Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative

Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative: Preserving the Past of a Vital Industry

Canneries on Karluk Spit in 1898. Photo by Jefferson Moser. From "The Salmon and Salmon Fisheries of Alaska." U.S. Fish Commission Bulletin for 1898. Washington DC, GPO, 1899, plate 53.

Canneries on Karluk Spit in 1898. Photo by Jefferson Moser. From “The Salmon and Salmon Fisheries of Alaska.” U.S. Fish Commission Bulletin for 1898. Washington DC, GPO, 1899, plate 53.

“I was born and raised in Yakutat where Libby, McNeil and subsequent owners operated a salmon cannery for decades in a facility which is still used for salmon and seafood processing today.  I also have worked for the “Cannery” and fished commercially. Yakutat’s history with seafood and my own are typical of an industry and resource that serves to define Alaska today. It is a history, a present and a future that must be preserved, understood and made available to our children so they understand the balance between the use of Alaska’s rich ocean resources and the care that must be taken to assure their continual existence.”
— Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott

The Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative is a grassroots effort launched in the fall of 2015 that promotes projects around Alaska that document, preserve, and educate about Alaska’s seafood industry.

While the industry remains ecologically healthy and economically sound, the history of the industry is endangered. Hundreds of canneries, salteries, and herring plants once appeared in bays throughout coastal Alaska. Now, many slip into the sea before their stories are recorded. The seafood industry is critical to the livelihoods of many in Alaska and it is central to the state’s identity. It is time to document and preserve these places and record the stories of the fishermen and processors who define coastal Alaska.

For more detailed information about the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative, click here to view our brochure or see the October 2015 News Release about launching of the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative.

canneries initiative logoHow It Works

The initiative relies on the passion, the knowledge, and the efforts of individuals, businesses, and communities to instigate cannery history projects around the state. That means you!

Successful projects inspired by the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative include:
<NN> Cannery History Project
<NN> Cannery History Project Jukebox
The Alaska Historical Society’s Alaska’s Historic Canneries Blog
Alaska Fisheries: A Guide to History Resources
Links and Resources for Cannery Projects

Below are examples of other potential projects, some large, some small. But whatever the size, all advance the initiative’s vision: to improve stewardship of seafood industry history in Alaska.


  • Collect archival, photographic, and object collections for museums
  • Conduct oral histories
  • Write essays, articles, stories and books related to the history of commercial fishing and processing
  • Take and share photos of historic cannery sites
  • Nominate canneries and vessels to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Conduct archaeological investigations
  • Conduct historic resource surveys, historic structure reports


  • Prepare preservation plans for historic cannery buildings
  • Explore options for adaptive reuse of canneries
  • Stabilize structures and vessels
  • Explore tax credit programs and easements for preservation purposes
  • Begin monitoring programs of historic fish processing sites


  • Museum exhibits
  • Films
  • Interpretive signs and plaques
  • Lecture series or storytelling events
  • Radio programming
  • Cannery history websites and Wikipedia entries
  • Community celebrations
  • Curriculum for schools


Many thanks to the partners and sponsors who have demonstrated their committment to Alaska’s maritime history and identity through their support of this initiative, the Alaska Historical Commission,
Alaska Sea Grant, and Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.