COMMERCIAL FISH AND SHELLFISH HARVESTING (continued)
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both Natives and non-Natives harvested Cook Inlet herring on a small-scale, subsistence basis. Then, in 1914, the commercial herring fishery began at Halibut Cove in Kachemak Bay.  The industry grew slowly until 1917, when the U.S. government successfully introduced a new method of processing herring, called scotch curing. Largely because of the new curing method, the industry boomed in 1918; there were 36 Alaska herring plants, 25 of which were located in Central Alaska (either in Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, or Kodiak-Afognak islands). Fifteen of the 36 plants were in Kachemak Bay (see Table 9-11a).  The industry retrenched the following year. The number of plants fell sharply, although the value of the herring harvest fell only modestly.
Table 9-11a. Herring Harvesting in Lower Cook Inlet, 1918-1930
Guide to Abbreviations:
AK - Alaska (entire territory)
C AK - Central Alaska (Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and Kodiak-Afognak)
LCI - Lower Cook Inlet (Kachemak Bay and vicinity)
SC scotch cure (method of curing herring, introduced to Alaska in 1917)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, Alaska Fishery and Fur-Seal Industries, annual issues.
From 1919 to 1926, herring was an Alaska growth industry. The number of plants rose from 11 to 61, and in Lower Cook Inlet, the number of plants rose from a mere handful to 32. Revenues rose accordingly; on a territory-wide basis, the herring harvest rose from $1.6 million to more than $3.5 million. Plants during this period were scattered all over the lower Inlet; as noted in Table 9-11b, most plants were located in Halibut Cove, but they were also sited in Portlock, Port Graham, Seldovia, and elsewhere.
Table 9-11b. Location of Lower Cook Inlet Herring Plants, 1924-1930
Source: U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, Alaska Fishery and Fur-Seal Industries, annual issues.
After 1926, the herring industry crashed even more quickly than it had grown. Overfishing was the cause. By 1929, the number of plants in Alaska was half of what it had been three years earlier, and revenues were slashed by one-third. In Lower Cook Inlet, fishers responded to the depleted stocks by heading west, and by 1928, Inlet-based fishers were harvesting Aleutian stocks. That however, was merely a temporary expedient, and it merely delayed the inevitable crash. That crash, as it turned out, was nothing less than catastrophic; of 32 herring plants that operated in 1926, only one remained in 1929. That last plant was gone by 1930. The herring fishery in Lower Cook Inlet never recovered. For years afterward, locals reminisced about the "good old herring days at Seldovia."  Beginning in the late 1930s, occasional harvests were made in the Seldovia area and in Kachemak Bay, chiefly for local use and for halibut bait. It remained a minor industry until the late 1960s. 
In Resurrection Bay, interest in the herring fishery appears to have begun in 1914. A newspaper item that November stated that "two tons of the delicious little fish known as herring sardines were caught Saturday.... The extraordinary run of the fish proves fully that there would be big money in the fishing business here."  Little more was heard of the herring resource until 1920. Perhaps caught up in the flurry of activity taking place in Lower Cook Inlet, Seward interests publicized the local resource. That January, the Gateway editorialized that:
The Pathfinder, an arm of the Pioneers of Alaska, weighed in with similar hyperbole. It noted that "the Gulf of Alaska is literally alive with herring, a fish that bids fair to bring fame to this coast and much added prosperity to the port of Seward."  Despite that boosterism, Seward had no herring plants, and Resurrection Bay had little or no herring harvesting, for the remainder of the decade.
Events in Prince William Sound brought renewed attention to Resurrection Bay's herring resource. The Sound was a major herring harvest area during the 1930s; in the peak year of 1936, the herring reduction facility at Port Ashton (near Latouche) processed over 56,000 tons of herring.  Harvesting continued in the Sound for the remainder of the decade. Herring, during this period, was valuable, but not as a food fish. Instead, the harvested product underwent a reduction process from which oil and meal were made.
During the 1940s, attention in the herring fishery shifted over to Resurrection Bay, largely because fishery interests had fully explored Prince William Sound and sought new sites. The northern part of the bayin the immediate Seward arearecorded a commercial harvest in 1941. Activity then ceased until 1944, when harvests were recorded both in the Seward area and at the bay's southern end. The area at the extreme southwestern end of the baybetween Aialik Cape and Bulldog Covewas harvested in 1945. Herring harvesting in that area did not take place again for years afterward. But other parts of southern Resurrection Bay (i.e., areas south of Caines Head) were harvested off and on until 1959; in 1955, moreover, the present-day park coastline between Aialik Cape and Gore Point recorded a small (128,000-pound) harvest. The amount harvested in and around Resurrection Bay, to be sure, was not as large as that recorded in Prince William Sound; the bay's yield in the most productive years (1946 and 1955) did not exceed 7,500 tons, and the harvest total for the entire 16-year period was less than 25,000 tons.  The harvests, however, reaffirmed that commercial quantities of herring were available in waters both in and adjacent to the future Kenai Fjords National Park. 
