Amidst the xenophobic and perennial squabbling between user groups, between sport-fishermen and Alaska's seafood industry, anyone wanting to understand the role of Alaska's commercial fisheries in the future need look no further than where commercial agriculture and commercial meat production have come over the last century or two.
Mankind has, for millennia, farmed and harvested the world's land mass for our primary source of sustenance. Mankind has likewise, and for as long, harvested the world's oceans for the same purpose though far less intensively due to the inhospitable nature of ocean environment. Today, the world's land mass is being essentially exploited to capacity in terms of available technology. Today, the world's oceans are largely underexploited in terms of available technology.
We stand today on the shores of the world's oceans where we stood as a species hundreds of years ago on the world's land mass . . we took what was easily available from the wild, and as those resources receded and as populations increased, we replaced unmanaged, wild harvest with controlled harvest generated from the same land mass. Free and open range grazing, feed lots, and broiler barns far, far outproduced anything of which raw nature was capable only a century or two before.
We're just now beginning to grasp the ocean's potential in the same way. Fish farming and aquaculture are our baby steps as we learn to exploit the ocean's potential as we have exploited the world's land mass in the past. The bottom line is and has been that commercial exploitation of the earth's potential replaces primitive exploitation of the wild.
Those who can see no further into the future than the next year's run of chinook or coho will continue whine and moan in their futile efforts to recapture Mayberry . . can't happen. The future is upon us. The world's ever-expanding population must be fed, and the oceans are our last frontier. The "wild" will increasingly disappear in the face of man's ever-increasing dominion over the earth. Yes, they still hunt deer in Scotland, and they still kill brown bear in Romania, but all such killing is done on managed preserves. Anyone placing their hopes for Mayberry in wild populations of fish and game are doomed to disappointment.
An acquaintance tried to tell me there was hope for continued harvest of the wild in current populations of game such as Alaskan salmon, whitetail deer, and wild turkey. It's a pipe dream.
The current deer population of Wisconsin is about 800k animals, average weight, say, 150# yielding about 80# of meat. If all the deer in Wisconsin were slaughtered, we'd have a pile of meat weighing 64 million pounds. Now the population of Milwaukee is about 600k people, each of whom consumes about 10# meat every month. All the deer in Wisconsin would supply Milwaukee's meat for, what, about 10 months (check my math)? We fail to understand the immensity of need confronting us today.
The future of Alaska's and global commercial fisheries is . . . well, the sky is the limit. Current forms will change, technology will increase efficiency, but we're standing on the very edge of what lies ahead as humankind learns to commercially exploit the oceans.