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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: Kodiak – An archipelago of tradition and change

The abundance of salmon returning to the largest island in Alaska remain high, though sociocultural challenges loom as large as the 925 glaciers that cling to the island’s coastal and interior mountains.

Alutiiq/Sugpiaq names for salmon

  • Alimaq (chum salmon)
  • Amartuq; Amaqaayak (pink salmon)
  • Amartut angitut (The pink salmon are coming back.)
  • Aamasuuk; Iiliksak (king salmon)
  • Qakiiyaq (coho salmon)
  • Niklliq (sockeye salmon)
  • Kupcuunaq; Palik; Paal’kaaq (smoked salmon)
  • Sikiaq (partially/lightly smoked salmon)

Below are key findings for the Kodiak region; for the full story, click on Take a Deeper Dive.

Though relatively small as a region, Kodiak is the 4th largest salmon producing area of Alaska.

Kodiak is the 4th-largest salmon producing region of Alaska, with habitat most well suited to pink salmon (short coastal streams) and sockeye salmon (suitable rearing lakes). The region has a temperate, and some may say temperamental, climate characterized by wet, cool, and windy summers and winters.

High human density on the east side of the island near the hub of Kodiak results in the 4th-highest index of human footprints among regions. Approximately half of the known culverts on the island are known to or have the potential to negatively affect fish passage.

Though among the smaller regions of Alaska, Kodiak has approximately 2700 km (1677 miles) of streams and rivers known to contain at least one species of Pacific salmon. The region has a long history of lake fertilization and hatchery enhancement aimed to bolster adult salmon returns.

Jeanette Clark and Robyn Thiessen-Bock. Estimate of total Alaskan salmon abundance by region, 2000-2015. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity. doi:10.5063/F1BR8QG4.

The Alutiiq people have lived in this region for at least 7,500 years and cultural connections to maritime livelihoods remain vital today.

The Kodiak Archipelago hosts diverse salmon fishing activities including subsistence, recreational, and commercial opportunities. A critical issue for Kodiak’s salmon-people relationships is the dispossession of local commercial salmon fishing rights from fishing communities.

In the region’s rural fishing villages, there has been an 84% decline of people under 40 years old holding salmon purse seine limited entry permits. These changes reflect the growing concern about opportunities for young and rural fishermen, which are increasingly constrained by interrelated social, economic, and regulatory barriers.

Photo: Salmon seiners on anchor. By Danielle Ringer

Salmon are a large portion of the food supply of Kodiak Area communities, but annual monitoring programs underestimate this harvest.

From 1986-2016, annual reported subsistence harvests in the Kodiak Area averaged 30,549 salmon. This is one of the few Alaska subsistence fisheries for which harvest estimates are not produced; only harvests reported on returned permits appear in annual summaries. The harvest from 1994 through 2016 was composed of 79% sockeye, 15% coho, 4% pink, less than 1% chum, and less than 1% Chinook. Comprehensive household harvest surveys document the importance of rod and reel and commercial “home pack” harvests, in addition to subsistence harvests, for Kodiak communities’ supply of salmon.

Number of salmon harvested in the Kodiak Management Area, 1986 – 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.


Recent significant governance topics in the Kodiak region include sportfishing regulations, commercial fishing area opening timing, and salmon habitat protection.

Governance topics addressed at the Board of Fish include commercial fishing and sportfishing questions. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge dominates land holding in this region, while state fisheries management play the largest role. State representative Louise Stutes submitted HB 199 in 2014 to improve protections for salmon and salmon habitat by strengthening the permitting system for salmon stream changes and expediting determinations about the status of streams as salmonid habitat. The bill was not addressed by the legislature and was then advanced by public interest groups to become Initiative 1, Stand for Salmon, in the 2018 election. The initiative was defeated on Nov. 6, 2018.

Spawning sockeye, Pagashak, Kodiak Island. Photo: K. Mueller, USFWS

Salmon fisheries in the Kodiak region are the state’s fifth largest in value, having generated $1.7 billion in revenue since 1975, and are the state’s fourth largest in volume.

Historical fishing revenue variability in the Kodiak salmon fisheries has been low and is associated with the diversity of species available to the commercial fishery. Sockeye are the primary target species in the early season, followed by pink, chum, and coho. As with other more valuable commercial salmon fisheries, the proportion of nonresident permit holders has increased in this region.

