Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations

Patterns and Trends in Subsistence Salmon Harvests, Norton Sound-Port Clarence Area, Alaska 1994-2003

James S. Magdanz, Eric Trigg, Austin Ahmasuk, Peter Nanouk, David S. Koster, and Kurt Kamletz


Abstract.—Using harvest data from 7,838 household surveys from ten small, remote, predominantly Alaska Native communities, this project explored patterns and trends in subsistence harvests of salmon Oncorhynchus spp. from 1994–2003. During the study period, estimated subsistence salmon harvests declined by 5.8% annually. Most of the declines occurred during the first five years (1994–1998), when harvests trended lower by about 8% annually. During the latter years (1999–2003), harvests trended lower by about 1% annually across all communities. Seven hypotheses were tested. For six selected salmon stocks as a group, subsistence salmon harvests were not associated with salmon escapements (hypothesis 1). However, for two individual stocks, subsistence harvests were associated with escapements. Community subsistence harvests were associated with community population size (hypothesis 2), while per capita harvests were not associated with community size. About 21% of the households harvested 70% of the salmon, by weight, more concentrated than the 30:70 distributions observed by Wolfe (hypothesis 3) but less concentrated than the widely observed 20:80 Pareto distribution. Household “social type” (age of household heads and household structure) was associated with subsistence harvests (hypothesis 4). Harvests increased with the age of household heads, and households headed by couples reported higher average harvests than households headed by single persons, especially single males. Households that harvested salmon intermittently (i.e., not every year) did not account for most of the variation in community salmon harvests (hypothesis 5) and were not more likely to fish during years of greater salmon abundance (hypothesis 6). The number of salmon harvested for subsistence was not associated with the number of salmon retained from commercial fishing for personal use (hypothesis 7), although a weak negative association was observed for a small fraction of households with high harvests of Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha. Multi-household, extended-family production networks could explain some of the patterns observed in the system, including the power-law distribution of harvests and the stable overall production of households that fished intermittently.