Photo from August 2008 fisheries survey in the Beaufort Sea (north of Alaska). Bottom trawl catches were dominated by invertebrates; 41% of the total weight captured in the bottom trawls was Ophiura sarsi, a brittlestar (pictured here). Photo credit is Erika Acuna, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.
Fisheries experts at the University of British Columbia have prepared time series estimates of total harvests in U.S. Arctic fisheries: Baseline Study of Marine Fisheries Catches from Arctic Alaska: 1950–2006. Prior to this, estimates of regional harvests, particularly for small scale subsistence fisheries, were intermittent and fragmentary.
Almost all fishing in the U.S. north of the Bering Strait takes place in Alaska state waters. There is some commercial fishing in Kotzebue Sound, just north of the Strait, and in the Colville River delta on the North Slope. There is also subsistence fishing for consumption and trade in all the small coastal communities between the Strait and the Canadian border.
The authors have gone through Alaska fisheries records (and other records) back to the 1950s and, with advice from persons familiar with the fisheries, they've constructed time series of aggregate commercial and subsistence harvests. There is some sport harvest but this doesn't appear to have been separately addressed. These harvests would be pretty small.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a large part of the subsistence harvest was chum salmon used for dog food. Dog teams were an important mode of transportation at the time. The authors attribute the decline in the dog component of the catch in the 1960s to the advent of a substitute for dog teams, the snow machine.
There hasn't been any serious fishing in Federal waters (more than three miles off the coast) for many years. The authors do mention a Japanese fishery in the 1960s; I think it was targeting chum salmon.
Although there isn't currently any significant fishery in Federal waters, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will probably take action at its February meeting to adopt a fishery management plan. The goal is to prevent a fishery from starting unless measures are in place to prevent overharvests - either with respect to the sustainability and optimal productivity of the fish stocks themselves, or with respect to protecting other elements of the ecosystem that might be affected by a fishery.
The draft Fishery Management Plan, associated analyses, and selected background documents, are here: Arctic Fishery Management.
In August, National Marine Fisheries Service did a fisheries survey in the Beaufort Sea - the web page on the survey is here: Fish Survey of the Beaufort Sea. Even in August, ice interfered with trawling from the chartered fishing vessel at times:
...One challenge was the presence of sea ice during the transit from Dutch
Harbor and in the study area. The vessel encountered fairly heavy ice
around Pt. Barrow, requiring approx. 24 hours of slow and careful
steaming to work through it... When the vessel arrived on the
survey grounds on 6 August, dense sea ice covered the inner- and
midshelf areas (20-100 m) and persisted for 6 days. Only the deepest
stations could be sampled during that time (100-500 m depth).
After 6 days it was possible to trawl at midshelf stations (less than 100 m water depth), although it required navigating through ice to reach open water, and fishing operations were conducted within 0.5 to 3 nmi of the ice. However, the next day (13 August), the midshelf region was mostly clear of ice, and ice was not encountered in densities requiring a change in survey plans for the remainder of the cruise.
View from a fisheries survey vessel operating north of Barrow in early August 2008. Photo credit is Erika Acuna, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.