Leading the way in sustainability

Alaska is known for its snow-covered mountains, ageless glaciers and incredibly green summertimes – but did you know that the state is also a world-class model for sustainability?

Sustainable seafood is seafood that’s managed and fished using practices that ensure there will always be more to catch in the future. With the mandate for sustainable seafood written right into its State Constitution, the secret to Alaska’s success lies in two basic principles:

Responsible fisheries management and sustainable fishing practices take care not to harm the fish, other marine plants and animals, nor the environment.

Fish populations are never overfished. Overfishing happens when too many fish are taken from the sea and there are not enough fish left to replenish the natural population.

Many of Alaska’s fisheries are also certified by both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Program. These certifications show that fisheries meet the criteria of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.


Fishing in Alaska is not only a source of income – but a way of life, creating a symbiotic relationship between the land, sea and community.

Thousands of families make their living from the resources of Alaska’s rugged 34,000 miles of sparsely populated coastline. In fact, fishing and seafood processing employ more people than any other industry in Alaska.

For example, in the small Southeastern Alaska town of Petersburg approximately 470 of the 3,100 residents (15%) hold commercial fishing permits. A larger number still, while not directly fishing themselves, rely on the fishing industry through support services and other businesses that provide for the fleet.

The Alaskan people know they cannot preserve their heritage as fishermen and women without an equal dedication to enforcing the sustainability practices mandated by the state. This commitment ensures that Alaska seafood will continue to be provided as a responsible seafood choice, with the people of Alaska having a deep understanding of the need to protect and maintain the fisheries and the surrounding habitat for future generations.

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With its remote location and small population, Alaska has one of the cleanest and most natural marine environments on earth.

Over 40 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), covering hundreds of thousands of square miles, have been established in Alaskan waters to safeguard the habitat from human activity. This not only ensures that marine habitats are protected from harmful fishing methods, unnecessary human disturbance, industrial activities and pollution – but preserves the ecosystem for many other species including, whales, sea lions, otters and birds.


Everything we do is supported with a dedication to preserving the delicate Alaska Marine ecosystem – which is why every aspect of fishing in the region is based on the latest scientific data.

As new research emerges, the scientists of Alaska’s fisheries set new guidelines for the total number of fish that can be caught. This precautionary and conservative approach prevents overfishing and helps maintain a healthy and sustainable fish population.

To calculate the catch quota scientists first calculate the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), which is the maximum number of fish that can be sustainably caught. This is a very small portion of the total amount of fish, the Biomass, available in the sea. Then, to be extra cautious, fisheries managers go a step further and determine the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), which is the total amount of fish that can legally be harvested. Because this number never exceeds the Acceptable Biological Catch, the state of Alaska ensures there will always be plenty of fish in the sea, season after season.


The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game work together to set sustainable fishery management methods that uphold Alaska’s high standards, and employ the following practices:

Time-and-area closures

Closing certain areas to fishing at certain times of the year.

Size restrictions

Some fisheries have limits on the size of fishing boats; for instance, in Bristol Bay salmon fishery, the limit is 32 feet.

Fishing gear restrictions

Virtually every fishery has limitations on fishing gear, such as the size, design, and use of each type of gear.

Gear prohibition

Certain gear types are completely prohibited, such as pelagic longlines, sunken gillnets, and fish traps.


The majority of Alaska’s fisheries are certified by both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Program.

These certifications show that fisheries meet the criteria of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. This is the most comprehensive and respected fisheries management guidelines in the world, created with the participation of leading fishery biologists, environmental organisations and fishery managers representing more than seventy countries.


The Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program was developed to offer seafood buyers and sellers a credible, cost effective choice in seafood certification.  RFM provides a unique opportunity for the entire supply chain to communicate the origin of their certified sustainable seafood without logo licensing fees.  The Program is defined by two certification standards:

The Fisheries Standard evaluates four key components:

  • The fisheries management system
  • Management measures, implementation, monitoring & control
  • Science & stock assessment activities, and the precautionary approach
  • Impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem

The Chain of Custody Standard (CoC) ensure traceability through the supply chain, demonstrating commitment to responsible food sourcing and providing confidence to all seafood buyers.




The new Alaska RFM Certification logo is available to those who would like to demonstrate traceability and make a certification claim. There are no logo licensing fees and it is free to use with a valid Chain of Custody certification and signed Terms of Use Agreement.  For more information about the Alaska RFM Program please visit https://www.alaskaseafood.org/rfm-certification/


Alaska RFM was the first certification program to achieve recognition against the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (GSSI) global benchmark tool.  GSSI aims to increase comparability and transparency in seafood certification and enable informed choice for procurement of certified seafood.