SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

For 17th Year, Alaska fishing port #1 for seafood landings
By Laine Welch


February 03, 2007

For the 17th year in a row, Dutch Harbor remained the nation's #1 fishing port for seafood landings. The (belated) annual report just released by NOAA Fisheries showed that commercial fishermen offloaded 887.6 million pounds of fish and shellfish at Dutch Harbor in 2005, the latest figures available. The catch represents a 1.2 million pound increase from the previous year.

Kodiak was the only other Alaska port making the top ten list for seafood landings, ranking as number four in the nation. A total of 373.4 million pounds crossed the Kodiak docks in 2005, an increase of almost 20 million pounds from the previous year.

The port of New Bedford, MA once again claimed the top spot for value of seafood landings, setting a record at $282.5 million, an increase of $75 million from 2004. That was due to continued sky high scallop prices at New Bedford. Dutch Harbor ranked a distant second for landing values at $166.1 million. Kodiak ranked third for seafood values at $95.8 million, an increase of $1.8 million from 2004.

Three other Alaska ports made the top ten list for seafood values: #8 was Naknek-King Salmon at $54.3 million (up $11.8 million from 2004); #9 was Seward at $52.2 million (up $8.6 million); and Cordova ranked #10 with seafood landings valued at $46.5 million, an increase of $14.7 million.

Total U.S. fish and shellfish landings for 2005 were 9.6 billion pounds, valued at $3.9 billion at the docks. The complete list for all U.S. port rankings will be available on Monday, a NOAA Fisheries spokesperson said. Find it at .

U.S .seafood consumption dips

Americans ate slightly less seafood in 2005, according to the popular top ten list compiled each year by the National Fisheries Institute. Consumption was 16.2 pounds per person, compared to 16.6 pounds in 2004. Despite the dip, overall per capita seafood consumption has increased 9.5 percent in the past five years.

America's favorite seafoods remained the same. Shrimp still ranks number one, followed by canned tuna, salmon and Alaska pollock. Rounding out the top ten list are catfish, tilapia, crab, cod, clams and flatfish. Shrimp and salmon account for 40 percent of all seafood eaten in the U.S. Seafood analyst Howard M. Johnson told Intrafish that seafood consumption should rebound this year, and he predicts the level will reach or top 17 pounds per person by 2010.

Weather watchers worried

President Bush's response to the growing crisis of global warming has been to cut the budget for weather watchers already tasked with outdated technology.

A sobering report released two weeks ago by the National Academies of Science said U.S. scientists will soon lose access to crucial information that helps them better understand and predict hurricanes, earthquakes and environmental decay due to global warming.

The report concludes that after spending decades and billions of dollars to develop state of the art environmental sensing systems from the seas to space, now all are at risk. In particular, there is '"substantial concern'" about the pending loss of information by QuikSCAT, a popular polar orbiting satellite that twice each day provides various measurements over the earth's surface. The information contributes to year round forecasts of wind speeds and other marine conditions that help specialists assess the strength of hurricanes and other storms.

During his tenure, Pres. Bush has slashed 30 percent from earth science budgets. Besides funding cuts, the report cites other reasons for the reversal of scientific fortunes - notably, ill advised technology compromises and a botched partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (

Exxon payments closer?

Alaska fishermen whose livelihoods were shattered by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill could soon receive checks from the oil giant. After 18 years, recent movement in the ongoing court case could bring litigation to a close, said Matt Jamin, attorney for several hundred Kodiak fishermen. Exxon still has not paid an unresolved punitive damage award originally set for $5 billion by a federal jury in 1994. Jamin said things started to speed up a few weeks ago when an appeals court cut the damage award to $2.5 billion.

Many fishermen believe they will never see a dime from Exxon and refuse to get their hopes up. But experts predict that despite many "ifs," a settlement could come by the end of this year or in 2008.

Meanwhile, Exxon Mobile last week posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company - $39.5 billion ­ even as last quarter earnings declined four percent.

It appears some of that oil money was used to try and undermine findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific group that represents 180 governments. Last Friday the panel released the most comprehensive review ever done on climate changes, concluding there is little doubt that man made emissions are warming the earth.

Britain's leading newspaper, The Guardian, said letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute, an ExxonMobil funded think tank with close links to the Bush Administration, offered scientists and economists $10,000 in cash each to write articles casting doubts on connections between burning fossil fuels and global warming. Travel expenses and other payments were also offered. (

The Associated Press reported Friday that Pres. Bush praised the climate report, but continued to reject any mandatory caps or reductions on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Tootsie seeks Alaska seafood

Bristol Bay salmon fishermen Garnett and Chuck Carpenter are featuring frozen Alaska seafood at their new small business in Everett, WA - Tootsie's Wild Fish Company.

The store features frozen, vacuum packed sockeye fillets in one to three pound packages, as well as halibut and Alaska king crab. According to Garnett (aka Tootsie), sales are brisk and continue to increase.

"Customers sometimes are a little hesitant because it's frozen, but they come back because the fish is really good. I actually think it's almost better unless you catch it right off the line," she said.

National market data show that nearly half of America's 110 million households now eat frozen seafood and it is a trend that's expected to grow.

"It's exciting to see that. There was a stigma a few years ago that everybody thought seafood had to be fresh. I think we've done a pretty good job of changing that perception," said Ray Riutta, director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Tootsie said her biggest problem is sourcing more Alaska seafood products from other small companies that don't demand huge purchases. "I'd love to have scallops, shrimp, cold smoked fish, canned salmon - all Alaska products. They are a little hard for me to find," she said. Contact Tootsie at .



Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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