SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Commission soon to reveal recommendations for fisheries


November 01, 2010

Alaska’s fishing industry will soon get a peek at what next year’s halibut catches might be.  At the end of November, scientists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission will reveal their  recommendations for fisheries on the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska.  Based on data gathered this summer by vessel surveys at 1,260 data stations,  not much has changed over the past year, said IPHC director Bruce Leaman.

 “Probably the only thing that was notable is in several areas we seem to see fish that are a little chubbier than they had been in previous years, which might be a good sign in terms of how their feeding is and perhaps that might translate into some growth issues. But we have been so concerned about the declining growth rates that any news would be good news on that front,” Leaman said.

'The coast wide Pacific halibut catch has been cut by 10% for each of the past two years. Two strong year classes are poised to enter the fishery, but the slow growth rates have slowed down that recruitment. Researchers suspect the huge stocks of arrowtooth flounder that blanket the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska for depleting food supplies that also are shared with halibut.

The commission also is refocusing attention on halibut bycatch, Leaman said.  Coast wide, an estimated 12 million pounds of halibut are taken as bycatch in other fisheries each year.  Last January, for the first time in nearly two decades, a halibut bycatch working group was revived to examine how those removals affect halibut stock assessments and fishery management.   

“It’s not an IPHC group, per se, it’s more of a US/Canada government group talking to each other   about what are the present levels of bycatch, how is it being accounted for, are those methods adequate, what is the potential impact of bycatch to the fisheries,” Leaman explained.

 He added that the IPHC is concerned that halibut bycatch is not particularly well estimated for some fisheries because observer coverage or other monitoring is fairly low.

“It depends on a pretty heady assumption that the observed and unobserved vessels are doing the same thing. I think there is sufficient reason to question whether that is the case,” Leaman said. Reconvening the halibut bycatch working group was also coincident with managers restructuring the fisheries observer program.   

The IPHC will decide on 2011 catch limits and other proposals at its 87th annual meeting set for January 25- 28 in Victoria, B.C. (

Meanwhile, 1.3 million pounds of halibut remain up for grabs with just two weeks remaining in this year’s fishery, out of a 40 million pound catch limit. The fishery will reopen in mid-March.

Crab climbs

Speaking of recruitment:   Kodiak crabbers will compete for twice as many Tanners   when the 2011 season opens in January. State managers posted an island-wide quota of nearly 1.5 million pounds, more than double last year’s catch.   

The news is even better along the Alaska Peninsula where a Tanner crab quota of 2.3 million pounds, up from just a half million pounds last season. And for the first time in five years, a crab fishery will occur at Chignik fishery with a quota of 600,000 pounds.

The catch increases come from two strong year classes of crab that   biologists have been tracking for several years.  It takes five to six years for Tanner crabs to mature to market size. Only the male crabs are taken in a fishery.

The new recruits have just started molting into the fishery, meaning most will have nice, clean looking shells. That’s good news on the market front, because the appearance of crab shells is what sells. The Tanner crab fishery opens in mid-January.

Salmon sales sizzle

Alaska salmon sales made by seafood companies during the summer account for more than half of the yearly total - and this season showed big boosts in both volume and value.  Total sales of fresh salmon increased 11.4%; for frozen salmon, sales increased by 25%. Overall, Alaska’s salmon sales rang in at nearly $507 million, an increase of 30.5% at wholesale from last summer.  

The May through August first wholesale figures in the Annual Salmon Price Report (ASPR) by the state Dept. of Revenue covers six product forms: fresh and frozen headed/gutted salmon (H&G), fresh and frozen fillets, canned salmon and roe.

Most of Alaska’s salmon is sold as H&G and both fresh and frozen fish saw nice gains this summer. A breakdown by seafood market analyst Ken Talley shows that fresh sales gained nearly 18 percent over last year; frozen went even higher, topping 23 percent.

Alaska seafood processors continue to increase their output of fresh and frozen salmon fillets. More than 18 million pounds of fillets were sold this summer, up from 15.4 million pounds last year.

Canned salmon sales saw a 5 percent decline this summer to 1.7 million cases; however, canned sales are just getting underway.

Some price highlights:  H&G fresh sockeye sold for $4.03 a pound, compared to $3.67 last year. Frozen sockeye increased to $2.99 a pound, up 60-cents. Fresh sockeye fillets wholesaled for $8.02 per pound, compared to $6.88 last year.

Coho and chum salmon saw big wholesale increases for all product forms. H&G frozen pinks increased by 38 cents to $1.29 a pound.  H&G fresh and frozen Chinook salmon gained almost a dollar to $6.94 and $3.88, respectively.  

Alaska’s 2010 statewide salmon catch of 164 million fish was nearly 20 % above the forecast, due to an unexpected rush of pinks that produced a catch of nearly 103 million humpies.


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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