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Norton Sound

Last Update: 11/1/2013
For current sustainability information on this fishery visit the Marine Stewardship Council website.
Start Date: 
Sustainability ProgressAction Progress
Certification Status: 
< 1k

Volume data of 474 metric tons is an annual average from 2002 – 2011. NPAFC provided catch volumes for the entire Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region, and the catch proportion for each AYK fishery was estimated using catches and fish weights from ADF&G Area Management reports (data from 2008-2012).

For current sustainability information on this fishery visit the Marine Stewardship Council website.

The Alaska salmon fisheries were some of the earliest fisheries to receive MSC certification, being first certified in December 2000. Since then, the fisheries were re-certified in October 2007 and again in November 2013. Four conservation groups filed an objection to the most recent certification effort, citing insufficient evaluation of harvest rates on depleted, non-Alaskan salmon stocks intercepted in Southeast Alaska fisheries. However, an independent adjudicator dismissed the objection. The Units of Certification (UoCs; sub-components of the fishery that are individually evaluated) have varied among assessments, with the most recent assessment defining 14 units based on geographic area. Thirteen of the units were scored to pass certification, but the Prince William Sound (PWS) UoC is still under assessment, likely due to issues regarding hatchery production and the potential impacts on local wild stocks. Indeed, one of the most important fishery concerns is the accelerating release of hatchery pink and chum in Kodiak, PWS and Southeast Alaska (SEAK). Another issue is that some fisheries may affect stocks with low abundances that are designated as ‘stocks of concern,’ which are specified as ‘yield concern’ (escapement goals met but expected yields not met) or ‘management concern’ (escapement goals not met). Although the Alaska salmon fisheries benefit from the availability of high quality spawning habitat and a management system that closely monitors catches and escapements, there are still improvements to be made.

The Norton Sound UoC includes the Norton Sound and Port Clarence districts, covering an expansive area (>500 miles of coastline) in northwestern Alaska. Norton Sound is part of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim management area. All commercial salmon fishing is by set gillnets in marine waters, usually near river mouths. Commercial fishing is not allowed when fish buyers are not present, which has frequently been the case since the mid-1990s. Most commercial fishing is concentrated in the Norton Sound District, whereas the Port Clarence District has been closed to commercial fishing in recent years. In response to low Chinook abundances, directed commercial fisheries on Chinook salmon have been prohibited since about 2000. Pink salmon could support additional harvests, but there are often no buyers.

Salmon fisheries are managed to achieve escapement goals.  Norton Sound/Port Clarence has escapement goals for all species of salmon: Chinook (5 goals), chum (12 goals), coho (3 goals), sockeye (2 goals), and pink salmon (5 goals). In recent years, Chinook spawner escapements have fluctuated around the goals but often did not meet the lower goal in four of five survey areas. Coho goals have been met or exceeded since 2006. Chum and sockeye escapements have fluctuated around the escapement goals. Pink salmon have been relatively abundant and have consistently met the goals each year.

Presently, stocks of yield concern in the Norton Sound district have been identified for Chinook in the Shaktoolik and Unalakleet subdistricts, and for chum in the Nome, Golovin and Elim subdistricts. Action plans to improve harvests of these stocks have been developed. The plans include a discussion on factors of decline (e.g., gold mining and road construction), management actions to improve the runs, and research activities. Although hatcheries are not part of the action plans, Norton Sound residents near Nome have expressed interest in developing hatcheries to increase harvests of chum salmon. There are currently no commercial-scale hatchery programs in the Norton Sound area, but small pilot hatchery projects exist for chum, coho, and Chinook salmon. Additionally, Salmon Lake has been periodically fertilized in an attempt to enhance sockeye salmon growth and production. These salmon enhancement projects appear to have had limited success in contributing to adult returns thus far.


Purse Seine Vessels Owners Association (PSVOA; fishery client), Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Wild Salmon Center, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, David Suzuki Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Wild Fish Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy, Sustainable Fisheries Partnerships, Pacific Salmon Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Ecotrust, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation

Native Corporations involved in Alaska salmon fisheries:

Arctic Slope Native Association, Bering Straits Association, Northwest Alaska Native Association, Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs’ Conference, Cook Inlet Association, Bristol Bay Native Association, Aleut League, Chugach Native Association, Tlingit-Haida Central Council, Kodiak Area Native Association, Copper River Native Association

November, 2013

The 2013 Public Certification Report for the Alaska salmon fisheries was released on November 12, 2013. No conditions (fishery improvement targets) were placed on the Norton Sound salmon fishery. 

An Action Plan outlining timelines and activities that would be taken to address conditions was written by the Client, approved by the assessment team, and included in the assessment report. As no conditions were placed on the Norton Sound UoC, it was not included in the Action Plan.

November, 2013

The Alaska salmon fisheries were re-certified for a second time in November 2013, and the first surveillance audit will take place in 2014.

2013 Assessment - Log in or register to access this file.
2013 Action Plan - Log in or register to access this file.
Intertek Moody Marine
Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association
Contact us if you have information regarding this fishery improvement project.