By Laine Welch
Want to know the average fish prices at the docks over a decade; or where most Alaska fishermen and fishing fleets call home? What about how Alaska’s seafood industry stacks up against other state industries?
What is likely the most comprehensive, user-friendly report ever completed on Alaska’s seafood industry by region was just released by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Titled “Economic Value of the Alaska Seafood Industry,” the report was compiled by the Juneau-based McDowell Group and includes all direct and indirect economic effects of the industry for Alaska, Washington and the nation.
Here are some highlights: The seafood industry directly employed more than 63,000 people in Alaska in 2011; meaning 1-in-8 workers earned at least part of their annual income from seafood. The industry accounted for nine percent of all private-sector resident earnings.
Alaska residents account for 58 percent of the commercial fishing workforce in Alaska. The other 42 percent come from all over the U.S. and other countries.
The Alaska seafood industry created an estimated 34,500 jobs and nearly $2 billion in labor income for Washington residents in 2011. In fact, Alaska fisheries directly employ more Washington residents and generate more direct labor income than Washington’s fishing or logging industries.
Nationwide, the Alaska seafood industry puts 94,000 people to work. For every Alaska fisherman, processor, or direct support worker, an additional 1.24 U.S. jobs were created by the Alaska seafood industry.
Alaska accounted for 56 percent of the total U.S. commercial catches and 36 percent of total U.S. ex-vessel value (at the docks) in 2011.
Although Alaska produces 95 percent of all salmon caught in the U.S., it represents only about 23 percent of the total U.S. salmon supply. Nearly 80 percent of all U.S. seafood is imported.
Salmon is Alaska’s most valuable species, worth 31 percent of the total dockside value in 2011. Alaska pollock is by far the largest fishery by volume, and the second most valuable. Halibut and black cod combined make up the third most valuable species, followed by crab, Pacific cod and flatfish.
Alaska’s commercial fishing fleet included 32,000 fishermen on roughly 8,600 fishing boats in 2011.
About two-thirds of all Alaska seafood is exported; seafood from Alaska accounts for 58 percent of all U.S. seafood exports ($3.2 billion in 2011).
Salmon accounted for 75 percent of Southeast Alaska’s total wholesale value in 2011. The seafood industry accounted for 18 percent of all labor income earned in that region.
Kodiak’s seafood industry provided about 56 percent of total employment. Kodiak is generally regarded as having the most diverse collection of fisheries in the state.
The Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands region accounted for 73 percent of Alaska’s commercial seafood harvest by volume, and 37 percent of direct employment. Alaska pollock, the largest fishery in the country, accounts for more than half of the region’s wholesale value. It is the only Alaska region where salmon does not figure prominently in the species makeup.
Bristol Bay’s seafood industry relies primarily on the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The commercial seafood industry accounts for 45 percent all labor income earned within the region.
For the Southcentral region, salmon accounted for 78 percent of the total wholesale value. The region produced $430 million worth of seafood in 2011.
The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region is home to 42,534 residents and produced $19.8 million worth of seafood, (first wholesale), in 2011. Salmon caught by setnet fishermen and a king crab fishery in Norton Sound account for most of the region’s commercial seafood harvest.
The three largest seafood processing companies in Alaska are Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.
Compared to mining, for example, direct employment in Alaska’s seafood industry averages 30,900 workers per month, with labor income valued at $2.1 million; mining employs 4,100 workers totaling $565,000.
In terms of fish prices at the docks, Alaska pollock averaged 17 cents a pound in 2012; Pacific cod averaged 27 cents. There were big drops in prices for halibut at $4.19 a pound (compared to $4.97 in 2011), black cod at $3.53 ($5.13 in 2011), and crab averaged $2.46 ($3.64 in 2011).
Prices for herring increased from 11 cents last year to 26 cents a pound. The average salmon price of 92 cents was a nine-cent increase from 2011. Across the board, the total average dock price for fishermen in 2012 dropped four cents to 35 cents a pound.
The ASMI report concludes that seafood is Alaska’s ultimate renewable resource which can provide economic benefits for centuries. Find the report at www.alaskaseafood.org.
Farmed fish fanfare
The farmed salmon industry is coming on strong with big plans to polish its image. Only 25 percent of consumers believe farmed fish is the same quality as wild fish, according to a major study by the London-based Mintel Group.
The National Fisheries Institute’s Salmon Council, which formed earlier this year to promote all wild, farmed, domestic and imported salmon products, is touting a $60,000 study on salmon consumption in the United States.
Council chairman Rick Speed of Icicle Seafoods said the study gives a “clear and targeted picture of how to effectively market salmon in the U.S.,” and that the industry will seek a “one voice” approach. (Anyone joining the Salmon Council by the end of September will get a peek at the report findings).
Inaugural members of the Salmon Council include: Icicle Seafoods, Inland Seafood, King and Prince Seafood Corp., Marine Harvest USA, Mazzetta Company, Morey’s Seafood, The Norwegian Seafood Council and Seattle Fish Company.
Also newly launched this summer is the Global Salmon Initiative, comprising 15 salmon farmers who provide 70 percent of the world’s production. The group pledges that 100 percent of its products will be certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council by 2020, and will measurably reduce impacts of fish farms on ecologically important regions.
The GSI also touts the development of “vegetarian fishmeal” to reduce the amounts of wild fish that are caught and ground into fish feeds. Scientists at the University of Maryland replaced fishmeal with a blend of plant protein sources, with no difference in the growth rate of the fish.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts global aquaculture production will grow 33 percent by 2021, while wild production will grow just three percent.
Alaska’s total salmon catch was nearing 261 million fish by Aug. 30. Of that 210 million were pink salmon, which is almost 78 percent over the forecast.
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