Alaska salmon fisheries. (Photo: youTube/steveoscaro)
Prices up for salmon; fishers and processors hopeful
Friday, June 24, 2011, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
Predicted high prices and a bountiful pink salmon harvest of 55 million in Southeast Alaska are causing optimism among fishers this season. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG) has also predicted above-average harvests for sockeye, chum and coho salmon across the state, with a slightly below-average run for chinook.
The statewide commercial salmon harvest for the year is forecast to total 203 million salmon of all species -- constituting the fifth-largest total harvest and fourth-highest pink salmon harvest since Alaska became a state and assumed the management of its fisheries in 1960.
Meanwhile, ADFG has cancelled a second fishing period for Yukon River subsistence fishers to let more king salmon reach Canadian spawning grounds, as the Yukon king run is weaker than originally expected, reports The Associated Press.
Although prices are high, Tyson Fick, communications director at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), said various factors could reduce the profit margin.
“There’s supposed to be a lot of fish this year. That will have downward pressure on the price,” he noted.
“And the commodity price is likely to go down as Chile gets back online and Norway keeps producing more. And the price of oil – what it costs to get fish and process them,” Fick pointed out, reports KFSK.
Still, persistent demand and a weak US dollar are thrusting salmon prices up.
Gunnar Knapp, an economist with the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said demand for the state’s salmon has risen steadily in recent years and may soar in 2011.
Japan is Alaska’s main seafood buyer.
“The situation with the Japanese tsunami […] may be a positive factor in the sense that it is probably going to hurt the Japanese chum salmon production. So they’ll be looking for other places to buy chum salmon from and chum salmon roe,” Knapp explained.
“And it also apparently destroyed a fair amount of frozen salmon inventory that they need to buy again. So they needed to buy again salmon that had already been bought,” he continued.
At the same time, McDowell Group seafood analyst Andy Wink believes the catastrophe bred by the earthquake and tsunami might inspire nationalism among the Japanese, decreasing demand for Alaskan products. In contrast, he said, a strong yen may benefit Alaskan fishers.
“When the yen is strong in comparison to the dollar, Alaskan, American, exports look better. When the dollar is weak, you think, oh that’s bad for the economy, but it actually really helps the export sector, of which a whole bunch of Alaska seafood is exports,” he summarised.
In any case, fishers are hopeful: Southeast gillnet-permits are currently up almost 30 per cent over last year and seine permits more than 40 per cent.
Processors are positive as well. Icicle Seafoods, the largest processor in Petersburg, AK, recently upgraded its plant to enlarge the volume of fish it can freeze, and another local processor, Ocean Beauty, is reopening its cannery.
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