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Fish Factor

Seafood industry highlights from 2007
By Laine Welch


December 31, 2007
Monday AM

Looking back at past 'fish retrospectives' I found it striking that the same introduction written five years ago still applies today:

"Commercial fishing in Alaska remains a vibrant industry that each year provides more than half of our nation's seafood. Alaska's fish stocks are the envy of other countries around the world, and its management programs are regarded as a model for sustainability."
What more needs to be said?

Here is a sampler of Alaska seafood industry highlights from 2007, in no particular order or priority, followed by my annual picks of top fish stories:

The Alaska "brand" became a poster child for seafood healthfulness and purity at a time when food contaminants, especially from China made world headlines.

"Wild" became a bigger draw than "organic" according to national consumer surveys. Nearly 40 percent of Americans said they stopped buying particular foods in response to safety concerns, compared to 9 percent in 2005.

Omega 3 fatty acids became the hottest food additive, and scientists said omegas from wild fish is best.

Alaska's salmon harvest produced 212 million fish, making it the 4th largest catch on record. The dockside fishery value of $374 million is an increase of $28 million from 2006.

Prices also were up for salmon fishing permits across the state.

The world's first solar powered salmon fishery operated all summer at Lummi Island, WA. Reef netters used solar panels to charge batteries that run the fishing gear.

Alaska halibut prices started out in March at $5/lb in major ports and remained in 'nose bleed' range for the eight month season. Halibut quota shares in prime areas (Central Gulf) were fetching $27 per pound and could go higher, brokers said.

Bering Sea red king crab quota shares were on the board at $28-$30 per pound; snow crab was closer to $10.

Dutch Harbor held onto its ranking as the nation's #1 port for the 18th year in a row. Kodiak remained at 4th place.

Construction began on a new, ultra modern marine facility at Dutch Harbor, replacing docks and buildings that date back to World War II.

Another groundbreaking at Ketchikan saw the start of the Oceans Alaska Marine Science Center, which aims to expand Alaska shellfish growing into a global industry.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Exxon's final appeal of the $2.5 billion punitive damages award from the 1989 Prince William Sound oil spill. A hearing is set for mid-February.

Federal policy makers advanced plans to expand a U.S. 'open ocean' aquaculture industry in waters from three to 200 miles from shore. Alaska was granted an "opt out" option.
The U.S. had an $8 billion seafood trade deficit, and imported 80 percent of its seafood, mostly from foreign fish farms.

Impacts of global warming on Alaska fisheries leaped to the forefront: pollock and snow crab heading north to colder waters; crustacean shells dissolving from ocean acids.
The program 'Deadliest Catch' became Discovery Channel's most popular show ever, giving rock star status to the Bering Sea crab fisheries.

Japanese (and Alaska) giants Maruha and Nichiro merged to form one of the world's largest seafood companies.

The purchase of Icicle Seafoods by San Francisco-based private equity firm Fox Paine III was regarded by many as a sign of confidence in Alaska's seafood industry.

Ballot initiatives, petitions and proposed laws were launched as means to block development of the huge Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay.

President Bush lifted the ban on oil and gas drilling in Bristol Bay and the eastern Bering Sea; first lease bids are set for 2010.

FBI raids and subpoenas launched widespread investigations of 'fishy' political favors.

The average age of Alaska commercial fishermen was 47. Nearly 40 percent were non-residents.

Alaska's seafood industry continued to provide more jobs than oil and gas, mining, agriculture and forestry combined.

18th Annual Fish Picks

Best 'fish crat': Denby Lloyd, ADF&G Commissioner

Best friend to the environment fish story: Marine Conservation Alliance marine debris clean up program

Scariest fish story: ocean acidification

Biggest Fish Folly: Sig Hansen, skipper of the 'crabber Northwestern on Deadliest Catch', promoting Russian king crab

Best fish fast track: The state pushing for a quicker and closer look at the Bering Sea crab ratz plan

Best new fish-product: bio-LEDs made from salmon sperm DNA

Best new fish term: Co-products, instead of by-products (credit Peter Bechtel/UAF)

Baddest fish attitude: FBI investigations into 'fishy' business and political favors

Fond fish farewell: Dr. Bill Hogarth, departing as head of NOAA Fisheries

Most promising fish story: The Alaska king crab enhancement project, which aims to revitalize stocks at Kodiak and St. Paul

Best fish partnership: ADF&G, UAA/UAF and Sea Grant for efforts to recruit young Alaskans into fishery science and management careers

Best 'eat fish' ambassadors: Patty Luckhurst of Dillingham, Chris Sannito of Kodiak, Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers for getting top quality fish into school lunch programs.

Best fishing reality teaching tool: Former Bering Sea crabber Aleutian Ballad, now launching pots for tourists at Ketchikan

Best new Alaska salmon customer: Global food aid programs, thanks to Bruce Schactler and ASMI

Best 'give credit where it's due' fish story: Sen. Lisa Murkowski for championing tax relief for 'oiled' Exxon plaintiffs; Senator Ted Stevens for getting fishermen included in the US Farm Bill.

Best fish story of the year: Projects by the State and the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference to get better labor data for seafood harvesters.

Kodiak-based Laine Welch has been reporting news of Alaska's seafood industry for print and radio for 20 years. Fish Factor appears in 15 newspapers and websites. Laine's Fish Radio programs air daily on more than 25 stations across Alaska.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska