By Laine Welch
For the 16th year in a row, Dutch Harbor ranked as the nation’s top fishing port with 752 million pounds crossing those docks last year. The catch was valued at $214 million.
The No. 2 port for landings again was Empire-Venice, La. The Aleutian Islands jumped to third place with 456 million pounds, led by deliveries to Akutan, and bumped Kodiak to No. 4 with 393 million pounds landed in 2012.
In all, 13 Alaska ports made the Top 50 list for poundage, according to the annual Fisheries of the United States report by NOAA Fisheries.
For value of catch, New Bedford, Mass. retained the lead for the 13t- consecutive year at $411 million, thanks to pricey scallops; Dutch Harbor ranked second, followed by Kodiak at $170 million and the Aleutian Islands with a dockside value of $119 million.
In all, U.S. seafood landings totaled 9.6 billion pounds last year, valued at $5.1 billion, down 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, from 2011.
Alaska topped all other states for total landings at 5.3 billion pounds and for overall value at $1.7 billion. Alaska provided 55.5 percent of all seafood landed in the U.S. last year. The top five fish species landed by volume were pollock, menhaden, cod, flatfish and salmon.
For value, the crabs category ranked first, followed by scallops, shrimp, salmon and lobster. Pollock and cod were sixth and seventh for value. Shellfish prices dropped by 3 percent, while prices for industrial products, such as oils and feeds, increased by 14 percent.
Dockside prices increased for 18 out of 32 species groups being tracked, and decreased for 14 species. The skipjack tuna price index had the largest gain, up 112 percent, while sockeye salmon showed the largest decrease at 17 percent.
The average dock price paid to fishermen in 2012 was 53 cents per pound, compared to 54 cents the previous year. U.S. consumers spent about $82.6 billion for fishery products in 2012. The U.S. fishing industry contributed $42 billion to the GNP.
Americans ate less seafood last year at 14.4 pounds per person, compared to 15 pounds in 2011. The decrease resulted primarily from a drop in the domestic landings utilized for food, the report said.
Other Alaska ports on the Top 50 list include the Alaska Peninsula at No. 9, Naknek at No. 14, Cordova at No. 15, Ketchikan at No. 18, Sitka at No. 20, Bristol Bay at No. 22, Seward at No. 23, Petersburg at No. 24, Kenai at No.31and Juneau at No. 42 for seafood landings in 2012.
Feedback from fishermen wanted
Input by mariners is wanted on plans being considered for a bigger boat haul-out and other waterfront development at Sitka’s Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.
“We’ve been hearing from the community for years that they would like to see our haul-out capabilities expanded and our marine services expanded bit,” said Garry White, executive director of the Sitka Economic Development Association.
“Currently, the largest haul-out we have in town is an 88-ton lift, and we are hearing from a lot of the fleet — especially the tender boats and some of the larger vessels — that they can’t be hauled out here in town,” White added. “The fleet has to go elsewhere to get serviced, and they would like to stay here in town to get that done.”
To get feedback from boat owners, the association has launched a Sitka Marine Industry Development Survey.
“The first thing we’re interested in is what size haul-out we should put in to meet the fleet’s needs, and what other services are needed, such as sand blasting, bottom painting and diesel work,” White explained. “A lot of those industries exist here in town, but we are trying to figure out how we can broaden things to meet all our needs at the same time.”
Sitka’s commercial fishing fleet is the largest in Southeast Alaska at 631 registered vessels. The City and Borough of Sitka also operate the largest harbor system in Alaska with five moorage basins, more than 1,300 permanent slips and transient moorage space.
“We’re on the outside of Southeast Alaska facing the Pacific Ocean,” White said. “There is a lot of traffic that comes through Sitka on the way to other fisheries, or they come here for the fisheries. So we want to hear from those boats in Puget Sound and other parts of Southeast Alaska that may want to pop in here and get some work done if they have some emergency. We want to hear what they think should happen in Sitka.”
Find the survey at www.sitka.net or www.sawmillcove.com. Deadline is Nov. 30; White said a report will follow early next year.
Alaska’s biggest fishery, Bering Sea pollock, closed for the year on Nov. 1. Roughly three billion pounds will come out of that fishery. The Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery also ended for trawlers the same day, as did Pacific cod. Fishing for cod continues for other gear types in both the Gulf and Bering Sea; pot and jig fishing could last all year.
Crabbers at Bristol Bay had taken more than half of their 8.6 million-pound red king crab catch with about 3.7 million pounds left to go.
Halibut longliners had taken 93 percent of their nearly 22 million pound catch limit, with about 1.4 million pounds remaining. For sablefish, about 3 million pounds remain for harvest in the 28 million pound quota. Both of those fisheries close Nov. 7.
Homer regains the title of No. 1 halibut port, topping Kodiak by about 1 million pounds in landings this year. Seward is the top port, by far, for sablefish landings.
In Southeast Alaska, the pot shrimp fisheries ended in most districts with a total catch of half a million pounds. Demersal shelf rockfish opens Nov. 8, with a 35-ton harvest region-wide. Divers continue combing the deep for sea cucumbers and giant geoduck clams.
Hat tip to highliners
Two Alaskans were selected as National Fisherman’s Highliners of the Year: Robert Heyano of Dillingham is president of the fishermen funded/directed Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and skipper of the 32-foot drift gillnetter Lady Mindy.
Jerry McCune of Cordova is president of the United Fishermen of Alaska and the Cordova District Fishermen United, longtime industry lobbyist and skipper of the 33-foot drift gillnetter Wudahad.
Robert Hezel of Clinton, Wash. also was selected. He is skipper of the Fishermen’s Finest 185-foot Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawler, U.S. Intrepid.
The Highliner Awards began in 1975 in partnership with Furuno to honor fishermen who uphold a standard of excellence in their fishing operations and in their advocacy on behalf of the industry.
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