COVID Bristol Bay

Just a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, around 13,000 people from outside Alaska arrived in the Bristol Bay region of Western Alaska to participate in the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery. 

The National Science Foundation provided funding for this RAPID Response project to develop pandemic preparedness scenarios for local residents and decision-makers; conduct surveys with fishery participants to better understand the costs and benefits of varied mitigation policies; and to elicit risk preferences from fisherman, processors, and local policymakers to better understand cooperation and decisions under risk and uncertainty. 

Photo Credit: Dawn Montano

Pandemic Impacts on Fishing Communities

In 2020 and 2021, project researchers conducted online surveys with fishery participants in Dillingham, the home port of the Nushagak salmon fishery, and other Bristol Bay communities. Researchers have also been active in related modeling efforts.

Photo Credit:

Deborah Mercy

Pandemic Preparedness

Remote Rural Fishing Communities Facing Rapid, Massive, Seasonal In-Migration

Leveraging existing partnerships, the surveys were conducted with local residents, decision makers, fishermen and processors to characterize risk perception, evaluate social distancing compliance, and to assess perceived costs and benefits of various pandemic mitigation plans. These data have informed epidemiological modeling of possible scenarios in the region and have helped stakeholders understand the dynamics of COVID-19 in a transient population working in the close quarters of fishing vessels and the crowded conditions of fish processing plants. This project contributes to the emerging body of research on the perception and effects of COVID-19 across the country, and more specifically, to understanding pandemic impacts on a key Alaska industry.

Ongoing Efforts

Researchers have provided input to policymakers, regional organizations, and community residents in 2020 and 2021. PDF’s of related presentations and ongoing research are available at the links below.