Alaska Commercial Fisheries – Openings and Closings

Fishing activity, especially in the commercial salmon and herring industries, depends on the constant openings and closings dictated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Department fisheries biologists keep close tabs on returning fish runs and announce frequent openings and closures to ensure a steady run of fish, called escapement, to each spawning ground.

Whereas the peak season for a region is fairly predictable, each opening and closing for a particular run is announced over the radio and in newspapers, and is accompanied by frenzied activity at the docks as fishermen ready their boats for another fishery. Once a fishery is closed, the shoreside processors in turn see business boom as vessels return to shore and off-load their catch.

Seasons in each region are punctuated by frequent openings and closings in specific areas, and fishermen try to schedule fishing activity so they can move from one opening to another with a minimum of downtime. Sometimes, though, slack time is inevitable, as Fish and Game might close a fishery for 48 hours and then reopen it when the run recovers. These closures give job-seekers a chance to find work mid-season, as crew members sometimes quit during the short breaks and skippers are desperate for help.

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