Fisheries, food security, and climate change in the Kenai Peninsula

This research project was undertaken by faculty and students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the fall of 2011. We distributed a survey to 1500 randomly selected residents in the Kenai Peninsula region of Alaska, to determine the prevalence of food security, and to elicit the role of locally-caught seafood in household food security.

We queried residents on a variety of details related to whether and how they participate in local fisheries, how they procure locally-caught seafood, and whether they are currently coping with some level of food stress or shortage. In addition, we obtained a number of demographic and socioeconomic details at the household level, so that we could explore in detail the relationships between income, fishing activities, access to local seafood, and food security.

In summary, we found that access to locally-caught seafood plays a significant role in providing for household food security, especially for the lowest-income households. A great majority of households report fishing, but nearly a quarter report that sharing is in fact the primary way that they obtain local seafood. Thus, both income and access to seafood play primary roles in determining household food security outcomes.

These households notwithstanding, many households in the Kenai Peninsula continue to face some degree of food insecurity, with about five percent of respondents facing moderate to severe food shortages.

These data serve to underscore the importance of local seafood to Alaskans, an essential step in understanding if and how communities are vulnerable to changes in those fisheries. But, we also highlight a gap in the equitable access to locally caught seafood. We conclude by discussing the need to improve access, perhaps through innovative new marketing approaches that aim to keep more Alaska seafood in the freezers and on the supper tables of Alaskans.