SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

World's biggest red salmon fishery wraps up


July 24, 2010

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 over 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 since1988 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.

Fewer sockeyes all 'round has buyers scrambling for fish this summer, and the Alaska Wild brand is increasingly in demand by U.S. and foreign markets. Bristol Bay fishermen also got a boost from three more competitors that specialize in fresh salmon markets: Leader Creek, Snow Pac and Copper River Seafoods.

Early estimates peg the value of the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery at roughly $170 million at the docks, an increase of over $40 million from last year. The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon catch provides two-thirds of the total value of Alaska's statewide, all species salmon harvest.

tLandings tested

Tender vessels from Southeast to Western Alaska are field testing electronic reporting of all salmon deliveries this summer, called tLandings.

"Most deliveries of salmon occur onboard tenders, and that is where most fish tickets are completed. It's an ideal situation to do electronic reporting," said Gail Smith, electronic landings program coordinator for ADF&G. Between 600-700 tender vessels operate in Alaska each year.

tLandings are the latest in a series of interagency reporting programs that include the state, federal government and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. eLandings have been used in Alaska since 2002, and are required in halibut, sablefish, Bering Sea crab and all groundfish fisheries.

"tLandings for salmon is a voluntary program, and we never envision it will be mandatory," Smith emphasized.

In a "proof of concept" project this summer, 22 tenders are field testing a new application that computes the number of fish delivered, the weights, running totals of different species, and then prints out a fish ticket and tally sheet. The tenders are operating at Bristol Bay, Kodiak, Sitka and the Kuskokwim region.

All that is required is a laptop computer, an inexpensive laser printer, a magnetic strip reader for identification, and a thumb drive (also called jump drives or zip drives), that is provided for free by ADF&G.

Tenders pick up a thumb drive from their processor, which provides a list of all boats making deliveries. They plug it into their laptop and input the landing data. At the end of the trip, tenders simply return the thumb drive to the processor where the data is uploaded to their own systems and to Fish and Game.

"It is simple to use and so much more accurate," said Randy Swain, who handles computer operations for Alaska Pacific Seafoods in Kodiak. APS plans to expand tLandings to three tenders this summer.

"The tender men are the only ones who input the data, the computer does all the math, and it turns out a nice printed fish ticket. It's definitely the wave of the future," Swain added.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring greater efficiency to the department and to the industry, because we very definitely see them as partners in electronic reporting," Gail Smith said.

Questions? Contact Smith in Juneau at .

Profiling fishing towns

Social scientists with the Seattle-based Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle are updating profiles of Alaska's fishing communities and they want input from the people who live there.

There are 136 Alaska communities officially designated as fishing towns. Older profiles done in 2005 need to be updated to include 2010 census data and other new information, said AFSC's Amber Hines.

The Center is hosting Community Profile meetings in six Alaska fishing towns during August and September. The goal is invite local leaders and the public to help revise the profiles so they are more representative of the different communities, said Dr. Amber Himes, a project coordinator.

"We want to know how many people there are, what they fish for, what kind of fishing permits there are, the kind of governance structures, such as tribal governments or city government, stuff like that," she told KDLG.
Some of the themes will include local stories that best illustrate the ways in which fishing shapes communities, information managers need to know that is not currently in the profiles, and how agencies can best work with communities to gather information.

Himes said the Community Profiles are helpful for many groups and agencies.

"They are used in social impact assessments for the North Pacific Council, by academics in research and federal and state managers," Himes said. "When they have to do work in a community, they will go to the profiles as their first take on what's happening. People have found it really useful."

The day long meetings are set for Anchorage on August 23, Dutch Harbor on August 25, Bethel on August 31, Nome on September 10, Petersburg on September 13 and Kodiak on September 27.

The meetings are co-sponsored by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition, Southeast Conference, and Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference. Funding is available to help out with travel costs, on a first come first served basis. Those who can't attend the meetings can send comments to

Questions? Visit or call (206)526-4221.

This weekly column focusing on Alaska's seafood industry began in 1991, and it now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A spin off - Fish Radio - airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. The goal of both is to make all people aware of the economic and social importance of Alaska's fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support of fishing news!

Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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