Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bristol Bay Salmon Prices Trending Up

A new market report on the Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery says wholesale prices for sockeye products are trending up, and that product appears to be moving faster this year.

Wholesale prices of farmed salmon are also up considerably over the past 12 months, noted the fall 2016 sockeye market analysis prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association by the McDowell Group.

The report notes that the preliminary ex-vessel value of Bristol Bay sockeye increased 66 percent in 2016, due to a price increase and strong harvest volume. Meanwhile the value of all other Alaska sockeye declined 7 percent.

After a couple of years of negative trends, currency rate movements have generally been favorable for Alaska sockeye producers in 2016, and the estimated market value of Bristol Bay salmon driftnet permits is up 22 percent, or approximately $24,000, from the beginning of the year, the report said.

Andy Wink, who follows salmon markets for the Juneau, Alaska research firm, says that with wholesale prices tending up, albeit still low, and major product forms selling faster this year, “a fantastic opportunity is developing in the US market, but it’s going to require top notch quality.”

“US fresh and refreshed sockeye markets offer the best chance for growth,” Wink told BBRSDA members at a gathering on Nov. 18 during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. “Fishermen who provide high quality fish to these channels will be in the best position to benefit,” he said.

The success of the branding program that the BBRSDA is rolling out will depend on a sufficient supply of high quality fish, he said. Chilled fish in fillet and headed and gutted markets creates higher value, so the goal is to provide enough chilled fish for billet and H&G production, plus a buffer, he said.
The report itself notes that ideally all chilled Bristol Bay sockeye would be directed to fillet and H and G lines and unchilled sockeye would be used in canned product. The chilled sockeye produces higher quality fillet products that require fewer discounts. In the canned market, there is currently very little difference in prices regardless of whether the fish was chilled or not.

Ocean Acidification Workshop Opens in Anchorage

A free Alaska Ocean Acidification Workshop is underway today and tomorrow at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Anchorage, and open to the public.

Topics range from ocean acidification basics to monitoring efforts, lab research, impacts to marine species, future forecasting and more.

For those unable to attend in person, there are remote viewing sites in Cordova, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kodiak, Nome, Seward, Sitka and Unalaska.

The first day is aimed at a broad audience, to include harvesters, shellfish growers, resource managers, researchers, coastal residents and anyone else interested in ocean acidification, while the second day will be more discussion-oriented and include breakout groups and a session for ocean acidification researchers.

Participating speakers include Jeff Hetrick of the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Hannah Heimbuch of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Bob Foy, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service crab laboratory at Kodiak, Jeremy Mathis, of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and more. On Day 2, Meg Chadsey from Washington Sea Grant will lead a session on ways to engage audiences and inspire local action to address ocean acidification.

A second session will address expanding and leveraging the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network.

Contact Alaska Ocean Observing System network coordinator Darcy Dugan at with questions.

New Assessment Shows Abundant Pollock

A new assessment produced by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center shows that the abundance of Alaska Pollock stocks – Alaska’s largest fishery by volume – in the Eastern Bering Sea is quite robust.

According to a draft copy of the assessment prepared for the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage next week.

It is at the council’s December meeting each year that the total allowable catch for groundfish in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, as well as the Gulf of Alaska, are set.

The recommended acceptable biological catch for Bering Sea Pollock for 2017 is 2,800,000 tons and the recommended ABC for 2018 is 2,979,000 tons.

That compares with last year’s estimated ABC of 2,090,000 tons for 2016 and 2,019,000 tons for 2017.

The projections are based on estimated catches assuming 1,350,000 tons used in place of maximum permissible ABC for 2017 and 2018, biologists said.

New data in this assessment suggests that the above average 2008 year-class is slightly higher than before and that the 2012 year-class also appears to be above average, biologists said.

Alaska Pollock is the dominant species in terms of catch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, accounting for 69 percent of the BSAI’s fishery management plan groundfish harvest and 89 percent of the total Pollock harvest in Alaska.

Retained catch of Pollock increased 2.2 percent to 1.3 million tons in 2015.

BSAI Pollock first-wholesale value was $1.28 billion in 2015, down slightly from $1.3 billion in 2014, but above the 2005-2007 average of $1.25 billion.

Prior to 2008, Pollock catches were high at about 1.4 million tons in the BSAI for an extended period. The complete draft report is online at

2015 Groundfish Harvests off Alaska Totaled 2.2 Million Tons

The latest draft federal Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands concludes that 2015 groundfish harvests off Alaska totaled 2.2 million tons.

That amount was about equal to the catch in 2014, according to the report prepared for next week’s North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Anchorage. Groundfish made up 80 percent of Alaska’s 2015 total catch, which was slightly less than typical because of high Pacific salmon harvests.

Notable increases in catch were observed in the Alaska Pollock, particularly in the Gulf of Alaska, and Atka mackerel fisheries, while the flatfish catch was significantly decreased, the report noted.

The gross value of the 2015 groundfish catch after primary processing (first wholesale) was $2.26 billion, a decrease of 3.6 percent from a year earlier.

Pacific cod fisheries, the second largest by volume in Alaska, with a total catch of 289,000 tons in 2015, saw a decrease of 3 percent from 2014. Decreases in both catch and ex-vessel price had the combined effect of an 8.7 percent decrease in exvessel value to $186 million.

