Fish Consumption Advice for Alaskans
Statewide, the costs associated with replacing subsistence foods with market substitutes in rural Alaska ranges from $131 to $218 million annually.85 In the Northwest Arctic Borough, where residents harvest an average of 617 pounds of wild foods per year, the cost of replacing those foods with market foods (assuming a $5 per pound replacement value) would total $3,085 per year, or roughly 20% of the per capita income of the region.86 In the Yukon-Koyukuk census area, yearly wild foods harvest replacement costs would total 26% of per capita income, and 53% in the Wade Hampton census area of southwest Alaska. Recent analyses of subsistence data from ADF&G performed by the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development estimates that subsistence harvests provide residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough with 56% of their caloric requirements, and nearly four times the amount of protein consumed by the typical American.87 Thus, replacing subsistence foods with market foods presents both negative health and economic consequences to Alaska Native people and other rural Alaska residents.
Recreationally-caught fish are also valued economic assets to Alaskans. Residents who fish recreationally expect to receive benefits of greater value than the expenses they incur when going fishing. Economists estimate that the average value (over and above expenses) that individual Alaskans place on their annual recreational fishing is $714 (2003 dollars)—technically referred to as “net economic value”. 88
Employment Significance of Alaska Fisheries The commercial fishing industry in Alaska provides many Alaskan residents with a livelihood. It is the number one private basic sector employer in Alaska, providing more jobs than oil, gas, timber, or tourism.89 In Southeast Alaska the seafood industry accounted for 43.9% to 47.8% of all jobs in the private basic sector i n 1 9 9 4 . 9 0 I n t h a t y e a r , t h e c o m m e r c i a l f i s h i n g i n d u s t r y i n S o u t h e a s t A l a s k a a l o n e e m p l o y e d 7 , 1 5 5 A l a s k a r e s i d e n t s . 9 0 T h r i v i n g c o m m e r c i a l f i s h i n g i n d u s t r i e s p r o v i d e e m p l o y m e n t t o m a n y A l a s k a r e s i d e n t s i n o parts of the state, including Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Naknek-King Salmon, Seward, Homer, Kenai, Bristol Bay, and the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands. In all, over 4.46 billion pounds of seafood were harvested from Alaskan waters in 2000, comprising approximately 48% of the entire U.S. seafood harvest. t h e r 89
Many Alaskans make a living as sport fishing guides. In 1999, ADF&G registered 4,225 sport fishing guides and 2,242 sport fishing service businesses.91 Of those registered businesses, 1,215 vessels provided saltwater sport fishing charter services in 1999 in Alaska.91 The charter boat industry operates predominantly in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. As stated by Kevin C. Duffy, former Commissioner of the ADF&G, “Alaska is a world class destination for sport fishing. Alaska’s sport fishing guide industry provides access to fishery resources for those who might not otherwise be able to access them. This industry provides significant economic benefits to Alaskans by creating jobs and bringing tourism dollars into Alaska’s communities.”92
Risks of Less Healthy Replacement Foods In rural Alaska, supermarkets are rare and existing village stores are often poorly stocked. Residents cannot obtain many fresh foods at any cost. Small village stores sell convenience items including chips, canned soda, and candy, have a limited supply of meat and dairy products, and usually have a poor supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus, an insufficient variety in products exists to provide healthy alternatives to traditional foods, and shopping excursions to major cities and shipping can be costly. The market foods available to replace locally harvested wildlife have higher concentrations of saturated fat, trans-fat, salt, vegetable oils, and carbohydrates and often provide less nutrient value. 93
Dietary shifts away from traditional food use have been documented in some parts of the Arctic. In Canada, approximately 60–70% of the total energy in the contemporary diet of Dene and Inuit peoples consists of market foods, resulting in a diet much higher in fat and carbohydrates, and lower in protein than their traditional diet.25 Similarly, during a dietary survey of 74 Alaska Native women residing in and near Anchorage, only a small proportion reported eating any traditional foods, and intake was very infrequent. The participants reported high intakes of fats/oils and sweets, and intake of some nutrients was low. 94