Herring harvesting activity at the southern end of Kenai Peninsula remained at a standstill from 1960 until 1969, when the fishery was reopened due to increased Japanese demands for herring and herring roe. Harvests for the first year or two took place primarily in Halibut Cove and the Seward Boat Harbor. By 1972, however, the search for herring resulted in expeditions to Nuka Passage and to Aialik, Two Arm, Thunder, Black, Nuka, Yalik, and other bays in the present-day park.  Almost 700,000 pounds (350 tons) of herring was harvested in park waters that year (see Table 9-12); the following year, the herring harvest totaled more than 770,000 pounds (385 tons). Much of this harvest was processed at the Seward Fisheries plant. In 1974, most of the area's herring fishing took place on the west side of Cook Inlet; the results were disappointing, and the Cook Inlet fisherywhich, as in previous decades, provided consistently smaller returns than the Prince William Sound fisherywas closed because the resource had been exhausted. 
Table 9-12. Statistics on Park-Area Fishing, 1970-1995 (Non-Salmon Species)
Explanatory Notes for Table 9-12:
Area and Species Identification: crab, shrimp, octopus, and miscellaneous-species statistics are maintained for Area 23 (which includes the coastline all the way from Gore Point east to Cape Fairfield during the 1970-75 period and from Point Adam to Cape Fairfield in the 1976-1995 period). Herring statistics, however, are maintained for Area 232 (that is, the coastline between Gore Point and Aialik Cape during the 1968-1973, between Gore Point and Aligo Point during the 1974-75 period, and between Aligo Point and Point Adam during the 1976-1995 period). The three-digit numbers following each species name have been assigned by the ADF&G to identify the various species.
* - numbers and weights are actually for a particular subspecies within the general classification. Most tanner crabs in this category are for biardi tanner crabs (931), and most shrimp in this category are for spot shrimp (965).
(CD) confidential data. When fewer than four permittees fished for a given species in a given year, ADF&G censors harvest data in order to protect the privacy of an individual permittees harvest. The term "CD", therefore, shows that there were 1, 2, or 3 active permittees.
(HB) herring by-products
(SR) sac roe
n.d. no data.
Source: Herman Savikko (ADF&G, Juneau) letter, June 12 and July 11, 1997.
For more than a decade, no commercial herring fishing took place in or near park waters. Then, in 1985, commercial harvesting began again, although on a smaller, more restrictive scale than before. Again, much of the herring harvest was processed in Seward. Commercial production continued each year until 1988. Since then, the park's herring fishery has been inactive. Seward fish plants, however, have benefited in recent years by processing harvests from neighboring districts. 
Kenai Peninsula's shrimp fishing industry has been active for more than fifty years. Back in 1935, the Seward newspaper noted that Resurrection Bay shrimp prospecting had been "carried on some years ago, and a small quantity of commercial size was found, but not in sufficient number to justify engaging in the business." Commercial operations stayed away from Resurrection Bay until the late 1950s.  West of the park, the first commercial shrimp harvest in Cook Inlet took place in Kachemak Bay in 1939. Thereafter, the industry remained small. From 1949 through 1952, for instance, the only Central Alaska shrimp operator harvested the waters of Kachemak Bay; and in 1955, the Fish and Wildlife Service noted that the Cook Inlet shrimp industry was limited to "a very few fishermen in Kachemak Bay." 
A major expansion in the Peninsula's shrimp industry took place in 1958. The Fish and Wildlife Service boat John N. Cobb, hoping to assist potential fishermen and processors, dragged selected waters of the southern Kenai that summer; waters in or near the present-day park included Nuka Bay, Nuka Passage, and the area surrounding Rugged Island. The agency noted that neither Nuka Bay nor Nuka Passage was on a par with Kachemak Bay. Both, however, were important shrimping areas; Nuka Passage contained pink, sidestripe and coonstripe shrimp, while Nuka Bay yielded pinks and sidestripes.  Fishermen that summer brought in 16,300 pounds of shrimp, which were processed at the Seward Fish and Cold Storage (SF&CS) plant. 
In response to the new activity, the Halibut Producers Co-op bought a shrimp-peeling machine (to take the shell off) and installed it at the SF&CS plant. Rapid industrial development followed, and by the end of 1959 four additional shrimp peelers had been installed at SF&CS, four at Seward Seafoods, and one at Seldovia. Shrimp that year was taken principally from a small area of Nuka Bay, from the Bear Glacier area of Resurrection Bay, the Kodiak area and Prince William Sound. 
For the next several years, the shrimp industry thrived. A December 1961 report on Seward's economic development prospects noted that shrimp was a much needed growth industry in a town where the salmon, halibut and herring industries were all undergoing a serious decline. "In the last 2-3 years," the report stated, "the processing of sea-caught shrimp has come into prominence. There have been 3 shrimp canneries started in the area at this time." One of the canneries was still operating full time, a second operated seasonally, and the third had shut down.  In order to sustain operations, the shrimp harvesters had to seek out locations that were increasingly distant from Kachemak and Resurrection bays. It is likely that the park's waters were harvested off and on during the early 1960s. Kodiak Island and other Cook Inlet waters (perhaps Kamishak Bay) were also relied on to an increasing extent during this period. The plants in both Seward and Seldovia remained active through the 1963 season. The March 1964 earthquake, however, destroyed all of the shrimp-processing facilities and killed the industry. 
The Cook Inlet shrimp industry did not reawaken until 1968. A total of 26,660 pounds of shrimp was harvested that year; a mere 418 pounds of that came from the waters of the Outer District (i.e., between Point Adam and Aialik Cape). The industry remained small for the next three years (see Table 9-12). From 1972 through 1974, however, the waters between Gore Point and Cape Fairfield yielded more than 75,000 pounds of shrimp each year. (The most productive harvest was in 1974, when shrimp fishers caught more than 265,000 pounds of shrimp.) Yields of this volume apparently injured the resource to such an extent that few shrimp were caught in park waters for the remainder of the decade. During this period, the only Cook Inlet shrimp boats belonged to a Homer-based seafood company. No Seward fishermen participated. The Seward Fisheries plant, however, apparently benefited from the short-lived boom because many of the shrimp were harvested in peelers that had been installed in the facility in 1971. 
Since 1980, the shrimp industry has continued its boom-and-bust cycle. Although confidentiality concerns prevent the drawing of an accurate industry description, it appears that the shrimp industry, both in park waters and adjacent areas, boomed between 1982 and 1986, inclusively (see Table 9-13). More than 200,000 pounds of shrimpprimarily pink shrimpwere harvested annually during this period in the Outer and Eastern districts (i.e., between Point Adam and Cape Fairfield). The peak year was in 1984, when the Outer and Eastern districts yielded more than 1.9 million pounds and the area between Gore Point and Cape Fairfield yielded more than 550,000 pounds. Since 1988, the Outer and Eastern districts have yielded fewer than 25,000 pounds of shrimp each year. Most of what has been caught in recent years has been sidestripe shrimp. 
Table 9-13. Shrimp Harvests in
Outer Cook Inlet, or Area "G," is comprised of the Outer and Eastern Districts. Harvests are in pounds. Pot shrimp figures are harvests for the given calendar year, while trawl shrimp harvests are for the season beginning in the given calendar year.
The letters "(CD)" indicate that data cannot be supplied because of confidentiality concerns.
Source: ADF&G, Division of Commercial Fisheries, Cook Inlet Area, Annual Shellfish Management Report, issues of 1992-93 (November 1993, appendices H and J) and 1995-96 (August 1996, pp. 61 and 63).
Statistics issued by state regulatory authorities provide few clues on shrimp fishing in park waters. Local residents, however, suggest that most activityfor shrimp caught in both trawls and potstook place in Aialik Bay, with additional activity in Northwestern Fjord and McCarty Fjord. Tom Schroeder, the Homer-based ADF&G biologist, recalled that shrimp trawlers were active in Aialik Bay during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Longtime Seward fisherman Seward Shea recalled that there were "lots of shrimp pots out there." "A few made a living at it," he stated, "but they had to work at it." An NPS report confirms the presence of shrimp pots in Aialik Bay in 1980; a former park employee recalls that recreational fishermen were the primary shrimp pot users, although commercial shrimpers may have been active there as well. 
