Alaska’s Next Generation of Potential Fishermen: a Survey of Youth Attitudes Towards Fishing and Community in Bristol Bay and the Kodiak Archipelago

  • Jesse ColemanEmail author
  • Courtney Carothers
  • Rachel Donkersloot
  • Danielle Ringer
  • Paula Cullenberg
  • Alexandra Bateman


Commercial fishery participants in Alaska are increasing in age, and the next generation of fishermen faces numerous, complex barriers to entry into the industry. Although these barriers are now widely recognized, what remains to be seen is whether or not the youngest generation of coastal residents will choose place-based fishing livelihoods. In this study, we surveyed seventh through 12th grade students in the fishery-dependent Bristol Bay and Kodiak Archipelago regions of Alaska to explore what factors best predict students’ attitudes about commercial fishing and their communities. We used multinomial logit models of Likert-scale responses predicted by geographic, demographic, and social variables, as well as conditional inference trees to understand the direction, magnitude, and importance of the relationships among the predictor and response variables. Positive attitudes about fishing were best predicted by student experience in the commercial fishing industry, whether the student wanted to be involved in fishing in the future, and the importance of subsistence fishing to the student’s family. Age, how the student felt about their life, the importance of subsistence activities, and whether the student grew up in the community in which they were surveyed were all strongly related to the student’s positive attitude about their community. Youth surveyed in this study were highly uncertain about their futures, but key periods of exposure through community and family ties to fishing emerged as important mechanisms for engagement among the next generation of potential fishermen.


Commercial fisheries Rural youth Alaska Barriers to entry Fishery-dependent communities 



First and foremost, we would like to thank the student participants for their willingness to share their thoughts and opinions in this survey. We appreciate the support of the administration and staff of the Kodiak Island Borough School District, the Lake and Peninsula Borough School District, the Bristol Bay Borough School District, the Dillingham City School District, and the Southwest Region School District that made this research possible. We would also like to thank Meghan Rearden for her help in administering the survey to students in Kokhanok.


Funding for this research was provided by the North Pacific Research Board (Project No. 1323) and Alaska Sea Grant (Project No. R/32-06). Research was conducted under the University of Alaska Fairbanks IRB approval 555479-10.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.College of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.Alaska Marine Conservation CouncilAnchorageUSA
  4. 4.University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  5. 5.Alaska Sea GrantAnchorageUSA
  6. 6.National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationAlaska Fisheries Science CenterKodiakUSA

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