since long-term monitoring is essential if rational policy decisions are to be made.