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Alternative Perspectives on the Sustainability of Alaskas Commercial Fisheries

Sustainability Politics

Many believe commercial fisheries in Alaska, USA, are sustainability success stories, but ongoing socioeconomic problems across the state raise questions about how this sustainability is being defined andevaluated. Sustainable management of marine fisheries is much discussed and debated, writes Philip A. Loring, The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Problems such as food insecurity and the disenfranchisement of Alaska Natives from fishing rights are well documented, yet these concerns are obscured by marketing campaigns that convey images of flourishing fishing communities and initiatives to certify Alaska’s fisheries as responsibly managed.


Sustainable management of marine fisheries is much discussed and debated. In addition to the challenges of industrial-scale fishing, changes in global climate are contributing to trends in marine ecosystems, such as warming and ocean acidification, that pose significant threats to the viability of many of the world’s fisheries and fisheries-dependent societies (MacNeil et al. 2010). The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) most recent report on the world’s fisheries describes an increase in the percentage of over-harvested, depleted, and recovering stocks (FAO 2010); likewise, red flags are being raised even in unexpected quarters, including for short-lived fish species previously considered less vulnerable to overfishing (Pinsky et al. 2011) and for the Downeast Maine (U.S.A.) lobster fishery (Steneck et al. 2011), long considered a bastion of community-based sustainable management.

Alaska’s fisheries are regularly hailed as sustainability success stories (Hilborn et al. 2006; ADF&G 2009; ASMI 2009). However, the history of Alaska’s commercial fisheries has not been a straightforward or uncontested success. In the last 150 years, these fisheries have been the focus of repeated human conflicts over access rights, the acceptable uses of fishing technologies such as fish traps, and population declines and collapses (Orensanz et al. 1998; Arnold 2008). Many Alaska Natives have likewise been disenfranchised from fishing rights as a result of transitions to limited-entry, quota-based fisheries management regimes (Langdon 1980; Carothers et al. 2010). An increasing number of Alaskans in both rural and urban communities, many of whose livelihoods are directly tied to fishing, currently struggle with socioeconomic challenges related to the high and rising costs of food and fuel, limited opportunities for employment, and effects of climate change on local ecosystems (Fazzino & Loring 2009; Loring & Gerlach 2010; Gerlach et al. 2011). These challenges, and the fact that many residents of rural Alaska have characterized their villages as dying (Martin et al. 2008), raise legitimate questions about how the sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries is being defined and evaluated.

Sustainability is a difficult concept to pin down. Many are likely to agree that it involves the persistence or preservation of some resource or system over time, but the biological, ecological, social, and economic dimensions of how sustainability is to be achieved and evaluated remain contested. Part of the concept’s power may be its nonspecificity, which allows a platform for place-based deliberation and discourse regarding social change. But this nonspecificity also presents a challenge. Brosius (1999) found that when value-driven concepts such as sustainability become institutionalized by state or nongovernmental organizations they can be changed or limited in ways that obstruct meaningful social change. I argue that the process Brosius describes is occurring with Alaska fisheries. Organizations such as the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) present the fisheries as responsibly managed and fishing communities as vibrant and thriving, but this picture hides ongoing socioeconomic challenges and obscures the deep-seated conflicts that exist between user groups in the state. Although successes can be identified in the history of fisheries management in Alaska, the image being portrayed is too perfect, one with little to no need for improvement. Below, I provide three examples of how some Alaskans are marginalized or disenfranchised by existing management regimes and are left with few livelihood options. This disenfranchisement has led many to find ways to operate outside the boundaries of management, and at times, the law, to feed their families healthy and traditional foods.

My intent is not to assign blame for these problems; rather, I seek to explore the question of how the managers and marketers of Alaska’s fish and game can reconcile difficult and worsening socioeconomic conditions in communities across the state with claims that Alaska’s fisheries and other natural resources are being managed sustainably. I argue that an answer lies in the metaphors and cognitive models with which managers and policy makers define and understand sustainability as a phenomenon and the extent to which these cognitive models integrate or alienate the role of humans in ecosystems. Those who proclaim Alaska’s fisheries are sustainable, I contend do so, because they construe sustainability as a primarily biological goal, a goal that is not predicated on the status of human communities and that is achieved by identifying and enforcing a maximum level of harvest that any given resource can tolerate without collapsing (i.e., maximum sustainable yield [MSY]). Odum (1998) describes this as a parasitic metaphor for human ecology, and I argue that it reifies a false dichotomy between biological and societal goals and constrains management and sustainability discussions to the language of balances and trade-offs.

