The Role of Commercial Fishing Permits in Alaska’s Coastal Communities

commercial fishing permitting

The old fishing tradition in rural areas of Alaska where fisheries have historically been an important means of subsistence is at the edge of extinction. Commercial fishing permits are becoming harder to obtain each year, having undesired consequences economically, socially, and culturally.

The scenario has worsened since the beginning of the limited entry system in 1975. The idea originally intended to keep more fishing power in the hands of Alaskans while creating a transferable permit system is backfiring as permits in rural areas are disappearing.

commercial fishing permitting

Why Are Commercial Fishing Permits Disappearing?

Determining a specific reason for the lack of permits in Alaska’s coastal communities can be a hard task. As a matter of fact, there are quite a number of reasons to explain the actual situation. Times change, and so do people and the economy.

Free-Trade Permits Sale

The limited-entry system allows fishermen to sell their fishing permits to other owners or entities. Permits are freely transferable, though, which creates market value. The price for these permits has no limit or regulation and can reach amounts far from being accessible for people who live in rural areas of Alaska. As a result, the permits are taken away from local townsfolk and residents, to urban businessmen and even foreigners.

Aging Fishermen And Attrition

As there are fewer local permit holders in the area, there are fewer persons who can pass on the torch of expertise and knowledge to younger generations. The flow of urban people interested in fishing has become stagnant. Many fishermen have already retired or can no longer stand the physical effort of sailing.

Low Income Vicious Circle

As permits are sold to outer buyers, the cash income for rural areas decreases. When this happens, more aging fishermen sell their permits to outer buyers in an attempt to earn more money from selling their permits rather than fishing or teaching their children to fish.


Due to the aforementioned reasons, and some others as well, younger people look for jobs and live elsewhere. This could be a reason and a consequence as well.

The Harsh Consequences Of Losing Access To Commercial Fisheries

The lack of permits for fishing in rural Alaska it’s taking its toll on the local population. Concern rises as income decreases and means of revenue are agonizing. The outcome is not looking good for areas that have lived from fishing for more than a century.

As the lack of income grows, rural Alaska loses its economic base, degrades its infrastructure, and devastates any kind of economic opportunity. This has an important negative impact on fishing heritage, food security, and health.

The local attitude towards foreign fishermen and deckhands has changed as well. Not only because of local permits being taken away from rural areas into outer hands but also because they bring different fishing approaches where income becomes more important than preserving and respecting the sea life cycles.

You Can Do Your Part To Help

The Commercial Fishing Permits Center has a wide selection of applications to fish in Alaska. Check out the ‘Federal’ tab on the upper side of the main page to see them. If you live in a rural area in Alaska and you are concerned about the local economy, you can stand up for the community.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Scroll to Top