Fish Radio

Graying of the fleet, updates

February 5, 2015                    

Graying of the Fleet - Finding Solutions Credit:

Graying of the Fleet – Finding Solutions

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch … Who will be Alaska’s future fishermen? Graying of the Fleet updates after this –

 The Alaska Symphony of Seafood is going Beyond the Plate this month and showcasing new products made from fish parts. See the head to tail line up at

 Federal grants are available to help “Made in America” companies compete with imports and save US jobs. Learn more at

 Alaska’s fisheries are the envy of the world and the seafood industry puts more Alaskans to work than any other. Put together, those workers provide our nation with nearly 60% of its wild caught seafood.  But, as biologists would say, there is a lack of recruitment of younger age classes entering into the fisheries.  And the parent classes are leaving, or dying out. 

 It’s being called a “quiet crisis” by those studying the ‘graying of the fleet’ phenomenon, with a goal of finding solutions. The team includes Sea Grant, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and the University at Fairbanks. It’s an ongoing multiyear project. Here are some updates from AMCC with data from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission:   In 2013, the average age of Alaska permit holders was 49.7 years, up 10 years since 1980.

 Between 1980 and 2013, the number of Alaska residents under the age of 40 holding fishing permits fell from 38.5 percent to 17.3 percent of the total number of permits.

Small communities have been hit the hardest.  Angoon has only one permit holder under the age of 40, a 90 percent loss from1990 to 2013. During the same time, at Pelican the number of young fishermen fell from 21 to 2. Egegik at Bristol Bay doesn’t have a single permit holder under the age of 40. 

Larger communities also reflect the trend. The number of young fishermen in Cordova has declined to 77, a 60 percent loss from 1990. Bethel’s dropped went from 116 permits to 45. Juneau is home to more than 70 young fishermen, down from 130 in 1990. Anchorage has seen a near 50 percent drop in young permit holders to 137. Wasilla, Chugiak and Eagle River are some of the few places where the younger fishing ranks have grown.

 Governor Walker’s fisheries transition team prioritized ways to help young Alaskans enter into a fisheries career. Watch for legislation to be launched this session. Meanwhile, the recruitment picture isn’t all bleak. Results of a multi-year study of Kodiak fishermen showed they overwhelmingly love their job and would choose it again. Study author Courtney Carothers is an associate professor at UAF –

 Many academics have studied this question and it really shows across the globe that fishermen really value being able to be their own bosses and being in control of their fishing operations. Our study confirmed that.

 Find links at Thanks to the assist from KMXT.Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, serving Alaska’s fishing communities since 1910. On the web at – In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.