There are alternative cognitive models for sustainability, models that draw metaphors to such ecological concepts as mutualisms and keystone species. These models allow for scenarios in which people are positioned as contributing participants in ecosystems, capable of meeting needs via strategies that are responsive to natural limits and variability in the availability of resources and that contribute to overall ecosystem stability and biodiversity. In Alaska an approach to fisheries governance informed by one or more of these alternative models could support practices through which societal and biological outcomes could be mutually assured, specifically, by better enforcing existing mandates for food security and sovereignty. Elements of this discussion should be of value to sustainability and conservation projects anywhere, especially regarding contested resources where seemingly intractable conflicts among stakeholders can be related to unrecognized differences of perspective.

Alaska Fisheries

For thousands of years, coastal and living marine resources have provided for the cultural and economic health and well being of Alaska’s people and communities (Fitzhugh 2003; Arnold 2008). Visitors to the state are repeatedly reminded of the deep and long-standing connections between Alaskans and the marine environment by the ubiquity of cultural arts, artifacts, and festivals themed on fish and fishing.Many tourists, for example, fly into the state on Alaska Airline’s larger-than-life “Salmon- Thirty-Salmon” jet, a Boeing 737 that has had its fuselage painted to look like a king salmon. Today, the commercial fishing industry in Alaska provides nearly 50% of United States’ wild landings and creates over $5.8 billion in direct and indirect economic outputs (National Marine Fisheries Service 2008). The industry employs more workers than any other in Alaska and ranks third in the state for total economic value, behind North Slope oil and the federal government (Northern Economics 2011).

The major commercially fished species in Alaska include halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), five species of salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), crab (Chionoecetes and Lithodes spp.), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), and walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Each is governed under a complex tapestry of state, federal, and international mandates, and different sets of values and expectations drive how each of these fisheries are managed and developed (Lowe & Wilson 2007). Three features are common to the governance of many of Alaska’s fisheries. First, most commercial fisheries are managed as limited entry, which means government rules specify participation, harvest levels, and allowable fishing technologies. Specifically, several are rationalized, which describes systems by which the right to fish is allocated via tradable catch shares or quotas (e.g., individually transferable fishing quotas).

Second,many of Alaska’s commercial fisheries are managed as single-fish fisheries, with management actions predicated on concepts such as MSY, total allowable catch, and minimum sustainable escapement. These concepts are premised on the idea that any given species will produce, each year, a harvestable surplus of offspring beyond the number necessary to maintain population levels. Two major pieces of legislation encode MSY in fisheries management in Alaska: the Alaska Constitution (Article 8 § 4) and the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 USC § 1851).

Third, in the management of Alaska fisheries there is an intentional separation of powers between those responsible for scientific tasks, such as evaluating stocks and calculating MSY, and those who make political decisions regarding how the allowable catch is allocated to stakeholders (ADF&G 2009). The rationale of this arrangement is to avoid political interests influencing scientific decisions such that catch levels are set too high (ADF&G 2009). Under Magnuson–Stevens, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council convenes a team of scientists to write fisheries management plans and conduct and present scientific research on the status of the stocks to the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The plans and research results are presented to Fisheries Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This organization then writes formal regulations and determines how catches are allocated for federal fisheries (A. Himes-Cornell, 2012 personal communication). State-managed fisheries follow a similar model in which the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is responsible for scientific research and the Board of Fisheries, a political body made up of gubernatorial appointees, makes decisions regarding how catches are allocated.

The Story of Sustainability

The most outspoken advocate of the state’s allegedly successful fisheries management is ASMI, a partnership of public and private interests created by the State of Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry to foster economic development of Alaska fisheries. The ASMI’s slogan, “Wild, Natural, Sustainable,” is a registered trademark and part of an ecolabeling campaign to improve the competitive position of Alaska seafood in a global market that is both dominated and structured by the farmed-fish industry (H´ebert 2010). Growing interest in revitalizing local food systems has created a niche for Alaska seafood to be marketed as a traceable and regionally harvested food product that meets tests of environmental and social justice. From signage at airport terminals to a life-sized display of a fresh fish market at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska residents and tourists are repeatedly confronted with images of thriving fishing communities, bucolic seascapes, and sustainably caught seafood.

Many of ASMI’s marketing materials, such as Sustainability in Plain English, contain the phrase “sustainability is nothing new in Alaska” (ASMI 2009), with which they claim a de facto posture toward and status of sustainability in the state. These are evidenced, they argue, by requirements for MSY-based management in both state and federal law. In their words (ASMI 2011: 1):

Not everyone requires certification of our fisheries because they know of Alaska’s 50+ years of leadership and commitment to sustainability. Alaska is the only state with a constitutional mandate for sustainability [and] Magnnusson-Stevens [sic] [requires] all federal fisheries are sustainably managed. Therefore, certification is an option, not a requirement, to claim that our fisheries are responsibly managed.

In an effort to standardize the discourse on sustainability in Alaska fisheries, ASMI employs Global Trust to certify major commercial fisheries in the state comply with FAO’s code of conduct for responsible fisheries. The FAO code includes stipulations for the use of science-based management, transparency of the management process, protections of marine ecosystems from the effects of fishing, and protection of small-scale and artisanal fishing interests (FAO 1995). As of the end of 2011, four major Alaska fisheries—salmon, halibut, sable fish, and walleye pollock—have been certified by Global Trust as responsible fisheries. The Alaska cod and crab are expected to be certified in late 2012. The Marine Stewardship Council, an international group that also certifies many of Alaska’s commercial fisheries as sustainable, recently expressed concern that the ASMI certification falsely portrays endorsement by the FAO, that the certification process is not transparent or participatory, and that it does not involve ongoing assessment of fish stocks (MSC 2012).

Conflict and Insecurity

The Marine Stewardship Council criticism of ASMI’s certification initiative is the latest example of how the matter of sustainability in Alaska’s fisheries is more complex than commonly portrayed. In the last 150 years, fisheries in Alaska have experienced multiple sociopolitical and ecological crises, conflicts, and transitions. Struggles over fishing rights began with conflicts over property rights among Alaska Natives and Euroamerican colonists in the late 1800s (Arnold 2008), and these conflicts became more complex when the federal government took control of salmon fisheries in southeastern Alaska in response to failing stocks. Multiple fishery collapses and near collapses have occurred since, including the serial depletion of crustacean fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska in the 1960s–1980s (Orensanz et al. 1998). Presently, king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) runs in rivers across the state are struggling, and managers and biologists are uncertain as to the cause(s).

The timeline of Alaska fisheries is also marked with examples of changes to governance and policy, such as statehood in 1959 and the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which shifted and re-shifted the distribution of power and the allocation of rights to fisheries and other natural resources (Arnold 2008). Alaska Natives in particular, whose livelihoods historically have been deeply embedded in the landscapes and seascapes, may be the most affected by these geopolitical changes. In some rural Alaskan communities, local demographic and environmental conditions appear to be completely uncoupled (Huntington et al. 2009).

Socioeconomic circumstances across the state do not mirror the vibrant images of thriving communities presented by ASMI and others. Rates of food insecurity, which describe households that do not have reliable access to safe, nutritious, and culturally preferred foods, are high and on the rise (Fazzino&Loring 2009; Loring&Gerlach 2009). Roughly 14% of Alaskans are currently food insecure (USDA 2011), and although this rate is lower than the national average of 16%, estimates suggest that rates are as high as 30% in some rural areas (Feeding America 2011). Contributing to these challenges are climate-driven changes to ecosystems and weather, changes that are having significant effects on local people, community infrastructure, and natural resources (Gerlach et al. 2011).

