Alaska’s seafood industry worked hard this year to ramp up its message to policy makers, especially those from rail belt regions who tend to overlook the industry’s economic significance.
How important is the seafood industry to Alaska and the nation? At a glance: 62 percent of all U.S. seafood landings come from Alaska … 96 percent of all wild- caught salmon come from Alaska … Seafood is by far Alaska’s #1 export, valued at nearly $2 billion (next in line: zinc and lead at $785 million) … Alaska ranks 9th in the world in terms of global seafood production.
During the season of gift-giving, don’t overlook the gifts from the sea.
Sponge Bob, for example, is set to be the next rage in fiber optics. Researchers at Bell Labs have found that the sponge euplectella grows glass fiber networks that are far more advanced than any found in today’s telecommunications industry.
Next year will be no exception to the five year trend of trimming Pacific halibut catches. There’s a lot of halibut out there, but the fish are growing so slowly it is keeping a downward press on the amount of fish being made available for harvest. Fisheries for the Pacific coast, British Columbia and Alaska could be cut by 19 percent next year if managers accept the recommendations of fishery scientists.
Alaska salmon fishermen were paid an average of $.66 for each pound of fish they delivered this year, an increase of nearly 16 percent over 2009.
That’s just one of the many interesting statistics in the post-season wrap up that provides a more complete picture of how the 2010 salmon season played out.
The 2010 salmon season tallied nearly $534 million at the Alaska docks, the best showing in 18 years. But the big payday was not spread around evenly. Just two areas, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, accounted for 55 percent of the value of the total Alaska catch.
For the Bay, a catch of nearly 29 million sockeye salmon rang in at almost $149 million, an increase of $4.5 million over 2009. (That doesn’t include bonuses or other post-season adjustments.)
A year ago, the depressed economy made it slow going for brokers who buy, sell and trade fishing permits. But that’s no longer the case. Higher salmon prices have driven up both demand and prices for salmon permits in most regions of the state.
Denby Lloyd is retiring as Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner on Dec. 1. He informed Governor Parnell personally late Thursday and then broke the news to me.
“I planned for quite some time to retire at the end of this term, even before the DUI incident. But you can’t really announce something like that very early and still get good work done,” he said. “The timing seems right, and I also want to give time for the staff to get used to the idea, and for the constituents to decide who they might want next for commissioner.
Alaska’s salmon catch has blown past pre-season predictions, and there is still a lot of fishing left to go. The 2010 statewide harvest was pegged at 137 million salmon, down by 15 percent from last year due to anticipated low returns of pinks.
Catch-share programs can cause consolidation, trimming the number of vessels and stakeholders in a fishery. After all, that’s a primary goal: to rein in too many boats going after too few fish. Too often, rights to the fish get bought, sold or leased away from small, fishing dependent fishing towns.
Fishermen are happy as they wrap up the world’s biggest red salmon fishery at Bristol Bay. Even though the catch of 28 million sockeye salmon came up a bit short, they will get a better payday than they’ve had in more than two decades.
All major processors are paying a base price of 95 cents a pound for sockeyes, compared to 70 cents last year. It’s the best base price since 1988, when Bristol Bay reds fetched $2.11 a pound. (The lowest price was 42 cents in 2001.) With bonuses for chilled and bled fish, this year’s final price for many fishermen could top $1.20 a pound.