ANCHORAGE - A survey by a federal agency found that the number of people going fishing and hunting in Alaska is in a steep decline.
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey found that nearly a third of Alaskans age 16 and over went fishing last year, tying the state with Minnesota for the highest percentage of residents who are recreational anglers.
However, the survey also found that the number of people hunting and fishing in Alaska and across the United States has declined overall. Nationwide, the number of people fishing has dropped 12 percent, and the number of people hunting has decreased 4 percent since 2001.
The decline was especially steep in Alaska.
Since a 2001 survey, recreational fishing is down 26 percent and hunting is down 24 percent in Alaska, said Jerry Leonard, a Fish and Wildlife economist. The survey estimated that about 421,000 people fished in Alaska in 2001; that number dropped to 310,000 last year.
The survey found that the number of people who are actively engaged in what they term "wildlife viewing" has risen. Those activities include just about any outdoor pursuit, ranging from bird-watching to whitewater rafting. Nationwide, the numbers jumped 8 percent from five years ago, the study found. In Alaska, it went up 22 percent.
The Fish and Wildlife Service survey, conducted every five years since 1955 by the Census Bureau, measures the economic effect of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.
The survey did not look at the specific reasons for the decline in hunting and fishing numbers. Separate studies have shown a sizable decline in hunting and fishing among Americans with lower incomes, which Leonard suspects can be traced to the cost of fuel.
The study found that last year, about 38 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older, hunted, fished or observed wildlife. Those 87 million Americans spent $120 billion in the pursuit of outdoor recreation. Hunters spent about $23 billion and anglers another $41 billion.
But they weren't the only big spenders. So were the whale watchers, backpackers and kayakers. People out observing wildlife with their cameras and binoculars spent $45 billion on their activities.