SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska nation's #1 port for seafood deliveries for 18th year
Ketchikan's deliveries drop by more than half
By Laine Welch


July 13, 2007
Friday PM

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska broke its own record for seafood landings last year, and held onto its ranking as the nation's #1 port for the 18th year in a row.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service annual report on U.S. fisheries, 911.3 million pounds crossed the Dutch Harbor docks in 2006, an increase of nearly 24 million pounds from the previous year. Ports in Louisiana and Virginia ranked #2 and #3 for seafood deliveries.

Kodiak held onto 4th place for fish landings at 332.8 million pounds, down just slightly from 2005. Other Alaska ports making the top 50 list were Naknek/King Salmon at #12 with 105.7 million pounds, a slight increase from the previous year.

Many others reflected significant delivery decreases. Petersburg ranked #17 at 58.2 million pounds, down from 95 million pounds in 2005. Deliveries to Ketchikan (#18) dropped by more than half to 50.3 million pounds. Sitka, ranked at #19, had an increase in landings to nearly 47 million pounds, up from 38 million.

Cordova (#20) took the biggest hit with landings of 45.8 million pounds, a whopping decrease of 65.4 million pounds from the previous year. Deliveries to Seward (#25) also tanked at 36.8 million pounds, a drop of nearly 24 million pounds. Juneau (#39) landings increased from 18.5 million pounds to 19 million. Seafood deliveries of 15.6 million pounds to Homer (#44) reflected a decrease of more than two million pounds. Likewise, landings to Kenai (#49) of 11.7 million pounds last year showed a drop of 4.2 million pounds.

In terms of seafood values, New Bedford, Massachusetts held onto the lead at $281 million. (The all time record of $282.5 million was set at that same port last year.) Dutch Harbor placed second with seafood value topping $162 million at the docks, a drop of $1 million from 2005. Kodiak jumped up one spot to #3 with fish values coming in at $101.4 million, an increase of $5.6 million.

Total commercial landings (edible and industrial) by U.S. fishermen dropped two percent to 9.5 billion pounds in 2006, but the dockside value increased one percent ($51 million) to $4 billion. Finfish accounted for 88 percent of the total landings, but only 48 percent of the value. The average price paid to fishermen was 42 cents compared to 41 cents in 2005.

Americans spent an estimated $69.5 billion for fishery products in 2006, including $46.6 billion at restaurants and $22.7 billion in retail sales for home consumption.

By producing and marketing a variety of fishery products for domestic and foreign buyers, the commercial fishing industry last year contributed $35.1 billion to the U.S. Gross National Product. Find the full report at <> .

Eat more fish, America!

Each American ate 16.5 pounds of seafood last year, up from 16.2 pounds in 2005. That reflects an 11 percent increase in per capita consumption from six years ago, according to the National Fisheries Institute. The seafood consumption record of 16.6 pounds per person was set back in 1987 and matched in 2004. Market analyst Ken Talley said the only reason per capita consumption didn't set a new record in 2006 stemmed from a huge drop in the popularity of canned seafood. Canned tuna consumption dropped below three pounds per person, while canned salmon fell to just two tenths of a pound, a 50 percent drop in one year. The list of America's top ten seafood favorites remained pretty much the same - shrimp held onto the number one spot at 4.4 pounds per person. Canned tuna was second, followed by salmon at just over two pounds per person. Then came pollock and tilapia, which ousted catfish from the number five spot. Crab, cod, clams and scallops rounded out the top ten favorites.

The American Heart Association advises that eating fish just twice a week can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by 36 percent. Yet only 20 percent of Americans are following that healthy advice, according to the NFI.

The 16.5 pounds of seafood pales next to the 62.8 pounds of beef eaten by each American last year. Chicken was a close second t at 61.7 pounds per person. Ken Talley said according to the USDA, one million chickens are slaughtered every hour, 24 hours a day, every day of the year for American consumption.

Fish at fast food

More American consumers are saying they are dissatisfied with the menu offerings at popular restaurants and they want healthier choices. Those were the findings of a major study of nutrition trends at 37 leading chains by Technomic, Inc., a Chicago-based consultant for restaurants and food suppliers for 40 years.

"The industry has been relatively slow to really embrace what we see is a truly growing demand for healthy, nutritious options," said company vice president Bob Goldin.

The chains that do the best job in satisfying consumer demands are Subway, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Applebee's.

But while consumers clamor for healthier fare, Goldin says it often doesn't transfer to their food orders.

"It's almost the politically correct thing to say that you want healthy choices. The chains say - yea, consumers say they want them, but when we offer them, they don't order them," he said.

Goldin said consumer fears of contamination tend to be generalized over the entire seafood category. What about consumer awareness of wild or farmed fish?

"The population at large is not really aware. The term wild tends to have a positive connotation, and farmed is slightly negative. But seafood is very rarely labeled that way in food service," he added.

Goldin said there is increased consumer awareness of sustainability issues.

"The demand for social responsibility and environmental protections are growing, especially among younger consumers. We don't think at this point it's very well defined, but we do expect that to continue to grow as a demand among certain consumer groups."

Goldin said in the food world there is growing demand for seafood - but it is not likely to a big player at fast food outlets.

'No, I don't foresee that in any major way. Chicken is more versatile, lower cost and more readily available and has broader appeal. Fish and seafood is still pretty polarizing for many consumers," he said.

Inconsistent availability, costs and quality are the biggest challenges for seafood, Goldin said. He credited Alaska seafood as having "a very powerful brand message."

In response to a recent Consumer Reports survey in which 92 percent of Americans said they want to know where their food is coming from, Goldin said: "I think consumers have always taken the safety of foods for granted, and now they are not as confident of the food supplies. I think it's a wake up call."

Exxon update

Exxon/Mobil Corp. became the first publicly traded company valued above half a trillion dollars on July 12. According to Bloomberg News, Exxon shares rose 2.7 percent pushing the market capitalization of the company to $504.9 billion - more than the annual economic output of Argentina, Finland and Kazakhstan combined. A 40 percent gain in the past 12 months made Exxon/Mobil 26 percent bigger than General Electric Co., the next largest U.S. company. A bottleneck in U.S. refining capacity also helped earnings for the oil company, Bloomberg News said.

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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Ketchikan, Alaska