As Alaska’s commercial salmon harvesting season draws to a close, markets are strong for salmon roe and canned product, while the jury is still out on how farmed fish competition will affect sales of wild salmon.
Chum salmon roe are commanding the highest prices, but roe is also important for pink and sockeye salmon, and that’s good news, says University of Alaska Anchorage fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp.
In contrast, Knapp said in an interview Sept. 25, Japanese markets for frozen sockeye salmon in particular are weak, but not as weak as processors feared they might be before the season. Several processors responded to this concern by canning as much salmon as possible, so they would not have to sell into Japan at lower prices. That also lowered the available volume of frozen sockeye, which helped make the price of frozen sockeye higher than some feared it would be.
As to domestic and European markets for fresh and frozen fillets of wild Alaska salmon, there are no conclusions yet on how competition from low-priced farmed Alaska salmon is affecting sales.
In the final week of Alaska Department of Fish and Game preliminary Alaska commercial salmon catch reports the harvest stood at 123,465,000 salmon of all species, including nearly 66 million pink, more than 35 million sockeye, 18.9 million chum, 2.8 million coho and 296,000 Chinook salmon.
That’s about 93 percent of the forecast, so it’s within the range of normal variation, says Geron Bruce, assistant director of the Alaska Division of Commercial Fisheries. While there were shortfalls across the board, the chum harvest came in very close to the forecast of 19 million fish. Of the 38.3 million red salmon harvest forecast, harvesters caught 35.4 million fish, and of the pink forecast of 70.1 million humpies, harvesters netted 65.9 million fish.
Overall the 2012 preliminary harvest figures show the bounty this year ranked 27th highest of the last 53 years, so while it is a lower harvest than Alaska has seen in a while, it was nothing catastrophically low, except for the Chinook harvest, he said.