About BSFA

Looking back on the days of the initial organizational meeting, it is remarkable to see just how far a small group of coastal Alaskan fishermen have come.  There have been many challenges and BSFA has been there to respond to them. But, BSFA has done more than respond, it has played a leading, if not the critical role, in ensuring that western Alaska fishermen are in control of their own future.

A short list of successes in which BSFA played the substantial, if not the primary role, includes:

  • Establishment of the Community Development Quota Program with Harold Sparck that launched six CDQ corporations
  • Negotiated for of U.S. Coast Guard surveillance and enforcement to guard against foreign high seas piracy activity in the Bering Sea
  • Development of herring fisheries in western Alaska
  • Development of commercial halibut fisheries for western Alaska through the International Pacific Halibut Commission
  • Elimination of high seas interception of western Alaskan salmon in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean
  • Launched various fisheries research and coordinating programs and non-profits including:
  • Establishment of the king salmon saving areas in the Bering Sea
  • Creation of the Alaska Board of Fish Regional Advisory Committees
  • Construction of the Quinhagak fish processing plant; as well as cold storage facilities in Tununak, Mekoryuk, and Toksook Bay.

All of these accomplishments are the result of tireless participation in the legislative and regulatory forums that have so much influence on western Alaska resources, including: the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the Alaska Board of Fish, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the Yukon River Panel, and the Kuskokwim Fisheries Resource Coalition.

The reallocation of effort to research and the need for a research program

In 1993, the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region of Alaska experienced chum salmon run failures of a magnitude never seen before. While some returns – particularly northern Norton Sound – had already been depressed, the region-wide poor returns led to sweeping subsistence and commercial fishery restrictions, closure and lack of adequate spawning escapements to most river systems throughout AYK. This continues to be a problem for particular areas and certain fisheries around western Alaska. However, the declines in chum salmon prompted BSFA to become heavily engaged in the research and monitoring of salmon stocks in western Alaska.

In response to the chum crash, Governor Walter Hickel declared an economic disaster. Senator Ted Stevens created a task force to identify existing and potential sources of assistance and funding to address the crash. Senator Stevens secured federal funding in the 1994 budget for BSFA, which was administered through the Department of Interior. The majority of these funds, and subsequent year appropriations, are passed through to rural AYK organizations, to conduct research and/or restoration projects to help monitor and rebuild chum salmon stocks.

Between 1997 and 2012, these unexpected and precipitous declines expanded to include AYK Chinook salmon as well as chum salmon and prompted a total of fifteen disaster declarations in different watersheds within the region by the Governor and federal agencies.

BSFA was called into action to manage research funds in response to the declines. The need for research and restoration of Alaskan salmon became central to the mission of the organization. It was a turning point for BSFA and continues to receive a great amount of attention.

Supporting fisheries research and new fisheries development in western Alaska

Expanded Research and Restoration Initiatives: Research on salmon stocks in western Alaska has and is receiving attention at a level that has been needed since Statehood. There is a great deal of work to be done. BSFA is participating at every level to guide this research and guarantee its appropriate application so that western Alaskans obtain the greatest good from the resource.

Sustainable Fisheries Development: The key to supporting and implementing development programs is to ensure that our fisheries are sustainable at every level. BSFA’s long history and demonstrated track record of developing effective conservation measures and innovative economic development initiatives on levels appropriate to the resource base is more valuable than ever.

Collaborative Partnerships

It is apparent that western Alaskan organizations benefit the most when working collaboratively. By joining together our resources can be allocated more efficiently and everyone benefits. BSFA was established on the premise that one voice can be heard more clearly when its words are chosen carefully and the message represents us all. This is especially important when our organizations are spread thin as they have in the past and will continue to be so in the future.

Just as our natural resources sustain the communities and cultures of our region, BSFA has provided financial resources and professional expertise to ensure western Alaska’s sustainability and strength. BSFA has been and will continue to be a source of strength for some of Alaska’s humblest communities.