Alaskan Seafood: The Story Behind Its Health Benefits

Map of National Wildlife Refuges of Alaska

Map of National Wildlife Refuges of Alaska

By Dale Mayo, May 18, 2023

Alaska is far and away the largest state in the nation and its 586,412 square miles is approximately one fifth the size of the lower 48 states.  Alaska’s 46,600 miles of Arctic and sub-Arctic shorelines and coastal ecosystems are longer than the shorelines of all the lower 48 states combined and geologically complex and diverse, with glacial fjords, active volcanoes, an enormous delta, inlets, bays, parks, and refuges.[1], [2]  

Known for its natural beauty and rich wildlife, Alaska’s coastal waters, pristine wetlands, lagoons, fjords, deltas, and rivers are home to some of the world's most diverse and abundant fish populations. Alaskan seafood is a sought-after delicacy worldwide, renowned for its delicious taste and exceptional nutritional value.

History of Alaskan Seafood

The settlement of what is now Alaska is believed to date between 25,000 and 9,000 years ago when the sea level was lower than it is today and land connected Siberia and Alaska,[3] possibly during the end of the Upper Paleolithic Period (around 12,000 BCE) when Asiatic groups crossed the Bering Land Bridge.[4], [5] For generations, Alaska Natives have relied on harvesting fresh-caught seafood from the hook to the table for both visitors and locals year-round. About 15 percent of Alaska’s 730,000 residents are Alaska Native, with 20 distinct cultures and 300 different dialects. Many Alaska Native people live in villages scattered along the coastline and rivers of Alaska, where they still practice traditional subsistence hunting and fishing lifestyles.

By the time Russian and European explorers arrived in 1741, the area was populated by the Inuit and a variety of other Indigenous groups. Commercial fishing, along with fur trapping and trade, began in the 1800s in Alaska. In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 and the management of commercial fishing fell under the federal government of the US.

Alaska opened fish canneries in 1878 and reached peak production in the 1930s, when commercial fishing and crabbing boomed.  After the 1930s, the harvests began to decrease and by the 1950s, decades of mismanagement and overfishing brought Alaskan salmon populations to half what they were twenty years prior. In 1959, Alaska became a state.  At that time, the Alaska Territorial Fishery Service became the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which was granted authority to manage, protect, maintain, and improve fish, game, and aquatic plant resources.[6]  

Alaska's fisheries are now among the best-managed, most sustainable in the world and Alaska produces more than half the fish caught in waters off the coast of the US.[7]

Sockeye Salmon near Pope Vannoy Landing. Photo Credit: Michelle Ravenmoon

Sockeye salmon near Pope Vannoy Landing. Photo Credit: Michelle Ravenmoon[8]


Types of Alaskan Seafood

Alaska Natives have relied for millennia on subsistence fishing including sea urchin, mussels, octopus, shrimp, scallops, four species of king crab, and 48 different species of fish.[9]  Currently, Alaska’s fish haul has an average wholesale value of almost $4.5 billion a year.[10]  The bullets below describe some of the most popular seafood from Alaska.

  • Alaskan salmon is prized for its rich flavor and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart and brain health. The most common species of salmon caught in Alaska are sockeye, coho, king, pink, and chum.
  • A lean, white fish with a mild, sweet flavor, halibut is a good source of protein, as well as vitamins B12 and D.
  • With a mild flavor and firm, flaky texture, cod is high in protein and low in fat, making it a healthy choice for those watching their calorie intake.
  • Pollock is a member of the cod family and is commonly used in fish sticks and other processed seafood products. It has a mild, delicate flavor and is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Ten species of crabs are caught in Alaskan crab fisheries, including king, snow, and Dungeness.[11] Crab is a rich source of protein and is low in fat, making it a healthy choice for seafood lovers.

Benefits of Eating Alaskan Seafood

Seafood from the pristine waters of the Alaskan coast and rivers, in addition to being delicious, is loaded with nutrients that contribute to healthy brains, strong immune system, heart health, and strong muscles and bones. 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Salmon and sablefish from Alaska are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart and brain health. These healthy fats can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve cognitive function.
  • Protein: Seafood provides high-quality protein, which is essential for protecting bone health and maintaining muscle mass. Protein can also help increase feelings of fullness, making it a great choice for those trying to lose weight.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Alaskan seafood is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, selenium, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc. Because few foods naturally contain vitamin D, seafood (especially salmon, halibut, rockfish, and sole) is among the most significant sources of vitamin D, which is critical for brain and bone health and reduced risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. These nutrients play important roles in maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and immune function.[12]


Maintaining the health of Alaska lands and waters

Alaska’s sensitive ecosystems are at risk from climate change, oil and gas drilling, and mining. Mining and burning fossil fuels threaten Alaska’s lands, waters, wildlife, and communities, and contribute to global warming.[13] A prime example of such a threat is the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, where more than 11 million gallons of crude oil poured into Prince William Sound.  

After decades of debate and lawsuits, the US Environmental Protection Agency has essentially vetoed the Pebble Mine project, which removes a huge risk to the Bristol Bay watershed and its habitat for 29 fishes, more than 190 birds, and more than 40 terrestrial mammals and rare freshwater harbor seals.[14]

Copper River Delta

Copper River Delta[15]

Grizzly bears on Naknek Lake in Katmai National Park. Paxzon Woelber, Cinders to Sea Expedition (from American Rivers website: Rivers of Bristol Bay, Alaska

The Bristol Bay commercial fishery supports 14,000 sustainable American jobs worth $1.5 billion annually. These rivers also sustain two of the last intact, sustainable, salmon-based cultures in the world and provide clean drinking water for several thousand rural residents.[16] 

Importance of sustainable sourcing offers high quality seafood including wild caught Alaska fish – sockeye salmon, king salmon, king salmon from the Copper River, coho salmon, halibut, and sablefish.  We also have jumbo snow crab legs and king crab legs, wild-caught smoked king salmon dip, and ivory king salmon from Alaska. With our many years of experience sourcing, preparing, and packaging seafood, we strive to bring our customers top quality natural, sustainable sourced seafood.  Such seafood is good for your health and the earth.  The EPA’s protection of Bristol Bay brings renewed hope that Alaska’s watershed will be safeguarded and that the world’s salmon supply will continue to thrive.

In case you didn’t know, World Oceans Day is coming up on June 8th.  Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, among other priorities, it highlights the importance of keeping all bodies of water (and beaches and watersheds) pollution free and the importance of careful management of fish stocks.









[8]  Photo on KDLG Public Radio website in article:  Dave Bendinger. UW Fisheries Research Institute predicts 50.9 million Bristol Bay sockeye return in 2016. KDLG Public Radio for Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Nov. 12, 2015.








[16] American Rivers. Protect Bristol Bay’s Rivers.

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