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At a Glance

'At a Glance' offers a brief summary of key findings for each of the 13 Alaska Salmon and People regions.

Dive Deeper

Select 'Dive Deeper' for an in-depth look into the patterns and processes leading to the diversity of the 13 Alaska Salmon and People regions we see today.

At a Glance:  Salmon livelihoods at the Western front

Although relatively small in landmass (4th smallest region) the total expanse of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Island region is enormous, spanning over 1600 km (1000 miles) and 10 degrees of longitude.

Aleut (Unangam tunuu) names for salmon

  • Qakiidax̂ (coho salmon)
  • x̂aykix̂; x̂aykux̂ (chum salmon)
  • hudax̂; yuukalax̂; udax̂ (dried salmon)
  • chisulix̂ (dried salmon eggs)
  • qachimaazax̂; qachimaasax̂ (half dried/half boiled salmon)
  • sumgax̂; chaguchax̂; chavichax̂ (king salmon)
  • Qungaayux̂ (male pink salmon)
  • Qam dimiĝii; Balikax̂ (smoked salmon)

Below are key SASAP findings for the Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands region – for the full story click on Take a Deeper Dive

All five Pacific salmon species are represented in the region’s more than 4,000 km (1200 miles) of streams and rivers; pink salmon, sockeye salmon, and chum salmon are most common.

Compared to neighboring regions, the Alaska Peninsula / Aleutian Islands region is categorized by a cooler, drier climate. Given the small landmass, the human footprint is quite large — the region is ranked 5th out of the 13 regions for human impacts. A total of 110 culverts are known, of which 49% have or likely to have fish passage problems. Over 4,000 km (1200 miles) of streams and rivers are known to contain salmon, with nearly equal representation among all five species though pink salmon, chum salmon, and sockeye salmon dominate the catch and escapement. The migration patterns of sockeye salmon bound for the Bristol Bay provide harvest opportunities for people of this region, yet are subject of a perennial governance challenge.

(image coming)

Commercial and subsistence salmon fishing activities are deeply intertwined for Aleut/Unangan communities along the eastern Aleutians and Alaska Peninsula.

The importance of salmon fisheries are integral to the sociocultural and economic backbone of the region. In regards to salmon in the western Aleutians, harvests have historically been low compared to other regions of the state and eastern area. For Alaska Peninsula and eastern Aleutian communities, there is very little separation between commercial and subsistence fishing activities, and often subsistence fish are retained to fill freezers from commercial harvests (i.e., “homepack”), particularly so for salmon. Understanding commercial fishing participation in fishing communities is complex, and motivations are tied to far more than economic activity and benefits.

Salmon processing in King Cove, Alaska, courtesy of Danielle Ringer

Integration of commercial and subsistence fishing is notable in these management areas, and reflected in how subsistence allocations have been defined by the Board of Fisheries.

The most recent comprehensive household surveys show that salmon provide 58% of the total wild resource harvests for home use in the Alaska Peninsula – Aleutian Islands Management Area. Integration of commercial and subsistence fishing is quite pronounced in communities of the Alaska Peninsula. Commercial gear is regularly used in support of subsistence fishing and hunting. In recognition that a substantial portion of the salmon for home use for communities in these management areas comes from sources other than the subsistence fishery, the Board of Fisheries’ ANS (Amount Needed for Subsistence) findings are based upon subsistence permit returns and estimated harvests from commercial removal and with rod and reel recorded on comprehensive household surveys.

Salmon Harvests (in pounds) of Alaska Peninsula, Adak, and Unalaska Communities, 1985 – 2016. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence. Subsistence and personal use harvest of salmon in Alaska, 1960-2012. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity. doi:10.5063/F18P5XTN.

Controversy over Alaska Peninsula/Aleutians Islands (AP/AI) purse seine and drift gillnet fisheries was a major governance issue in the 1990s when salmon returning to the Kuskokwim River, Yukon River, and Norton Sound streams were at extremely low levels.

Contention ensued when the Bering Sea regional populations sought to strictly regulate harvests in the AP/AI fisheries and the AP/AI fishermen responded that they were historic fisheries, having been conducted since the early 20th century. After much conflict, openings were limited and caps placed on the AP/AI harvests of salmon heading for Bering Sea streams during the times they passed through AP/AI waters.

Since 1975, salmon fisheries in the AP/AI have generated over $2.2 billion in revenue to harvesters, making it the state’s fourth largest in value and the fifth in volume.

Combined real (inflation-adjusted) revenue for all commercial salmon fishing permits fished in the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region declined from record years in the late 1980s to a historical low in the early 2000s. Since then, revenues have recovered but have not reached the high historical levels observed in the pre-2000 period. Compared with revenues in other salmon regions of Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula Aleutian Islands fisheries have always been among the top three fisheries in terms of the revenues generated for harvesters.

Tobias Schwoerer. Regional commercial salmon permit earnings by residency status, Alaska, 1975-2016. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity. doi:10.5063/F1WW7FZ2.


Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  2004. Deliberation materials for Proposal Number 199 and ANS Findings, Alaska Board of Fisheries, February 2004.  Prepared by the Division of Subsistence. Anchorage.

Braund, Stephen and Associates. 1986.  Effects of Renewable Resource Harvest Disruption on Community Socioeconomic and Sociocultural Systems:  King Cove. Mineral Management Service, Alaska OCS Region, Social and Economic Studies Program Technical Report No. 123.

Derbeneva, OA., Starikovskaya, EB., Wallace, DC., & Sukernik, RI. 2002.Traces of early Eurasians in the Mansi of northwest Siberia revealed by mitochondrial DNA analysis. American Journal of Human Genetics 70(4): 1009-14.

Fall, James A., et al. 1993a. Noncommercial harvests and uses of wild resources in Sand Point, Alaska, 1992.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 226. Juneau.

Fall, James A., et al. 1993b. Noncommercial harvests and uses of wild resources in King Cove, Alaska, 1992.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 227. Juneau.

Fall, James A. et al. 2018.  Alaska Subsistence and Personal use Salmon Fisheries 2015 Annual Report.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 440.  Anchorage.

Johnson, R. H., and E. K. C. Fox. 2016. Annual summary of the 2015 commercial and personal use salmon fisheries and salmon escapements, and the 2014 subsistence fisheries in the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, and Atka-Amlia Islands Management Areas. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fishery Management Report No. 16-34, Anchorage.

Reedy-Maschner, K. L.  2010. Aleut Identities:  Tradition and modernity in an Indigenous Fishery. Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Reedy, K. L.  2016. Island Networks:  Aleutian Islands Salmon and Other Subsistence Harvests. Report prepared for US Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Subsistence Management, Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program, Project No. 12-450.  Anchorage, AK.

Reedy-Maschner, K. L. and Maschner, H. 2012.  Subsistence study for the North Aleutian Basin. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.  Anchorage.

Veltre, D. & Smith, M. 2010. Historical Overview of Archaeological Research in the Aleut Region of Alaska. Human Biology 82(5-6): 487-506.

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