A processor survey of the 2011 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery shows it was the coolest ever, with 53 percent of the sockeye salmon delivered to processors chilled.
“If 53 percent still sounds low,” said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, “consider this: When we started contracting annual processor surveys in 2008, that figure sat at 24 percent.
“The board of the BBRSA invests in many different projects to help strengthen the Bristol Bay fishery, but none is more important – year after year – than encouraging chilling by any means possible,” Waldrop said.
The Northern Economics survey for the BBRSDA also determined that 20 percent of the overall 2011 harvest, up from 15 percent in 2010, went into fillets in first wholesale product form, while the percentage of sockeyes processed as head and gut frozen product fell from 51 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in 2011. For both years, the percentage of canned product was 33 percent and head and gut fresh product was 1 percent, the survey showed.
The study also showed that the set net permit holder portion of the chilled product has dropped from 30 percent four years ago to just 5 percent in 2011.
Northern Economics warned that “in a world which may be starting to encourage Bristol Bay permit holders to focus on quality, set net permit holders risk being left behind or marginalized if they don’t have access to chilling methods and inputs.
“Given the link between chilling and quality, we believe that the lower the set net share of chilled product shrinks, the more likely this long-term marginalization is to occur,” the report said.
The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run in 2011 came in 18 percent below the average run over the past 20 years, and 21 percent below the Alaska Department of Fish and Game preseason forecast. By state estimates, the total Bristol Bay commercial salmon harvest in 2011 was 141 million pounds, 27 million pounds fewer than in 2010.
BBRSDA has posted the complete report online at www.bbrsda.com