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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-connected people in Norton Sound

An average of two million pink salmon and 250,000 chum salmon return to the sub-Arctic region of Norton Sound, an area approximately twice the size of Massachusetts.

Iñupiaq names for salmon

  • Amaqtuuq (pink salmon)
  • Iqalugruaq (chum or king salmon)
  • There are no specific words for sockeye or coho salmon

Below are key SASAP findings for the Norton Sound region – for the full story choose Take a Deeper Dive

Increases in chum and pink salmon abundance in recent years may in part offset the loss of Chinook for salmon-dependent people.

Although among the smaller regions, nearly 5,000 km of Norton Sound streams and rivers are known to contain at least one species of salmon. However, only a few locations are known to produce sockeye salmon, given the lack of large lakes this species needs for rearing juveniles. Conditions favoring increases in chum salmon have been observed in recent years.

The region has a long western history of mining (70 mines are still apparent on the landscape) which contributes to the third highest human footprint across the state. Habitat connectivity is potentially a problem, with 90% of the known 104 culverts potentially impacting fish passage.

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

All communities in the Norton Sound region harvest salmon for subsistence purposes; several areas support commercial fishing activity.

Indigenous salmon people in this region are represented by three distinct groups. Archaeological evidence suggests that ancestors of these groups, believed to have arrived by overland migration from the Chukotka region of Russia, first settled 10,000 years ago. Trade has long been and continues to be a hallmark of life in the Norton Sound region.

Today, communities on the coast of Norton Sound vary considerably in their dependence on salmon. Unalakleet and Shaktoolik subdistricts take the largest catches of commercially caught salmon in the region. Regionwide, a majority of subsistence salmon are pink, chum, and coho although there are sizeable sockeye salmon runs in the Port Clarence and Unalakleet areas.

Children holding salmon by the river

Photo: Fishing around Nome. Courtesy of Melanie Banke

A portion of Norton Sound was the site of Alaska’s only Tier II subsistence fishery, in which participation is limited to those who score highest on a permit application.

Recent comprehensive household surveys show that salmon make up about 17% of the total subsistence harvests of wild foods. Because of fishery managers’ concerns about chum salmon escapements in rivers around the regional center of Nome from 1999 through 2005, chum salmon fishing in Subdistrict 1 was managed as a Tier II fishery, the only such fishery in Alaska.

Individual applicants are scored based on their historical uses of the particular fish stock and their ability to obtain alternative foods. When chum returns improved beginning in 2006, this fishery was managed as Tier I, in which any Alaska resident may obtain a permit but other uses (commercial, sport) are prohibited.

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.

Salmon governance in this area has relied on a state Tier II fishery to provide limited opportunity during weak chum runs.

State management is predominant, as most salmon fishing occurs in marine waters and federal subsistence jurisdiction is limited to inland waters associated with the Yukon Delta NWR, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and the Unalakleet Wild and Scenic River. When chum runs began to decline in the 1990s, the state instituted a Tier II fishery, effectively limiting salmon harvest to local residents. Subsistence harvests, with especially high reliance on pink salmon, have shown considerable variation and generally lower totals after 2008. Customary trade is authorized in both state and federal regulations and provides for redistribution of fish to address localized shortages. Between 2000-2018, the Norton Sound salmon fisheries were declared a disaster on two occasions.

Salmon in Brevig Mission. By Brenden Raymond-Yakoubian

Salmon fisheries of Norton Sound have historically generated more than $45 million in revenue since 1975 (2017 inflation-adjusted dollars).

Historically, the largest revenue share went to local rural residents of the region, followed by local urban residents (residing in Nome) and nonlocal urban residents. This pattern of revenue shares is similar to the patterns observed in the Kuskokwim and Yukon regions, indicating that commercial salmon fisheries in these regions provide important cash income for local rural subsistence cash-economies. The cash earned in commercial fishing supports cultural activities including subsistence fishing and hunting.

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



Burch, E. S. (1998). The Iñupiaq Eskimo Nations of Northwest Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska Press.

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.

Jenkins, D. (2015). Impacts of neoliberal policies on non-market fishing economies on the Yukon River, Alaska. Marine Policy, 61, 356–365.

Magdanz James and Annie Olanna.  1984. Controls on Fishing Behavior on the Nome River. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 102.  Nome.

Magdanz, James. 1992.  Subsistence Salmon Fishing by Permit in the Nome Subdistrict and Portions of the Port Clarence District, 1975 – 91.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 220. Juneau.

Magdanz, James. S. 2007.  Customary Trade and Barter in Fish in the Seward Peninsula Area, Alaska.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence Technical Paper No. 328. Juneau.


Magdanz, J. S., Tahbone, S., Ahmasuk, A., Koster, D. S., & Davis, B. L. (2007). Customary Trade and Barter in Fish in the Seward Peninsula Area, Alaska (Technical Paper No. 328). Juneau, Alaska: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Magdanz, James S. et al. 2009.  Patterns and Trends in Subsistence Salmon Harvests, Norton Sound-Port Clarence Area, Alaska 1994 – 2003.  In Pacific Salmon:  Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations, Charles C. Krueger and Christian E. Zimmerman, editors, pp 395 – 431.  American Fisheries Society Symposium 70: Proceedings of the symposium Sustainability of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Salmon Fisheries.  Bethesda, Maryland: American Fisheries Society.

Menard, J., Soong, J., Kent, S., Harlan, L., and Leon, J. (2017). 2015 Annual management report for Norton Sound, Port Clarence, and Arctic, Kotzebue Areas (Fishery Management Report No. 17-15) (p. 230). Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Raymond-Yakoubian, B., & Raymond-Yakoubian, J. (2015). “Always taught not to waste”: Traditional Knowledge and Norton Sound/Bering Strait Salmon Populations (2015 Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative Project 1333). Retrieved from

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