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Fish Factor

2010 salmon season best in 18 years


November 16, 2010
Tuesday AM

The 2010 salmon season tallied nearly $534 million at the Alaska docks, the best showing in 18 years.  But the big payday was not spread around evenly. Just two areas, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, accounted for 55 percent of the value of the total Alaska catch.

For the Bay, a catch of nearly 29 million sockeye salmon rang in at almost $149 million, an increase of $4.5 million over 2009. (That doesn’t include bonuses or other post-season adjustments.)

Prince William Sound set a record with a total salmon catch of 75.4 million –nearly 45% of all salmon harvested in Alaska this year! And the PWS harvest of 69 million humpies accounted for 66% of Alaska’s total pink salmon catch.

The statewide chum catch of 18.2 million is the 8th best since statehood; the value of nearly $93 million is the second highest since 1975.

Here’s a look at average 2010  salmon prices paid to fishermen (per pound) with comparisons to last year -  Chinook salmon: $3.44/ $2.76;  sockeye: $1.11/90 cents;  coho: $1.05/$.93; pinks $.35/$.26;    chum salmon: $.66/$.49.

All Alaska regions except for Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula  saw nice increases in values for their salmon catches this year. Here are the 2010 dockside values per region (in millions of dollars), compared to 2009 – Southeast Alaska: $131.2/$111.5; Prince William Sound:   $143/$54.3; Cook Inlet: $35/ $22.3;  Bristol Bay: $153/$146.2  Kodiak  $28/$39  Chignik $14.3/$9.8;AK Peninsula $22.7/$3; Kuskokwim $2.9/ $1.9;  Norton Sound: $1.2/ $1  Kotzebue: $860,000/ $376,000.

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Crab climbs

Alaska king crab also is seeing some of the highest prices ever. Bering Sea crabbers dropped pots in mid-October with an advance price of $6.25 a pound, compared to $4.76/lb last year. After all the sales are made, the final price could  top the record of  $6.27/lb set in 2002. 

Crabbers have delivered over half of the roughly 15 million pound red king crab quota at Bristol Bay.  By all accounts, the crab is looking good, although slightly smaller - 6 pounds compared to the more normal 6.7-6.8 pound average.

The bulk of the crab is going to Japan, meaning less crab for US markets.  Market expert Ken Talley said with the yen at around 82 to the dollar, Japan is willing to pay $14/lb. for Alaska king crab sections (including shipping costs) compared to $10 last year.

The higher prices also have revived a new wave of king crab poaching from Russia’s Far East fishery, Talley said, adding some uncertainty to the supply picture heading into the holidays. 

One crab supply that is holding steady at US retail counters is Dungeness.  Whole cooks are fetching a nice  $4.99/lb and Talley said dungie sections should hit $6.50/lb.

Fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California produce most of the nation’s Dungeness crab, with combined landings last year of almost 57 million pounds.  Dungie catches in Alaska total less than seven million pounds annually, mostly from Southeast with smaller fisheries around Kodiak. Dungeness crabbers are averaging about $1.90/lb, similar to last year.     

Dining disconnect

More Americans say they want healthier choices at popular restaurants - but that doesn’t transfer to their food orders.

That trend has held true in two national surveys by Chicago-based Technomic, Inc., which tracks eating trends for restaurants and food suppliers.  It reflects a disconnect between diners good intentions and their actions, said company vice-president Bob Goldin.

 “It’s the politically correct thing to say that you want healthier foods.    But the chains tell us – ‘yea, consumers say they want them, but when we add them to the menu, they don’t order them.”

That was the response by 37 leading restaurant chains three years ago when Technomic tracked how attitudes toward health shaped customers’ buying behavior.  The company’s  ‘2010  Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows it still holds true today.

Data from online menu tracking and surveys of 1,500 consumers showed  that just 19 percent of US diners feel that food described as 'healthy' on the menu doesn’t taste as good as other options.

Other findings: only 16% blamed the restaurant industry as being responsible for America's obesity epidemic. Two out of five said they eat healthier at home than they do when dining out. 

By and large there is growing demand for seafood,  Goldin said, and more consumers are aware of sustainability issues 

 “The demand for social responsibility and environmental protections is growing, especially among younger consumers. But we don’t think at this point it’s really very well defined,” he said.



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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