Marginalized and Disenfranchised

Rural Alaskans are marginalized from or even negatively affected by the gains of thriving commercial fisheries. I provide three examples of this situation. First, there is a consistent pattern of loss of fishing rights among small, remote fishing communities that has resulted from fisheries enclosure (Langdon 1980; Carothers et al. 2010). Enclosures are controversial, especially when they involve rationalization. Although lauded by some, rationalizations in Alaska have been criticized for producing societal outcomes that include the redistribution of wealth, loss of jobs, increased costs of entry into a fishery, and disproportionate loss of fishing rights by smallholders (e.g., McCay 1995; Lowe & Carothers 2008). Reflecting on the impacts of fisheries rationalization on communities in the Kodiak Archipelago, Carothers (2010: 96) said:

[Rationalization] policies created a rupture with the village cultures and economies based on flexible engagements with commercial fishing. . . . The nature of adaptive fishing participation, that is, fishing when income is needed, adjusting to seasonal and annual ecological and economic fluctuations, has been impacted by policies that have necessitated large capital expenditures for purchasing harvest rights and a more permanent, continuous engagement with commercial fishing. . . . [The] cascading enclosure and commodification of fishing rights is severing the place, resource, and livelihood attachments of Kodiak communities.

State and federal agencies have tried to be responsive to the effects of fisheries rationalization by implementing a community development quota program to bolster the standing of remote fishing communities in western Alaska (Ginter 1995). Under this program, a small percentage of the TAC for various rationalized commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea is set aside for six regional organizations, and each region can apply to receive allocations from these reserves. Still, the consolidation of fishing rights is not an unintended consequence of rationalization; rather, it is part and parcel of its economic logic and favors neoliberal definitions of efficiency and wealth over local values of fairness, tradition, and quality of life (Carothers 2008). The result for many Alaskans is that their traditional place-based and communal ways of life have been reshaped to accommodate the logic of a system that is based on individual fishing rights, economic growth, and an imposed segregation of commercial and subsistence activities.

The King Salmon Failure of 2009

The second example, described by Loring and Gerlach (2010), involves controversial king salmon fishing closures in 2009 on the Yukon River due to concerns regarding escapement shortfalls. By the end of the season, escapement goals were exceeded by roughly 22,000 fish and the year was considered a management success. The smokehouses and freezers of many Alaska Native families remained empty, however, especially up river,where per capita use of king salmon is highest, and the federal government declared a fisheries failure under the auspices of Magnuson–Stevens. Critics argue that the eventual surplus proves that the closures were overly conservative and were driven by a pressure to meet international escapement obligations at the expense of the needs of rural people. Representatives of ADF&G countered that too much uncertainty exists in the Yukon system to have managed the stock with greater precision and that it was preferable to have erred conservatively than to have fallen short of MSE.

The declaration of fisheries failure and the resulting $5 million of federal assistance provided people with some relief, but these funds were limited to those who could document loss in a commercial fishery (Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission 2010); people who harvest salmon for subsistence only had no recourse. Many Alaskans, especially those living up river, admitted that as a result they would have to hunt for more moose (Alces alces), both legally and illegally, to make up for food shortfalls, even though moose populations in the upper Yukon basin are depleted (Loring & Gerlach 2010). Down river, too, in the coastal community of Marshall, fishers received local and national media attention for their protests of the closures, during which they publicly and illegally caught 100 king salmon. Charges for the infraction were levied but ultimately dropped, which arguably reflects an implicit acceptance of illegal hunting and fishing as an unspoken solution. Nevertheless, these details illustrate how some Alaskans need to operate outside the boundaries of the existing management regime, and even outside of the law, to cope with what is framed as a sustainable system.

Working in the Margins

A final example of how Alaska Natives are marginalized by the commercial fishing regime is in recent efforts by one community development quota organization, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC), to develop so-called foregone salmon harvests. Foregone describes the number of salmon that go unharvested in any given year but that were available for harvest as surplus to MSE (McDowell Group 2008). The study commissioned by BBEDC identified lucrative fishing opportunities of approximately $21 million annually. However, aside from the apparent economic potential of foregone harvests, the very fact that BBEDC is motivated to explore these marginalized fishing opportunities hints at a fundamental problem in how commercial salmon catches are allocated and negotiated. As with the case of illegal hunting and fishing described above, this is an example in which local people are looking outside of the dominant management regime to develop resources that are essentially the unclaimed leftovers of the commercial fishery to generate economic benefits for local communities.

