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Bristol Bay, An Economic Engine for Alaska


Bristol Bay is an economic engine for Alaska. The bay –referred to as America’s Fish Basket – is home to a fishing industry that produces almost 40 percent of the wild-caught seafood eaten in the United States, including salmon and halibut. With good tasting fish comes a plethora of jobs.

The Bristol Bay fishing industry creates more than 12,000 jobs for fishermen and processors – those who harvest the fish from Alaska’s frigid bay – who live in the state year-round or just during fishing season. And it creates jobs for people nationwide who have a connection to the industry, such as those who:

  • Produce bait and gear for the fishermen to use when harvesting fish
  • Build the boats used by fishermen
  • Buy the fish, then sell it to retailers
  • Sell the fish at restaurants or grocery stores

Add up all of these jobs – as well as other revenue, like dollars generated through the sale of boats and the fish itself – and the annual value of Bristol Bay’s fisheries is almost $5.4 billion dollars. This was found in a recent WWF study assessing the five commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay and its adjacent waterways.

The figure would be even higher if we could put a dollar value on the other benefits of the bay, including biodiversity, recreation, scenic amenities and social and cultural significance.

Even without these benefits factored in, the value of the bay’s fisheries over 40 years ($216 billion) far exceeds the U.S. government’s estimated value of oil and gas development in the region over the same time period ($7.7 billion), as noted in the study.

Given the importance of Bristol Bay, WWF and its partners seek to protect the bay from such threats as:

  • climate change
  • mining
  • oil and gas development

Learn more
Read WWF’s Study: The Value of Commerical Fisheries Near Bristol Bay, Alaska (PDF 1.05, MB)
WWF’s other efforts to protect Bristol Bay