Alaska's dynamic, often ice-covered seas are home to a remarkable diversity of life—crustaceans, fish, seals, sea lions, porpoises, whales, and more. Few places in the world offer such beauty and bounty. This region of nearly 1.5 million square miles includes waters in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Chukchi Sea, and Beaufort Sea.
Alaska produces more than half the fish caught in waters off the coast of the United States, with an average wholesale value of nearly $4.5 billion a year. Alaska's fisheries are among the best-managed, most sustainable in the world. Alaska resources provide jobs and a stable food supply for the nation, while supporting a traditional way of life for Alaska Native and local fishing communities.
Science in Alaska
Our research supports sustainable management and conservation of Alaska marine species with economic and cultural benefits for the nation. Alaska waters support some of the most important commercial fisheries in the world; large and diverse populations of whales, seals, sea lions, and porpoises; and Alaska native hunting and fishing communities.
We study the health and size of marine animal populations. We also study the key areas where these animals feed, breed, and grow. To study ocean habitats, we monitor environmental conditions important to sustain marine life. For instance, we regularly monitor sea surface temperatures in the Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska. We analyze biological, oceanographic and ecological data collected during research surveys and by trained fisheries observers in our laboratories. From this, we learn more about marine animal diets, growth and reproduction, food web dynamics and the role of humans in marine ecosystems. We use this and other information to monitor changes to marine animal populations and Alaska ecosystems over time.
Sustainable Fisheries in Alaska
The Alaska Regional Office works with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to manage Alaska’s sustainable fisheries. Using the best available science, we work through the Council process authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to develop measures for best management of Alaska’s fisheries, considering a range of factors such as the health of the fish stocks and economic impact of fishery practices. Once fishing levels and regulations are adopted and approved, the Alaska Regional Office works to implement the Council decisions. The goal is to allow fishermen to harvest the optimum amount of fish while leaving enough in the ocean to reproduce and provide future fishing opportunities in perpetuity.
Protected Marine Life in Alaska
The Protected Resources Division works to conserve and recover marine mammals in close coordination with the State of Alaska and other partners. To manage protected marine species, as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and Fur Seal Act, the Alaska Region advances recovery of threatened and endangered species and the conservation of marine mammals, including whales, seals, and sea lions. We work to minimize interactions between marine mammals and commercial fisheries; promote responsible marine mammal viewing practices; coordinate response to stranded or entangled marine mammals; consult with federal agencies to minimize project effects on threatened and endangered species; and cooperatively manage subsistence use of marine mammals through co-management agreements with Alaska Native organizations.
NOAA Fisheries conducts and reviews environmental analyses for a large variety of activities ranging from commercial fishing, to coastal development, to large transportation and energy projects. Working with industries, stakeholder groups, government agencies, and private citizens, we ensure that these activities have minimal impact on essential fish habitat and marine life in Alaska. Our habitat conservation activities include protecting essential fish habitat, mitigating damage to and enhancing habitat affected by hydropower project construction and operations, removing invasive species, and restoring habitat that has been affected by development, oil spills, and other human activities. We focus on habitats used by federally-managed fish species located offshore, nearshore, in estuaries, and in freshwater areas important to migratory salmon.
Featured Species in Alaska
Alaska's coastal communities depend on healthy marine resources to support commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism, and the Alaskan way of life. Our mission at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office is the science-based stewardship of Alaska’s marine resources and their habitats in the Gulf of Alaska, eastern Bering Sea, and Arctic oceans. We are responsible for supporting sustainable fisheries, recovering and conserving protected species, such as whales and seals, and promoting healthy ecosystems and resilient Alaska coastal communities.