The strategy of developing foregone harvests may also affect local salmon populations, riverine ecosystems, and the commercial fishery. Fishing at levels too near MSY, especially when specific spawning populations are targeted, can reduce biocomplexity (i.e., the genetic diversity reflected in patterns of spawning behavior, timing, and location and the population diversity reflected in how these patterns fluctuate across the watershed in distribution and abundance over time) (Hilborn et al. 2003). Biocomplexity provides resilience for Bristol Bay salmon runs to climatic change and to intense commercial fishing pressure as well as year-to-year stability for salmon returns at the watershed scale that benefits terrestrial food webs through nutrient inputs and that allows for the development of a viable commercial fishing industry (Schindler et al. 2010). Thus, not only is the development of foregone harvests indicative of a fundamental societal problem, it is likely an ecologically damaging solution that may cause societal conflicts over these fisheries in the future.


My intent is not to place the blame for the problems facing Alaska’s rural fishing communities with the managers or marketers of Alaska’s fisheries, but to illustrate a problem that Brosius (1999: 37) describes as the “progressive envelopment of environmental movements within institutions for environmental surveillance and governance.” Certainly, state and federal agencies have presided over lucrative commercial fisheries in Alaska that provide many Alaskan families with food, jobs, and income. Yet, the story told by ASMI and others is too perfect and too final. Thus, although independent oversight and certifications are important mechanisms for ensuring the sustainability of commercial fisheries (Salomon et al. 2011), ASMI’s certification scheme and the elevation of MSY and rationalization as model ways to achieve sustainability are problematic because they limit the discourse on sustainability and obscure a complex milieu of unresolved and arguably worsening socioeconomic and ecological challenges in the process. In Brosius’s (1999: 38) words:

[Such certifications] insinuate and naturalize a discourse that excludes moral or political imperatives in favor of indifferent bureaucratic. . .or technoscientific forms of institutionally created and validated intervention . . . [and] shift the discursive contours away from the moral/political domain and toward the domain of institutionalized environmental managerialism.

Here, MSY and rationalization are these indifferent and technoscientific forms of intervention. Because both are rooted more in politics and economics than in science (Larkin 1977; Finley 2011), their implementation institutionalizes the economic and political ideals and agendas that they embody: economic development, resource maximization, and economies of scale. In so doing, they limit people’s options for affecting change within these institutionally validated spaces. The case of the community development quota organizations provides an example. To receive an allocation from the portion of TAC reserved on their behalf, quota groups must provide specific business plans that conform to an imposed and paternalistic logic of economic development that are evaluated on the basis of externally identified metrics of success, such as job creation. The alternative is that people must find ways to work in the interstices created by these institutionally validated spaces, solutions that, as described above, may have negative ecological and psychological effects.

Cognitive Models of Sustainability

The logic that allows Alaska fisheries to be certified as sustainable whereas local communities struggle also illustrates a fundamental cultural issue of how people imagine and define sustainability as a biological, ecological, or socionatural phenomenon. People often rely on very different cognitive ecological models for understanding the natural world (Rappaport 1979; Larson 2011). These models are complex renderings of structure and function which Toledo (1992: 6) describes as the combination of “beliefs, knowledge and purposes (that guide how) humans use, manage and appropriate natural resources.” In reference to sustainability, Norgaard (1995), Neumayer (2004), and Larson (2011) provide examples of how cognitive models for the natural world influence the selection of technologies, metrics, and indicators for how resources are managed and monitored, through varying metaphors to and assumptions regarding such concepts as limits, growth, and substitutability (Bell&Morse 2000).

Evident in the case of Alaska’s commercial fisheries is the influence of a cognitive model of sustainability that contends its outcome is wholly biological, one that can be achieved on a species-by-species or resource-by-resource basis, and posits a dichotomy between biological and social outcomes, whereby the status of humans is considered secondary to, and at times at odds with, the biological status of the resource in question. This is well illustrated in the separation of powers described earlier (i.e., it is unnecessary and undesirable for scientific and societal concerns to be considered simultaneously). This cognitive model of sustainability can be likened to a parasite that maximizes what it takes from its host without killing it (Odum 1998).

An artifact of this cognitive model, however, is that even the best-case scenarios tend to be limited to the language of balances, trade-offs, and minimizing negative effects, evident in the Yukon River example, where subsistence food shortfalls and the declaration of a fisheries failure happened simultaneous to the declaration of a management success. Although the recognition and democratic deliberation of trade-offs that result from normative and politically driven priorities for natural resources is an important part of any sustainability dialogue, the cases I considered here suggest that the relation between biological and societal outcomes is more complex than one of choosing winners and losers. The implication is that management regimes that focus too narrowly on biological aspects of the sustainability of a single species, especially to the detriment of societal concerns, will espouse behaviors that can have negative effects on other resources, as in the case of humans switching from fishing for salmon to hunting moose on the Yukon, or that will reduce the resilience of the broader social–ecological system, as in the cases of foregone harvests.

Likewise, too narrow a focus on single-species outcomes can also interfere with whether existing social justice protections regarding the allocation of resources are enforced. On the Yukon River, for example, subsistence salmon harvests are supposed to have priority over commercial harvests. Nevertheless, in 2009 despite a surplus of fish, some commercial harvests were allowed down river whereas subsistence fishers up river were not allowed to fish at all. Similarly, Magnuson–Stevens requires that fisheries management plans address the effects of management actions such as closures on fishing communities, but the species-by-species jurisdictional fragmentation in Alaska constrains opportunities to implement innovative, cross-resource solutions to shortfalls in subsistence-food resources (Loring & Gerlach 2009).

Alternative Cognitive Models of Sustainability

A variety of alternative models for human–environment interactions have been suggested that draw metaphors to ecological concepts such as mutualisms, disturbance regimes, and keystone species and to cultural concepts such as gardening and stewardship (e.g., Odum 1998; Rosenzweig 2003; Dagget 2005; Sayre 2006). Examples of human cultural adaptations that embody these alternative cognitive models are not unprecedented (e.g., Williams& Hunn 1982; Dagget 2005; Santa Fe Institute 2012). What makes these models innovative in comparison with the model of parasitism is that they position humans as active participants in ecosystems that are capable of meeting their needs in ways that contribute to overall ecosystem structure and function.

In Alaska an approach to commercial fisheries informed by a keystone-species-based model for sustainability might better address community needs while improving the status of various fish populations. Such an approach could begin by broadening the scope at which sustainability is pursued, from individual fisheries to the entire human food web. This is a step justified by calls in the literature to better integrate humans in ecosystem based management (Wilson 2006). In practice, this would require a mandate at the state and federal level to govern and allocate a portfolio of food resources in an adaptive and regionally tailored fashion, much in the way many indigenous societies adapt culturally to environmental variability and change through flexible subsistence calendars that incorporate multiple primary and secondary food options (Williams & Hunn 1982). Such an approach would also improve managers’ ability to monitor and anticipate the effects human actions have across resources and across marine and terrestrial systems, for example, as a result of switching from fishing to hunting of game species or vice versa (Brashares et al. 2004; Salomon et al. 2007). The roles and responsibilities of individual managers and agencies would not change, except that they would be coordinated differently and motivated by an agenda of food sovereignty (i.e., right of people to produce and procure foods for food security before they are made available for export [Menezes 2001]).

Mandates for a food-sovereignty approach are provided by both Magnuson–Stevens and the FAO code of conduct. Magnuson–Stevens contains language regarding the protection of fishing communities. Similarly, the FAO code requires that fisheries management happen within the context of “food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development” (FAO 1995 §6.2) and that “states. . . protect the rights of . . .subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fisheries. . . to a secure and just livelihood.”

Missing, however, is a system by which these rights, and related outcomes such as human health, food security, and quality of life, are institutionalized and monitored as indicators of the sustainability of the entire social ecological system. First, however, they have to be recognized as such. Thus, the problem in Alaska is neither the use of MSY as a management tool or commercial fishing in general, but the lack of an overarching governing framework that pursues sustainability as a simultaneously biophysical and societal outcome.

Working within a food-sovereignty framework would be a change in paradigm for all, including commercial fishers and processors who would need to develop more robust in-state markets for locally caught seafood, and local people, who would have to soften their expectations regarding the consistent availability of specific seafood items to accommodate regional, seasonal, and interannual variability and change in food resources. Nevertheless, I believe that only via approaches in which food sovereignty and biological diversity are mutually assured can thriving and vibrant natural-resource-dependent communities, such as the fishing communities depicted in the advertising materials of ASMI, exist.

June 2013