The ex-vessel value of all Alaska domestic fish and shellfish catch, including the amount paid to harvesters for fish caught, and the estimated value of pre-processed fish species caught by catcher processors, decreased from $1,853 million in 2014 to $1,720 million in 2015. The first wholesale value of 2015 groundfish catch after primary processing was $2,262 million.

The 2015 total groundfish catch decreased by 1 percent, and the total first wholesale value dropped by 4 percent, relative to 2014. The complete draft report is online at

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Study Highlights Need to Modernize North Pacific Fishing Fleet

A new study on modernizing of the North Pacific commercial fishing fleet emphasizes the need to do so, and the significant economic impact this effort will have on Puget Sound, the economic hub of the fleet. The Port of Seattle and Washington Maritime Federation commissioned the study from the McDowell Group, a research and consulting firm in Juneau, Alaska.

The report says “it is incumbent upon Puget Sound stakeholders to encourage leadership and participation in the modernization effort, generating economic activity in the region for many years into the future.”

As of 2016, the report notes, the fleet of vessels over 58 feet numbers 414 and averages 40 years in age. Momentum behind the growing need to recapitalize includes rationalization of federally managed fisheries, removal of legislation prohibiting new builds in certain fisheries, and changing Coast Guard regulations, to name a few.

The report concludes that to maintain safety, economic viability and the competitive edge in a global market that modernization of the fleet must occur.

The report calls for advocacy and support for the preservation of the Puget Sound working waterfront, improvement in transportation infrastructure, workforce development and affordable housing, collaboration among vessel owners, shipyards, and lenders, and support for the maritime industry in Seattle, Olympia and Washington DC.

The report urges better financing assistance in the form of loan guarantees and reduced mooring rates for vessels constructed and modified in Washington State and the education of the banking community on the fishing fleet.

It also urges facility improvements, including increased dock space for the fleet, upgrades to fishermen’s terminal and Pier 91, and improved services and facilities on Harbor Island.

The complete report is online at

Diversity is the Strength of Bristol Bay’s Sockeye Run

A University of Washington professor who has spent years researching the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska says it’s important to maintain the diversity of the waters contributing to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.

The river systems flowing into the watershed compensate for each other, much like a diversified investment portfolio, Daniel Schindler told the Matanuska-Susitna Salmon Science and Conservation Symposium in Palmer, Alaska, on Nov. 17.

Within that watershed, habitat variation is important down to the very small scales, with each set of habitat having its own features, Schindler told biologists, conservationists, and commercial, sport and subsistence harvesters attending the symposium.

Schindler is a principal investigator of the university’s Alaska Salmon Program, which has studied Pacific salmon, their ecosystems and their fisheries in western Alaska since the 1940s. The program’s current research is focused on understanding how watersheds function in areas ranging from processing nutrients and carbon to how geomorphic attributes of watersheds regulate these ecosystem processes and services.

“We can do a lot of tangible things now to protect ecosystems, to make ecosystems resilient to climate change,” he said. “Protecting habitat networks is a way to build climate resilience. Stability and productivity of fishery systems is derived from diverse and changing habitat.”

In the some 130 years that people have fished commercially in Bristol Bay, that fishery has been sustainable because the commercial fishery interacts with a sustainable population, because individual rivers compensate for each other, he said.

Climate change notwithstanding, the fishery remains resilient because each river within the watershed is genetically distinct, down to the smaller rivers and tiny streams, he said. Removing some of those streams would weaken the strength of that diversity, he said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has expressed concern that the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine in the area of the Bristol Bay watershed could result in potential loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds that connect with streams and tributaries of those streams where salmon are documented.

Final decisions regarding the permitting of that mine are still pending.

Bristol Bay 2017 Sockeye Run Forecast is 41.47 Million Fish

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are forecasting a run of 41.47 million sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay in 2017 with a Bristol Bay harvest of 27.47 million fish, and a South Peninsula harvest of 1.53 million reds. That’s virtually identical to the most recent 10-year average of Bristol Bay runs and 27 percent greater than the long-term mean of 32.76 million fish. All systems are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals.

The anticipated harvest of 27.47 million reds into Bristol Bay would be 2 percent lower than the most recent 10-year harvest, which has ranged from 15.43 million to 37.53 million fish and 34 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.52 million fish, for the years 1963 through 2016.

The run is expected to consist of 12.05 million age-1.2 fish (or 29 percent of the total run; 9.35 million age-2.2 fish (23 percent of the run), 16.50 million age-1.3 fish (40 percent of the run, and 3.50 million age 2.3 fish (8 percent of the run).

The 2016 inshore Bristol Bay sockeye run this year totaled 51.4 million reds, which was the second highest such run since 1996, and 46 percent above the 35.1 million average run for the same period.

The 2017 run forecast to each district and river system includes16.07 million reds to the Naknek-Kvichak District (7.76 million to the Kvichak River, 4.04 million to the Alagnak River and 4.27 million to the Naknek River); 10.65 million to the Egegik District; 5.46 million to the Ugashik District; 8.62 million to the Nushagak District (5.50 million to the Wood River, 1.87 million to the Nushagak Rier and 1.25 million to the Igushik River); and 0.66 million to the Togiak District.

The Bristol Bay 2016 harvest of all salmon species was 39.2 million fish, raking first over the last 20 years and worth a preliminary exvessel value of $156.2 million, 40 percent above the 20-year average of $111.0 million.

The complete state of Alaska forecast is online at

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