2019 Bristol Bay fishery economic benefits exceeded $2.2 billion

An analysis of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery produced by McKinley Research Group found it was a $2.2-billion-plus economic powerhouse that generated over 15,000 jobs in 2019, with a harvest that fed hundreds of thousands of people.

Bristol Bay’s commercial fishery alone supported over 8,500 harvesters and more than 6,000 processors, while sport fishing and tourism related to the fishery produced over 2,300 seasonal jobs and $67.9 million in labor income in 2019, researchers concluded.

Alaska resident fishermen earned $151 million from their harvest in 2019, including $50 million by residents of Bristol Bay communities. The 6,000 workers employed by processors that year earned $49 million.

The report was prepared for the Bristol Bay Defense Fund, a coalition of business, tribal, nonprofit and community organizations with the stated goal of protecting Bristol Bay and its people from the development and operation of the Pebble mine.

More than 20,000 sport anglers annually are estimated to have fished Bristol Bay in the past five years. Roughly 100 area lodges and camps also cater to tourists, with a primary focus on sport fishing and bear viewing. An estimated 20,000 people engaged in bear viewing during trips to Katmai National Park and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, with total spending on those trips estimated at $20 million, the report said.

The 2019 harvest was also of great importance for subsistence users, who caught 116,000 salmon, 29% of the state’s subsistence harvest, sustaining Alaskans in more than 40 communities including many beyond Bristol Bay. Replacing subsistence salmon with its commercially purchased equivalent would likely cost upwards of $10 million. The harvest translates to about $4,500 to $9,000 in nutritional value to each participating household, the report said.

Of the region’s approximate 7,000 residents, two-thirds of the population are indigenous Yup’ik, Denai’na, Unangan and Alutiiq peoples.

The full report is online at cdv.tiny.us/bristolbay.