Tongass National Forest, National Geographic Magazine: Salmon Fishing In Southeast Alaska

A family fishing operation lands about 1,000 salmon in the boat from a purse seine in waters near Craig, Alaska.

Alaska’s fisheries are some of the richest in the world, with fishermen harvesting hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of salmon, crab, herring, halibut, pollock, and groundfish every year. However, overfishing, exploitation, and poor fisheries management in the ‘40s and ‘50s took a heavy toll on the industry. The state adopted drastic measures that saved the fishing industry from collapse. Tough times again hit the fishermen in the 1970s as the number of boats grew and increasingly efficient gear depleted catch levels to record lows.

Permit systems and reserves helped the commercial industry recover in the late ‘70s—a trend that has continued to the present because of cooperation between scientists and fishermen.

Fishermen and loggers rank in the top two spots for most dangerous jobs. Both are common lines of work for people in the Alaskan outdoors. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking fatal occupational injuries in 1980, there were 4,547 fatal work injuries in 2010, and fatality rates of some occupations remain alarmingly high.

Buy This Image