Market forces, particularly consumer buying power, have the potential to protect and sustain ecological and socio-economic health. This capstone paper examines this potential in the context of the commercial fishing industry in Bristol Bay, Alaska, particularly in light of important land use and development regulatory shifts presently occurring in the region—shifts that place Bristol Bay and its salmon fishery at a critical crossroads. One route is to further develop and enhance the commercial fishery, which at its core depends on the ecological health of fish habitat; the alternative is to open the region to new industrial development of non-renewable resources, such as oil, gas, and minerals. In support of finding ways to optimize both the profitability and sustainability of the Bristol Bay fishery, rather than risking its demise at the hands of more harmful industries, this paper analyzes the applicability of certain alternative economic strategies, such as Fair Trade, to the situation in the region, and explores the potential for conservation-based marketing of Bristol Bay Wild Salmon.

Research methodology includes a literature review, expert interviews, a consumer survey, and a case study. Results of this research illuminate existing problems in the fishery, particularly poor product quality, disconnect between harvesters and consumers, and a vast lack of consumer knowledge about Bristol Bay salmon and the region in general. Findings from this study suggest that the fishery must embrace change, not only to meet the needs of all of its stakeholders, but ultimately to survive. New models of trade, from harvest to point of sale, for Bristol Bay salmon will support positive changes that might better distribute earnings from the fishery. Increasing the value of this wild fishery will increase the security and value of the pure and pristine habitat and the traditional regional community that sustain it.


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy