Patterns and Trends in Subsistence Salmon Harvests. Norton Sound and Port Clarence, 1994-2003
James Magdanz1, Eric Trigg2, Austin Ahmasuk2, Peter Nanouk3, David Koster1, Kurt Kamletz1
1Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Subsistence, 2Kawerak, Inc., 3Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Division
In Alaska there is a large and growing body of time-series subsistence harvest data collected by government agencies, tribes, and Native corporations. Although these data are used extensively in regulatory processes, they rarely have been used to explore ecological, social, or economic changes. This study explored patterns and trends in subsistence salmon harvests in ten communities in the Norton Sound-Port Clarence area from 1994-2003. The data file included 7,838 individual household harvest records (88.1 percent of the occupied households in the population).
From 1994 to 2003, estimated subsistence salmon harvests declined by 5.8 percent annually. Most of the declines occurred during the first five years (1994-1998), when harvest declined by about 8 percent annually across all communities. While harvests appeared to stabilize in the latter years, it would not be correct to characterize the overall situation as improving, at least through 2003. For half of the study communities, the lowest estimated harvests occurred in 2003.
Despite the declines, stable patterns of household harvests were evident. Through many different levels of abundance, through a decade of varied weather, with harvests ranging from 67,000 to 140,000 salmon, each year about 23 percent (range, 17-25 percent) of the households harvested 70 percent of the salmon, by weight. Predictable patterns were apparent in the harvests by the age and gender of household heads. Setting aside teacher households and households that usually did not fish, harvests increased with the age of the household heads, and decreased when household heads were single, especially single males. Households that consistently harvested salmon also were among the high harvesting households in their communities. Given these predictable overall patterns, it was reasonable to assume that the same households were responsible for a majority of the harvests each year. While some households did contribute consistently to the community harvest, in every community there were many unpredictable households.