Second Largest Salmon Harvest in 2015, But Low Payout
By LAINE WELCH
October 27, 2015
Preliminary tallies from the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game show that the statewide salmon catch topped 263 million fish (the record is 273 million in 2013) with an exvessel (dockside) value at $414 million, a 28 percent decrease from last year. (Preliminary tallies)
“The first wholesale prices are a better indicator,” said Andy Wink, a fisheries economist with the Juneau-based McDowell Group. “That is typically defined as the value of the product when it leaves Alaska.”
Taking honors for the most valuable salmon fishing region – and one of only three regions to show increases - was Prince William Sound. The total catch was valued at $118 million, compared to $104 million last season. A record pink salmon haul of more than 98 million pushed PWS to the top spot.
Bristol Bay ranked second in terms of salmon fishery value at nearly $95 million –due to 50-cent reds, that’s down from $196 million.
Southeast Alaska also experienced a huge salmon value decrease to just over $89 million, compared to $147 million a year ago.
Kodiak came in fourth for its salmon fishery valued at $37 million, a drop from $46 million last season.
Fishermen at Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula both hauled in $30 million worth of salmon this summer. For the Inlet, that was a drop of $7 million; conversely, it was nearly a $3 million increase at the Peninsula. The only other Alaska region to see a boost in salmon values was Norton Sound at $1.9 million, up just slightly from last year.
Below are the average 2015 Alaska dock prices per salmon species, with comparisons to last year’s prices in parentheses:
Chinook: $3.01 ($4.07)
In the popular movie “Saving Nemo,” the captive little fish was flushed down a drain to the sea and freedom. Lost in the story is the fact that the US health industry each year flushes thousands of tons of unused pharmaceuticals down sink drains and toilets. Now, the federal government is getting ready to turn off the spigot.
An ongoing investigative report by the Associated Press called “Health care industry sends tons of drugs into nation's wastewater system,” revealed that few of the nation’s hospitals or long term care homes keep data on the drugs they dump. Some are incinerated, some goes to landfills, but most are flushed, without violating any regulations.
One thing is clear: traces of the medicines persist through wastewater treatment systems and are discharged into surface or ground waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the annual amount of waste pharmaceuticals flushed down sinks and toilets at over 6,400 tons. Last year the EPA added pharmaceuticals to its list of “major pollutants of concern” and is now proposing to ban the flushing practice altogether. (EPA Estimates)
Pharmaceuticals and another closely related culprit -- Personal Care Products -- began raising red flags in the mid-2000s when chemical traces were increasingly found in surface waters and sediments. In a first ever nationwide assessment of 524 urban rivers done in 2008-2009, the EPA found seven pharmaceuticals in fish tissue samples, mostly antihistamines and antidepressants. (Pharmaceuticals in fish tissue samples)
Alaska has begun doing some fresh water testing in its Fish Monitoring Program with little data so far, said state veterinarian Bob Gerlach, and no marine sampling has been done.
The public has until December 18th to comment on the EPA’s plans to ban flushing of pharmaceuticals down toilets and drains. (http://www2.epa.gov/hwgenerators)
The U.S. Senate last week unanimously passed the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015. The measure includes the international Port State Measures Act, which will bar suspected pirate fishing vessels and cargo ships from entering ports and offloading their illegal catches. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Also in Congress: Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) introduced legislation to change the market name of “Alaska pollock” to “pollock.” Under current FDA labeling standards, pollock caught in any part of the world can be labeled as “Alaska pollock.”
“There’s no reason why foreign caught pollock should be disguised as Alaskan, especially given the significant management efforts we’ve taken in the North Pacific to create the most sustainable fishery in the world,” said Congressman Young.
This year marks the 25th year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world.
Laine Welch ©2015
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