SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Annual fee for managing and enforcing harvesting rights to a catch yields $3.9 million


December 13, 2010

Alaskans who own harvesting rights to a catch also pick up the tab for the costs of managing and enforcing those fisheries.

Longliners for halibut and sablefish (black cod) and Bering Sea crabbers pay an annual fee of up to three percent to the federal government for coverage costs. The fee is based on dock prices and averaged across the state.   

This year it yielded $3.9 million for halibut and black cod costs, up from $3.3 million in 2009.

“The fee percentage is slightly lower at 1.4%  compared to 1.6%  last year,” explained Troie Zuniga, fee coordinator at NOAA Fisheries Restricted Access Management Division in Juneau.

This year’s average price for halibut was $4.86/lb compared to $3.13/lb in 2009; for sablefish, the average was $3.76/lb, compared to $3.21/lb. 

The higher prices boosted the ex-vessel (dockside) value of the halibut fishery to $193 million, an increase of $61 million over 2009. For sablefish, the value was $82 million, and increase of $4.9 million.

During the eight month fishery, they landed just under 40 million pounds of halibut, or 99% of the 2010 catch limit.  For sablefish, harvesters caught 88% of the 24.8 million pound quota, leaving about 3 million pounds in the water.

Zuniga said bills were sent out last week to 2,187 Alaska longliners, three more than last year. Deadline for payment is January 31.

For Bering Sea crab, the 2009/2010 value of the king and Tanner crab fisheries was $147 million, and yielded $ 3.9 million for coverage costs.   The fee for those holding crab catch shares is 2.67 percent for the 2010/2011 fishery.  Fee payments for Bering Sea crabbers are sent out in June and paid at the end of July.

Black cod boost - Sablefish (black cod) is Alaska’s most lucrative finfish, fetching up to $7/lb at major ports this year. Fishermen are poised to get increased catches of the pricey fish next year, reversing a long downward trend – at least temporarily. Fishery scientists’ caution that the total harvest could decrease by 8 percent in 2012. 

But for now, they are recommending a five percent increase of the total Pacific coast-wide harvest to 41 million pounds.  Most of the fish – 35 million pounds – will be allocated to Alaska fishermen. (In fact, most of the world’s supply of sablefish comes from Alaska.)

The recommended catch limits for 2011 are up by 14 percent in Southeast Alaska, 24 percent in the Yakutat region, 5 percent in the central Gulf and up 2 percent in the Bering Sea.

Conversely, black cod catches in the Western Gulf would drop 2 percent and 8 percent in the Aleutians region.

Seward and Sitka were the top ports for sablefish landings this year, followed by Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Homer and Cordova.    

Alaska’s sablefish catch has traditionally gone to Japan, but U.S. diners are getting a taste for the velvety fish and demand is increasing at home.  Roughly 835 people have catch shares of Alaska sablefish; about half of the harvesters are in Southeast. The North Pacific Council will finalize sablefish catch limits at its meeting this week in Anchorage.

Fishy soiree

The call is out for new products for the annual Symphony of Seafood competition.  The event has been showcasing new Alaska seafood products for 18 years. 

“It’s very popular,”  said Jim Browning, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which hosts the event.  “We have people calling in October asking when are the tickets are going on sale for the Symphony.”

The 2011 Symphony begins on Feb. 3rd at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle, where new seafood entries will be judged in three categories:  retail, foodservice and smoked.  The results are kept secret until the Symphony returns to the Anchorage Hilton on Friday, Feb. 11th where the winners are announced.

Browning said this go around a third venue has been added -

“Then we’re going to take the Symphony on the road to Juneau and have a sampling of the entries event at the Baranof on March 8,” Browning said. “Again, we want to make legislators and the public aware of the benefits of the seafood industry all around Alaska.”  

All winners get a free trip to the International Boston Seafood Show in mid-March.  Last year’s Grand Prize went to Ivar’s Smoked Salmon Chowder. In 2009 Trident took top honors for its Sesame Teriyaki Keta Salmon. 

Small companies also have done well – past grand prize winners include Diamond Lodge Smokehouse of King Salmon for its cold smoked halibut and Kake Foods for its Potlatch brand smoked salmon strips.  Deadline for entry into the 2011 Symphony of Seafood is January 7.  Find entry packets and information at


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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