Many believe commercial fisheries in Alaska (U.S.A.) are sustainability success stories, but ongoing socioeconomic problems across the state raise questions about how this sustainability is being defined and evaluated. Problems such as food insecurity and the disenfranchisement of Alaska Natives from fishing rights are well documented, yet these concerns are obscured by marketing campaigns that convey images of flourishing fishing communities and initiatives to certify Alaska's fisheries as responsibly managed. Fisheries management mandates and approaches built on such metrics and technologies as maximum sustainable yield and systems of tradable quotas actually serve to constrain, circumscribe, and marginalize some Alaskans' opportunities for effecting change in how the benefits of these fisheries are allocated. Beneath the narrative of sustainability, these management technologies perpetuate a cognitive ecological model of sustainability that is oriented to single-species outcomes, that casts people as parasites, and thus assumes the necessity of trade-offs between biological and social goals. Alternative cognitive models are available that draw metaphors from different ecological concepts such as keystone species and mutualisms. Such models, when used to inform management approaches, may improve societal outcomes in Alaska and elsewhere by promoting food security and sustainability through diversified natural resource harvest strategies that are more flexible and responsive to environmental variability and change.