Alaskans want evidence-based sea duck management that promotes the long-term viability of populations.

Support a proposal to the Board of Game that would provide essential and cheap data to monitor changes in harvest. The proposal suggests regulation that would require sea duck harvest reporting. We are asking that:

Why Do We Need to Change Sea Duck Management in Alaska?

Accurate sea duck harvest numbers are needed to assure hunt opportunities now and in the future. Alaska’s migratory bird harvest reporting system, known as the Harvest Information Program, or HIP, invites a small number of randomized voluntary harvest reporting. This approach provides slim and spotty statewide information, with no ability to monitor regional variations. As a result, the state has never adjusted bag limits on the basis of HIP reporting, according to ADF&G managers. 

Alaska does not currently require sea duck harvest reporting, since these birds are classified as small game. Harvest reporting isn’t typically required for small game, because, in general, these species are evolved to recover quickly from big drops in population. But sea ducks do not recover quickly, which means there are long-term negative effects of over-harvest. According to the Sea Duck Joint Venture — a project in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife, the Pacific Flyway Council, USGS, and Ducks Unlimited Canada, and others – sea duck populations are slow to recover for the following reasons:

  1. Sea ducks are known to have a remarkable degree of site fidelity–around 5 miles or so, according to studies–which means that if an area’s population is depressed, birds from other areas will not boost recovery. 
  2. In general, sea ducks do not breed until they are 2 or 3 or so years old. 
  3. They lay only one clutch of eggs per year, in contrast with the 2 or 3 for many dabbling ducks. 
  4. They have significantly lower chick survival rates than other ducks.

Sea duck populations across the United States have fallen 30% since 1970, and they remain in decline, according to the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s “2022 State of Birds Report”. On the bright side, the report notes that efforts at conservation have been shown to be effective.

This proposal is supported by three consecutive years of Kachemak Bay Community Science Sea Duck Surveys—a local annual effort of 10 boats and over 30 people. In 2020/21, residents and hunters in Kachemak Bay noticed a significant increase to sea duck hunting pressure, as a result of the arrival of a few more guides. So, local birders began monitoring populations to create a population index. Our population index does not show total number of birds in Kachemak Bay, but by focusing on a few areas with dense sea duck populations, we are able to see population trends. Our data shows that populations have not bounced back after a significant harvest. Fish and Game has historically monitored sea duck populations in Kachemak Bay, but they have not surveyed in Kachemak Bay since several years before community science surveys began, so our data is the only record of this trend.

What are sea ducks?

There are 15 species of sea ducks in several groups including the eiders, scoters, goldeneyes, mergansers, the harlequin and long-tailed ducks, and bufflehead.

In general, sea ducks are diving ducks, who have a high degree of site fidelity--returning every year to the same place, sometimes within 5 miles of their wintering grounds. Many Alaska sea ducks spend their entire lives in the state, wintering in the protected, ice free waters of places like Kachemak Bay and Prince William Sound. Many summer in the boreal forests of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, where they lay eggs and rear their chicks.

From a management perspective, there are important differences between sea ducks (diving ducks) and dabbling ducks, like teal or mallards. Dabbling ducks, in general, do not have a high degree of site fidelity and have have a high rate of reproduction. Importantly, according to the USFWS, Pacific Flyway population estimate of total ducks--the basis for bag limits in Alaska and the Lower 48--"excludes scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers, and wood ducks because the survey area does not include a large portion of their breeding ranges."


The Board of Game is currently accepting proposed changes to hunting and trapping regulations for Statewide Regulations. Please review the Call for Proposals for more detailed information on this process. Your support will be relayed to the Board when they meet do make a decision at an as-yet unnamed date in 2024/25.


I support responsible management of Alaska sea ducks.

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