Graying of the Fleet

Alaska’s community-based fishermen are essential to sustaining the social, cultural and economic vitality of our fishing communities. At the same time, the rising cost of access rights (permits, quota), escalating operating costs, and global competition in the marketplace make it increasingly difficult for local and rural fishermen to establish and grow successful community-based fishing operations. These types of barriers threaten local fisheries access and participation; contributing to the ‘graying of the fleet’ in Alaska fisheries and the rural-to-urban migration of fishing rights.DSCN1428_zps697d8c11

In 2015, the average age of Alaska fishery permit holders was 50 years, up nearly ten years since 1980. Aging trends are marked by a lack of young people entering the industry today. As the bulk of Alaska permit holders approach retirement age and rural fishing communities struggle to retain access to local fisheries, the graying of the fleet has become a pressing concern for the state of Alaska and our coastal communities.

The ‘graying of the fleet’ research project examines social, cultural, economic and geographic factors impacting local participation in fisheries in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak Island regions.

Key project objectives include:

  1. Document and compare barriers to entry into, and upward mobility within, fisheries among youth and young fishery participants;
  2. Examine factors influencing young people’s attitudes towards, and level of participation in, Alaska fisheries;
  3. Identify models of successful pathways to establishing fishing careers among young residents; and
  4. Identify potential policy responses to address the graying of the fleet and develop specific recommendations consistent with state and federal legal frameworks.

This is a multi-year project (2014-2017) in partnership with University of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Sea Grant. The project is funded by the North Pacific Research Board and Alaska Sea Grant. Visit links below to check out project publications and presentations to date. For more information, please contact AMCC’s Rachel Donkersloot, Principal Investigator at: (907) 277-5357 or


The Graying of the Alaskan Fishing Fleet. Published in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development (Rachel Donkersloot & Courtney Carothers, 2016).

Graying of the Fleet PPT developed for Alaska Marine Science Symposium (Rachel Donkersloot, 2016).

Click here to check out complete list of publications and conference posters. 

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