We strengthen fishing communities and marine resources through research, education and economic opportunity.
We aim to educate, activate and inspire consumers, while engaging community-based fishermen in programs that promote healthy fisheries. By combining ecology, economics, and the common good, we work to ensure resilient communities and robust resources throughout coastal Alaska.
Southeast Alaska is home to some of the Earth's healthiest and most robust wild fisheries. An aging fleet, increasing cost of entry to limited access fisheries, and more and more out of state vessel owners threaten local traditions of marine stewardship. Coastal fishing communities face uncertain futures. We aim to protect these communities and the fisheries that sustain them.
In partnership with the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (ALFA), ASFT has worked to support initiatives that help fishermen to start and maintain successful fishing operations. ALFA has a long history of providing educational opportunities to fishermen, both new and experienced. Whether by helping fishermen to choose equipment that is more fuel efficient, teaching them about the political process, or teaching them about new tools and software like bathymetric mapping, ALFA works hard to keep fishermen in the know about the policies that affect them and innovations that can help them to use best practices and fish more effectively.
ALFA and ASFT banded together to host the first ever Fishermen's Expo in 2016, which offered workshops on topics such as fuel efficiency, fishing for sablefish using pot gear, and reducing sperm whale depredation on longline gear. Since then, the expo has evolved to focus especially on young people and those who are new to the industry by offering workshops focusing on business skills, beginner's courses in seafloor mapping, and safety courses.
The next Fishermen's Expo is planned for November, 2017, as part of an initiative by the Sitka Seafood Festival to involved more fishermen with the festivities. Check back soon for details!
Fishery Conservation Network
In 2009, The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) partnered to launch a Fishery Conservation Network (FCN). The FCN engages stakeholders in resource stewardship, collaborative research, and innovative programs that support ecosystem and coastal community health. FCN projects are science-based and share triple bottom line objectives. In 2016, the FCN focused on seven collaborative projects. In total, these projects engaged 100 fishermen working on 70 vessels to collaborate with 19 scientists and engineers from 13 agencies, leveraging approximately $900,000 and more than 1,000 in-kind donated sea days by ALFA members to address common challenges.
Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United States combined (33,904 miles). If Alaska were its own country, it would rank sixth in the world for seafood exports. Over half of the nation’s commercially harvested fish comes from Alaska, nearly four times more than the next largest seafood producing state. By all measures, salmon are responsible for the greatest economic impact (jobs, income, and total value) among all species in the Alaska seafood industry. Salmon’s total contribution to the national economy includes approximately 32,900 FTE jobs and just under $2 billion in annual labor income. Alaska is home to all five salmon species. Rivers in Southeast Alaska provide spawning habitat for one or more species of salmon, including Chinook and coho salmon, two “NOAA species in the spotlight.” In sum, the isolated coastal communities of Southeast Alaska depend culturally, socially and economically on salmon.
Young Fisherman's Initiative
Thirty years ago, a young person who wanted to fish commercially needed a boat, some fishing gear, and a sense of adventure to get started in the business. Today, young fishermen face staggering entry level costs, high operating costs, and a level of risk that is equivalent to buying a starter hotel, instead of a starter house as a first step in home-ownership. Studies show that the average age of Alaska’s commercial fishermen is now 50, up by nearly 10 years since 1980. Fishery access permits and quota are being lost from rural Alaska communities.
In partnership with ALFA, ASFT is committed to helping the next generation of fishermen and ensuring residents of Alaska’s coastal communities have access to our fisheries. Through a number of programs, we are helping the next generation of commercial fishermen launch and support viable commercial fishing businesses. These programs include efforts to advocate for young fishermen in national policymaking (See Young Fisherman's Development Program), support through FCN, as well as the Crewmember Apprenticeship Program, which provides an opportunity for enthusiastic newcomers to gain experience at sea.
What is the Local Fish Fund?
The Local Fish Fund, an ongoing project of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, helps overcome barriers to entry by providing the cash and administering the loans that young fisherman need to acquire initial ownership of access rights.
With few alternative income sources, Alaska's coastal residents depend on access to healthy fisheries. Privatization of fishery access rights has improved fisheries sustainability and increased returns to shareholders. Simultaneously, limited access programs have also dramatically increased the cost of entry to Alaska fisheries, creating economic barriers for rural Alaskans and reducing the benefits to the communities where the fishing rights were issued. Emerging fishermen have increasingly relied on rented harvest privileges with no guarantee of future access or equity. Fishing is integral to the identity of coastal people; losing access means losing a way of life, and, ultimately, losing communities.
The Local Fish Fund is designed to improve local retention of economic benefits from Alaska fisheries by facilitating transactions between established fishermen, emerging fishermen, and socially responsible investors. The Fund will provide emerging fishermen with a down-payment for an initial quota purchase. Fund investors share with the fisherman in the annual value of the catch. Through this equity partnership, investors reduce the risk faced by new entrants to the fishery, while sharing in the upside as either fish stocks or prices improve. By helping a new generation of fishermen achieve equity in their local fisheries, the Fund seeks to spur the growth of infrastructure and services necessary to sustain rural society in the Gulf of Alaska.
Want to learn more? Check out a video about the Local Fish Fund below: