Connor Sakati


Many Alaskan salmon fisheries are in distress, threatening fishers' livelihoods, food sources, and cultures. This crisis—and the few, blunt tools managers possess to address it— reveals that the current state and federal legal framework for salmon management is inadequate to protect fisheries' health and preserve fishers' livelihoods, especially as the ocean warms and the distribution of species within it significantly changes. First, the current framework's regulatory tools, designed to combat human overuse of a single species, are poorly tailored to mitigating this multicausal, ecosystem-wide crisis. Current science indicates marine heatwaves, habitat degradation, and human use may be major culprits of salmon population decline, whereas existing fisheries management tools are largely designed to handle overharvesting and pit users against one another. A better framework would expand the toolset managers have at their disposal to combat these broader, ecological threats. Second, the tools managers do have within this framework impose the heaviest regulatory burdens on the poorest and most vulnerable, unfairly allocating the costs of managing a changing resource pool. Existing management tools often disproportionately burden the fishers who most directly rely on salmon to feed their families and support their communities. Moreover, as the ocean warms, fish habitats will shift and fish populations may even shrink overall. The users directly reliant on the fishery—subsistence fishers, small-scale fishers, businesses in rural villages, and Alaska Natives—are most vulnerable to changes in the resource stock itself. To protect these groups, a better framework would blunt regulatory tools' impacts on these groups.

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