The first Cook Inlet crab harvestand one of the earliest Alaska crab harveststook place in 1920, when the Arctic Packing Company in English Bay put up 75 cases of so-called "spider crabs." That pack was an isolated event; a similar spike in interest took place in 1937, when a Halibut Cove cannery processed king crab. In the late 1940s, Resurrection Bay was the site of occasional dungeness harvests. During the same period, king crab was finally becoming a recognized market commodity, and beginning in 1953 Pacific Coast harvest levels for the species began a long-term growth curve. That growth, however, was not immediately reflected in activities along the Kenai Peninsula. Both Resurrection Bay and Kachemak Bay, though not the coast between them, may have been harvested from time to time; harvest volume, however, remained small. King crab accounted for most if not all crab production during the 1940s and 1950s. 
In 1960, the king crab industry jumped into prominence when 60 boats signaled their interest in the species. During the 1960-1961 season, some four million pounds of crabfar more than ever beforewere harvested from the Cook Inlet management district. During that season, Cook Inlet boats made several exploratory fishing trips into Outer District waters, mainly to Port Dick and Nuka Bay. Those trips resulted in an Outer District harvest of 118,067 pounds, about 3.1 percent of the Cook Inlet total (see Table 9-14). 
Table 9-14. Outer District and Eastern District Crab Harvest, 1960-1995
Figures given are in pounds, while percentages are those of the entire Cook Inlet catch. An asterisk (*) signifies a percentage less than 0.1%. Source: ADF&G, Annual Management Report on Shellfish, 1981-1982, Appendix, Tables 8 and 15; ADF&G, Cook Inlet Area, Annual Shellfish Management Report, 1995-96, 54, 57.
For the next several years, the fortunes of the crab fishery largely paralleled those of the shrimp industry; both remained healthy, although both required increasing effort, as the years wore on, to maintain harvest levels. Outer District king crab harvest levels during both the 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons exceeded 300,000 pounds; those totals, though record-setting, continued to comprise a small proportion (four to seven percent) of the Cook Inlet harvest total. Crabbers during this period probably exploited the crab population along much of the park coastline. Some of the harvesters lived in Seward: Seward Shea once harvested Dungeness crab in James Lagoon, and Ben Suddath kept crab pots out in Aialik Bay, James Lagoon, and Nuka Bay. 
The March 1964 earthquake brought the Kenai Peninsula's crab-harvesting industry to a temporary standstill. Because most of the Kodiak crab fleet had been destroyed, Cook Inlet crabbers headed south and harvested the Kodiak Island resource.  Less than a thousand pounds of Outer District king crab, therefore, were harvested during the 1964-65 season. Before long, however, the Kodiak fleet was rebuilt and the Kenai crab industry roared back into prominence. More than 80,000 pounds of king crab were harvested each year during the 1966-67 through 1968-69 seasons, and during the 1967-68 season the harvest exceeded 230,000 pounds7.4 percent of the Cook Inlet total. Outer District king crab harvests continued at a respectable level until the 1969-1970 season; after that date, however, harvest volumes dropped dramatically. Since 1970, Outer District king crab harvests have exceeded 20,000 pounds only once (during the 1975-76 season); during the same period, the Outer District's contribution to the Cook Inlet harvest, moreover, has never exceeded two percent. Since 1984, the Cook Inlet management district has been off-limits to king crab harvesting.
In 1968, Cook Inlet fishers began to harvest a new crab species: the tanner or snow crab. Commercial interests had ignored the species previously, but as a contemporary management report noted, "due to the shortened king crab season, a tanner crab fishery developed to keep the fishermen and canneries in operation." At first, tanners were an incidental part of the king crab harvest, and tanner harvesters generally avoided the Outer and Eastern districts.  Beginning in 1971, however, tanner crabs were no longer considered an incidental species; as a result, harvest levels erupted to new heights. From the 1971-72 season to the 1973-74 season, inclusively, Outer and Eastern district tanner crab harvests exceeded 800,000 pounds annually; the 1972-73 season was particularly productive, with a harvest level that neared 1.9 million pounds. Thereafter, harvest levels dropped, but not dramatically. During the ten-year period between the 1974-75 season and the 1983-84 season, annual harvest levels consistently exceeded 400,000 pounds and occasionally exceeded 800,000 pounds. The industry sputtered along, at a much-reduced level, for a few additional years. Beginning in 1989, however, regulatory authorities closed the Outer and Eastern districts. With a single exception, the tanner crab fishery has remained closed ever since.
