Salmon Summery | Looking Back and Pushing Forward

Commercial salmon fishing can be a really fickle business. It wasn’t that long ago, 2003 to be exact, when the price of pinks were a mere 9 cents a pound. This past summer just might be the Grand Daddy of all salmon seasons. Across the state, many regions increased profits to record breaking proportions. The real heros were the 65 permit holders in Chignik, who managed to catch 150% more than the previous 5 year average. Southeast Alaska was no chump, either. With an overall catch value of 200 million dollars, last summer in southeast remains the number one financial seasons of all time. Read below to get a full recap on last years season from AJOC.

So, how do things look this summer? Well, the total catch forecast for the state is 132 million salmon, which is about a 25 percent decrease from last year’s 177 million. Pinks are forecasted to be nearly 40% less than last year. However, chum salmon and other “money fish” could make for an interesting summer. Prince William Sound is expected to have a huge run this coming summer. However, southeast Alaska could be in for a rough season.  The lack of pink salmon could seriously affect the number of fishing days in the overall season. Another factor to take into account is that AFDG isn’t always correct in its prediction and modeling of the forecastable harvests. Overall, wild salmon is in high demand. China just overtook Japan as our number one export. So, the markets are diversifying a bit. A huge influx of Chilean farmed salmon could affect the overall price of wild salmon and the weakening global economy doesn’t show signs of changing. That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching! Every season is a gamble and all my bets are on wild salmon.  Ive included a link to Gunnar Knapps presentation on Salmon Market Trends at comfish in Kodiak this year.


Southeast Alaska’s salmon catch rang in at $200 million, a record since statehood, and the highest value salmon fishery for the year. The region’s pink salmon catch of 59 million fish fetched an average price of 42 cents per pound at the docks, and totaled $94 million.

Chums at 81 cents per pound were the second-most valuable, adding another $60 million to the Panhandle this summer. More than 1,900 permit holders fished in Southeast, a 4 percent increase.

At Prince William Sound, the salmon harvest topped 39 million fish, most of which were pinks (33.4 million). At Copper River, the sockeye catch topped 2 million fish, nearly double for the previous decade. The 20,000 Chinook catch was below the 10-year average.

At Upper Cook Inlet, the harvest of 5.5 million sockeye salmon was the fourth-largest in the past 20 years. The dockside value of $51.6 million was the fifth-highest since 1960, and the highest since 1992. All five salmon species are caught in the upper Inlet, but sockeye have accounted for nearly 93 percent of the fishery over the past 20 years. The estimated value of $518,000 for chinook was about 1 percent of the value of the UCI fishery.

Bristol Bay’s sockeye catch of 21.9 million was 21 percent below expectations. The preliminary value of the Bay’s total salmon catch of 22.7 million fish was  $137.7 million, 17 percent above the 20-year average.

Kodiak had its highest participation in 11 years with 339 of the region’s 593 permit holders, or 57 percent, going fishing. Kodiak’s salmon catch of 20 million fish topped $44.2 million, the highest since 1990 and double the 10-year average. Kodiak salmon seiners averaged $120,161 among 175 permits last summer; 157 set gillnetters averaged $31,137.

That was dwarfed at Chignik, where 65 permit holders each averaged $371,327, the highest value ever. At Chignik, the salmon fishery was worth almost $24 million. Nearly 2.5 million sockeye were taken at Chignik, 150 percent higher than the average harvest for the past five years.

The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region had a total harvest of nearly 1.5 million salmon, valued at $8 million. Chinook salmon catches were well below average, while chum and coho salmon harvests were well above.

A total of 510 permit holders fished in the Kuskokwim area, where the ex-vessel value was about $2.3 million for the region.

At the lower Yukon, a total of 82 chinook were taken in the commercial fishery and zero in the upper river. A total of 409 permit holders participated in the summer chum fishery, about 15 percent below the 10-year average. The fall chum fishery on the lower Yukon was the largest since 1995; the coho harvest was the largest since 1991. The average price for both was $1 per pound, making a record value of $2.1 million for the region.

Norton Sound’s salmon fishery included the second-highest chum catch since 1986, and a record $1.27 million in dockside value. A total of 123 permits fished, the highest since 1993. The average prices were $1.70 per pound for coho salmon, and 68 cents per pound for chums.

At Kotzebue Sound, the catch of 264,321 chums was the second highest since 1995. A total of 89 permit holders fished, compared to 67 last year, and the highest number since 1995. The total value was nearly $868,000, meaning $9,743 to each fisherman.

All of the values are preliminary and will go higher after the final Commercial Annual Operator Reports are submitted to the state by Alaska fish buyers. Those will include bonuses paid for iced fish (up to 15 cents per pound in some regions) and other price adjustments and sales factors. It will be interesting to see if Bristol Bay topples Southeast to regain its title as Alaska’s most valuable salmon fishery.

via COMMENTARY: State forecast: salmon harvest will be 25 percent lower than 2011 – Alaska Journal of Commerce – AJOC March 4 2012 – Anchorage, AK.

Gunner Knapp | Trends in Salmon Markets

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