Participation from permit holders residing in the City of Kodiak has sharply decreased since 2000. About half of the revenue generated currently goes to permit holders residing outside Alaska, a share that historically was much smaller.

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

Case Studies

Loss of Rural Fisheries Access and Graying of the Fleet

Fig. 1 Generational ties to fishing by community for surveyed students in the Kodiak Archipelago (bottom panel) and Bristol Bay (top panel) regions, from Coleman et al. 2018.
Photo: Kodiak salmon seiner making a set, 2015. By Danielle Ringer

A critical issue for Kodiak’s salmon-people relationships is the dispossession of local salmon fishing rights from the region’s communities and related community well-being implications. Since limited entry permits were implemented in state commercial fisheries, permit holdings by rural residents local to their fisheries have declined by 30%. The exodus of local fishing rights is compounded by persistent aging and succession trends, a problem referred to as the “graying of the fleet” (Carothers 2012; Donkersloot & Carothers 2016; Ringer et al. 2018). This issue threatens the healthy succession of fishing as an economic and cultural mainstay in Alaska’s communities, and creates a public policy problem. In 2012, the Alaska State Legislature passed a resolution stating that the graying of the fleet is a pressing area of concern for the entire state. In response, the Graying of the Fleet study began in 2014 to better understand and address this problem ( and provide recommendations on potential policy alternatives (Cullenberg et al. 2017).

In 2017, the average age of all Alaska state permit holders was 51.1, up nearly 10 years since 1980 (Gho and Farrington 2018). What this demographic change means for many coastal fishing communities is that far fewer younger people are engaged in commercial fishing than in decades past. In the rural fishing villages of the Kodiak region there has been an 84% decline of people under 40 years old holding salmon purse seine limited entry permits (CFEC 2015). These trends represent a suite of concerns including global trends in fisheries management towards the commodification of fisheries access rights and the outmigration of rural youth from their home communities. The current climate in Alaska’s commercial fisheries for a young person to enter and diversify their fisheries is tenuous and distinguished by markedly different pathways than those of their predecessors. Multiple barriers for those in Kodiak, and elsewhere in Alaska, to entry in commercial fishing stem from the privatization of fisheries access, including financial and other socioeconomic challenges. High capital costs, lack of access to loans and business management skills, and varying degrees of exposure to fishing from an early age are a few of many barriers experienced by those now interested in commercial fishing careers, particularly as owner-operators (Coleman et al. 2018).

The Graying of the Fleet study included a student survey component and over 800 surveys were completed within the Kodiak and Bristol Bay regions. Results show that factors associated with surveyed youth holding a positive view of commercial fishing included student experience in commercial fishing, family ties to commercial fishing, the importance of commercial fishing income to their family, and subsistence fishing ties. Overall, results suggest that the more plentiful a young person’s ties to fishing, the more positively they view commercial fishing. Current and historical family ties to commercial fishing emerged as key predictors impacting attitudes towards fishing and how they view opportunity within the career (Figure 1). As generational ties to fishing have changed, largely decreasing, through time post-limited entry and IFQs (see Apgar-Kurtz 2015; Langdon 1980; Reedy-Maschner 2007; Carothers 2008), important periods of exposure for future generations were lost (Coleman et al. 2018). Even with the multifaceted changes throughout time in the Kodiak region, family connections and social networks (informal mentors) continue to serve as mechanisms to gain access to fishing livelihoods.


Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  2017. Estimated Harvests of Fish, Wildlife, and Wild Plant Resources by Alaska Region and Census Area, 2014.  Division of Subsistence.

Apgar-Kurtz, Breena. 2015. Factors affecting local permit ownership in Bristol Bay. Mar Policy 56: 71–77.

Carothers, C., & Chambers, C. (2012). Fisheries privatization and the remaking of fishery systems. Environment and Society: Advances in Research, 3(1), 39-59.

Carothers, Courtney. 2008. Rationalized out: Discourses and realities of fisheries privatization in Kodiak, Alaska. In Enclosing the fisheries: People, places and power. American Fisheries Society Symposium.

Coleman, J. , C. Carothers , R. Donkersloot, D. Ringer, P. Cullenberg, A. Bateman. 2018. Alaska’s Next Generation of Potential Fishermen: A survey of youth attitudes towards fishing and community in Bristol Bay and the Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska. 2018. Maritime Studies.

Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC). (2015). Executive summary-changes in the distribution of Alaska’s commercial fisheries entry permits, 1975-2014 (CFEC Report No. 15-03N EXEC). Juneau, AK.

Crowell, A., Steffian, A., & Pullar, G. (2001). Looking both ways: Heritage and identity of the Alutiiq people. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press.

Cullenberg, R. Donkersloot, C. Carothers, J. Coleman, D. Ringer. Turning the Tide: How can Alaska address the ‘graying of the fleet’ and loss of rural fisheries access? A review of programs and policies to address access challenges Alaska fisheries. Report funded by the North Pacific Research Board and Alaska Sea Grant, 2017. Available at:

Donkersloot, R. and C. Carothers. 2016. Sustaining the next generation of fishermen and fishing communities: Understanding fisheries access in coastal Alaska. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development.

Fall, James A, Anna Godduhn, Gabriela Halas 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.

Fitzhugh, B. (2003). The evolution of complex hunter-gatherers: Archaeological evidence from the North Pacific. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic-Plenum Publishers.

Gho, M. & C. Farrington, 2018. Changes in the distribution of Alaska’s commercial fisheries entry permits, 1975-2017 (CFEC Report 18-2N). Retrieved from:

Himes-Cornell, A., Hoelting, K., Maguire, C, Munger-Little, L, Lee, J., Fisk, J., … Geller, C. (2013). Community profiles for the North Pacific Fisheries. U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA Technical Memo NMFS-AFSC-259: 210. Retrieved from

Knecht, R. (1995). The late prehistory of the Alutiiq people: Culture change on the Kodiak archipelago from 1200-1750 AD (Doctoral dissertation). Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA.

Langdon, Steve J. 1980. Transfer patterns in Alaskan limited entry fisheries: Final report for the limited entry study group of the Alaska State Legislature.

Marchioni, Meredith, James A. Fall, Brian Davis, and Garrett Zimpleman. 2016.  Kodiak City, Larsen Bay, and Old Harbor: An Ethnographic Study of Traditional Subsistence Salmon Harvests and Uses.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 418. Anchorage.

Mason, R. (1993). Fishing and drinking in Kodiak, AK: The sporadic re-creation of an endangered lifestyle (Doctoral dissertation). University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.

Mason, R. (1995). The Alutiiq ethnographic bibliography. Kodiak, AK: Kodiak Area Native Association.

McDowell Group. (2016). Economic impact of the seafood industry on the Kodiak Island borough. Prepared for the Kodiak Island Borough & City of Kodiak. Anchorage, AK.

Mishler, Craig.  2003. Black Ducks and Salmon Bellies:  An Ethnography of Old Harbor and Ouzinkie, Alaska.  Occasional Paper Series Volume Two, The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository. Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company Publishers.

National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. (2015). Report on holdings of individual fishing quota (IFQ) by residents of selected Gulf of Alaska fishing communities 1995-2014. November 2015. Retrieved from

Pullar, G. (2009). Historical ethnography of nineteenth-century Kodiak villages. In Haakanson Jr., S., & Steffian, A. (Eds.), Giinaquq Like a Face: Sugpiaq Masks of the Kodiak Archipelago (pp. 41-60). Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press.

Reedy-Maschner, Katherine L. 2007. The best-laid plans: Limited entry permits and limited entry systems in eastern Aleut culture. Hum Organ 66 (2): 210–225.

Ringer, D., C. Carothers , R. Donkersloot, J. Coleman, and P. Cullenberg. 2018. For generations to come? The privatization paradigm and shifting social baselines in Kodiak, Alaska’s commercial fisheries. Marine Policy, 98: 97-103.

Ringer, D. 2016. For generations to come: Exploring local fisheries access and community viability in the Kodiak Archipelago. M.A. Thesis, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK.

Roppel, P. (1986). Salmon from Kodiak: A history of the salmon fishery of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Anchorage, AK: Alaska Historical Commission.

Steffian, A., Saltonstall, P., & Kopperl, B. (2006). Expanding the Kachemak: Surplus production and the development of multi-season storage in Alaska’s Kodiak archipelago. Arctic Anthropology, 43(2), 93-129.

Williams, Liz, Philippa Coiley-Kenner, and David Koster.  2010. Subsistence Harvests and Uses of Salmon, Trout, and Char in Akhiok, Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions, Alaska, 2004 and 2005.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 329. Anchorage.

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