How can Alaska address the Graying of the Fleet and the loss of rural fisheries access? Permit holdings of rural Alaskans have dropped 30 percent and the average age of fishermen is over 50.  A new report from Sea Grant and the University of Alaska/Fairbanks offers suggestions on how to reverse the outflow of permits and encourage entry into limited fisheries.

“Turning the Tide is a report summarizing a global review of ways in which other countries and other regions have addressed problems of access in their fisheries.”

Courtney Carothers is an associate professor at UAF. For nearly four years she and her team have gathered information from Kodiak and Bristol Bay. Their findings were consistent with other fishing communities across the globe. The report points out efforts others are taking to address access issues.

 “There is a recruitment quota in Norway for first-time fishermen. There are pools of fish species available for young people getting started.”

Carothers says some programs are age-based.

“If you are under 30 you don’t need a permit and you don’t need quota. You just fish; you get your start and then as you mature in the fishery you buy the access rights.”

Other options are day fisheries that would only apply to small fishing vessels; another is to secure local fishing rights.

“They tend to disproportionally lose fishing rights. So having ways to embed fishing rights in places seems to be another major way of redistributing rights back to rural and indigenous communities.”     

Co-author Danielle Ringer says the goal is to create more awareness and advance the discussion.

“One of our main objectives from the Graying of the Fleet project was not to just further document and understand the problem of an aging trend, but to provide the discussion point for potential recommendations and alternatives.”

Ringer says a final recommendation is a task force to look at fisheries access for Alaskans.

“Continuing that conversation and providing ideas along the way is the point. We look to fishermen, policy makers and community members to figure out what would fit in the Alaska setting.”

They plan to present the Turning the Tide report to the North Pacific Management Council in April and to the Board of Fish and state legislators. Find the report at