The Alaska Seafood Industry Protects More Than Just Fish

For both moral and economical reasons, the state of Alaska has regulations in place that foster sustainability within the seafood industry. Their efforts toward that end are well-known and highly praised throughout the world, which is a great source of pride for everyone in Alaska. In fact, many places keep Alaska’s policies in mind when crafting their own sustainability policies because the state’s efforts have delivered real results. What they sometimes forget to consider though is that Alaska also tries to protect marine mammals as well because of the potential for them to get caught up in the harvesting process too.

The harvesting of seafood can often have some unfortunate side effects. Since fish and various crustaceans aren’t the only organisms that call the pristine ocean environments in Alaska home, it’s reasonable to expect that other creatures will be caught by accident. Unfortunately, numerous bird and mammal species are often counted among the seafood catch. Anything that is unintentionally caught in this way is know as a bycatch. To protect marine mammals the best it can, Alaska enforces a number of bycatch reduction programs throughout the state. For example, tabs must be kept on how many of a prohibited species have been caught, and if that number exceeds a certain predetermined amount the fishery can be closed down. It won’t matter whether or not they have met their quota of seafood as the excess bycatch takes precedent. That alone provides plenty of incentive for fisheries to fish in such a way as to protect marine mammals.

Another way that Alaska deals with the bycatch problem is to equip vessels with a monitoring system that allows them to be tracked via satellite. This is especially relevant for those boats fishing for Pacific Cod or Alaska Pollock as those designated areas tend to be close to where sea lions live. A vessel is assigned to areas where a chance of a bycatch is minimal, and it could get in trouble if it strays outside of that space.

Alaska doesn’t stop there though; the state has a slew of laws on its books to protect marine mammals. From the Endangered Species Act, to the Fur Seal Act, to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the state is definitely doing its part to make sure that every aspect of its seafood operation is environmentally sound. In essence, Alaska practices sustainability for both seafood and mammals, and people everywhere would be wise to follow suit.