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

Demographic Change, Economic Conditions, and Subsistence Salmon Harvests in Alaska’s Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region

E. Lance Howe and Stephanie Martin


Abstract.—This paper addresses broad demographic and economic characteristics of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region (AYK) of Alaska. AYK human population growth has generally been moderate over time. Because out-migration regularly exceeds in-migration, especially in the villages, population growth is mainly a product of natality. We anticipate future population growth patterns will be similar. In terms of regional characteristics, the linguistically and geographically distinct populations of the AYK region are similar in that they all have active traditional cultures, a strong reliance on subsistence, and relatively high measures of income poverty. While commercial fishing income is not a large contributor to total regional income, it is an important component of income for households in proximity to commercial fish processors. Many commercial fishermen are also subsistence harvesters, and for many, commercial fishing income provides the means to purchase equipment and other inputs to subsistence activities. This paper examines the relationship between subsistence harvests, population growth, and commercial fishing using a simple least squares regression model. We found that earnings from Kuskokwim commercial salmon fisheries are positively correlated with subsistence harvests while earnings from other commercial fisheries reduce subsistence harvests for a set of lower Kuskokwim River communities. Separately, we found that population growth is not positively correlated with subsistence salmon harvests in the same communities.