Red salmon are beginning to hit Bristol Bay and across the state, thousands of fishermen are mending nets, hiring crew and preparing to harvest the bounty from Alaska waters and the seas beyond. Today, the average age of a commercial fishery permit holder in Alaska is 50 — up from 40 in 1980. At that time, Alaskans under the age of 40 held nearly 40 percent of the fishing permits. As of a couple of years ago, young Alaska fishermen owned less than 20 percent.
This "graying of the fleet" means that fewer young Alaskans are becoming fishermen. For young people already fishing, advancing in the industry can be hard, especially with the costs of permits, quota and vessels rising.
The numbers are particularly startling in Alaska's coastal villages. Over the past four decades in rural communities around Kodiak, for example, there's been an 84 percent drop in the number of salmon seine permits owned by local fishermen under the age of 40.
It takes about half a million dollars to get set up as a full-time fisherman — a heftier price tag than for a plush house. Today, a seine permit in the Kodiak region costs about $50,000. A salmon drift permit in Bristol Bay runs about $150,000. Halibut quota is being sold for upwards of $50 per pound, an increase from about $15 per pound in 2010. At today's rate, a young person trying to buy into the halibut fishery either needs a million dollars in cash or be willing to pour all income into a loan payment.
Read the full story at the Alaska Dispatch>>