Pacific salmon in Alaska are among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of fish populations and the fishery itself. Because salmon return to freshwater rivers to spawn, many populations in California and the Pacific Northwest have been severely depleted or eliminated by human activities, such as damming, deforestation, habitat loss and development. These collapses leave remaining stocks more vulnerable to fishing pressure.
The comparatively healthy river systems in Alaska combined with precautionary fishery management have resulted in salmon runs that are more resilient. Over the past 20 years, Alaska has landed roughly 10 times as much salmon as California, Oregon and Washington combined. The current health of Alaskan salmon populations and their habitat reflects the success of the state's management practices.
Alaskan fishery managers have taken the long view, limiting the entry of new fishermen and boats, and monitoring salmon populations to ensure they remain large enough to reproduce naturally. Salmon fisheries can only be opened once enough fish migrate up river to spawn. This also ensures that enough salmon make it up the watersheds to feed the wildlife and ecosystems upstream. Over time, catch has risen and salmon runs have remained abundant.
The Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska is home to two of the most prolific sockeye salmon runs left in the world. In the last 20 years, key population indicators have been at record levels, making it one of the most lucrative salmon fisheries in Alaska. This is due largely to sound scientific management by state and federal agencies.