Statistical data on the volume of tanner crab harvest levels during the 1972-1988 period (Table 9-15) show that the park's waters have contributed a widely varying amount of the total catch along the southern Kenai Peninsula coast. In 1975, for example, the park was responsible for more than half (56.8%) of the south coast harvest; five years later, however, the park yielded just 5.3% of the south coast harvest. Within the park, the statistics suggest that the eastern part of the parkbetween the Pye Islands and Aligo Pointis the district that has yielded a majority of the tanner crab harvest during more than half of the years between 1972 and 1988. Areas west of Nuka Island, and the southern portion of Nuka Bay, have been less important tanner crab harvesting areas. Virtually all of the park's waters have yielded tanner crab on at least an occasional basis.
Table 9-15. Statistics of the Kenai Fjords Tanner Crab Fishery, 1972-1988
Figures are number of tanner crab harvested. Percentages (in parentheses) in the various subareas are of the Statisti-cal Area 232 total, while the percentage in the "Totals for Statistical Area 232" column is of the Statistical Area 23 total.
NOTE: The area enclosed within Statistical Areas 232 and 23 has changed over time. In 1972 and 1973, Statistical Area 232 stretched from Gore Point to Aialik Cape, and Statistical Area 23 stretched from Gore Point to Cape Fairfield. In 1974 and 1975, Statistical Area 232 stretched from Gore Point to Aligo Point, while Statistical Area 23 continued to be the area from Gore Point to Cape Fairfield. After 1975, Statistical Area 232 stretched from Point Adam to Aligo Point, while Statistical Area 23 stretched from Point Adam to Cape Fairfield.
Subareas Within Statistical Area 232
* 1987 total also includes 328 crabs harvested in Subarea 232-22, which includes the North Arm and West Arm of Nuka Bay. Source: Charles Trowbridge, Shellfish Specialist, ADF&G, Homer.
Dungeness crab has also been harvested in park waters, although to a smaller degree than either tanner or king crab. As noted above, the species may have been taken in Resurrection Bay during the late 1940s, nd early harvests were also recorded in Kachemak Bay. The first known harvests in the park took place in James Lagoon during the early 1960s. In the late 1960s, crabbers increased their interest in the species due to the success of the fishery in California, Oregon, and Washington. As a result, harvests over the next few years continued in Kachemak Bay, while newly harvested areas included Homer Spit, Seldovia, and Port Graham. By 1975, Bluff Point (between Anchor Point and Homer) had become the largest Cook Inlet harvest area. Harvests in and around the park, however, have been sporadic. In both 1968 and 1969, a small Outer District harvest was recorded. Since then, commercial dungeness harvests along the stretch of coastline between Gore Point and Cape Fairfield have been recorded only five times. Each of those harvests took place between 1973 and 1983, inclusive; so far as is known, all of the harvests were minor, none exceeding one thousand pounds per year. 
Several fish and shellfish species have been harvested for only short-term periods in and around the present park. Scallops, for example, came under scrutiny in the late 1960s, when scallop beds were discovered in the Gulf of Alaska. In 1968, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game brought in a New England scallop vessel. The vessel collected some 50,000 pounds of scallops and brought them to the Halibut Producers Co-op plant in Seward. The success of the venture brought several New Bedford, Massachusetts fishing companies to the area. They were so successful that the Seward plant, by November 1968, had processed more than a million pounds of scallop meat. Further increases took place in 1969, and the Seward Fisheries plant also began processing scallops. The industry, however, lasted only until the mid-1970s before exhausting the resource. Beginning in 1983, a revival in Cook Inlet scallop harvesting took place. Most of that activity, however, was limited to the area surrounding Augustine Island, on the west side of Cook Inlet; the Outer District witnessed scallop harvesting only in 1987, and then to only a minor degree (see Table 9-12). 
Clams and octopus have also been harvested in the vicinity of the park. In 1925, a clam fishery was located in Resurrection Bay. Before long, the federal government had established regulations on its use, and a Stanford University professor named F. W. Weymouth had investigated the beds' economic possibilities. So far as is known, however, the clam resource was not commercially developed. No significant clam resources are known to exist within the present park boundaries. 
Of more recent vintage, octopus has been harvested in Area 23 (i.e., the stretch of coastline between Gore Point and Cape Fairfield), as well as elsewhere in Cook Inlet. Since relatively few people have harvested this resource, few statistics are available. Statistics show, however, that harvests were recorded during eight of the eleven years between 1982 and 1992. Octopus has not been fished for its own sake; instead, those seeking groundfish, tanner crab, and other species have caught the species incidentally. 
Last Updated: 26-Oct-2002