A veteran fisheries economist says there are many reasons for optimism about the economic future of Alaska wild salmon.
Gunnar Knapp of the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research told Alaska legislators in the House Fisheries recently that the global demand for salmon is likely to keep growing because of growing populations, growing incomes, the health benefits of salmon and new product forms that appeal to a broader range of consumers. And wild salmon, said Knapp are in limited supply, so there is potential for niche market differentiation.
There are also potential limits, said Knapp, to the growth of farmed salmon production due to potential for disease problems and limits to fish oil and fish meal feed sources.
Wild salmon also face some potential challenges, he said, including regime shifts and climate change that would pose resource uncertainty. Adding to that are the potential for farmed salmon supply growth to exceed demand growth, glutting markets and depressing prices, as has happened in the past, plus world economic and political uncertainty.
As of this month, the short-term outlook for Alaska salmon markets looks relatively favorable, Knapp said. He attributed this to likely lower sockeye harvest volumes, strong canned salmon markets because of low inventories, and strengthening farmed salmon prices.
Still, he cautioned, many factors can affect prices and every year brings surprises.
Knapp’s entire report to the legislators is online at
The state of Alaska meanwhile has released its statewide forecast for all salmon fisheries for 2013, predicting a total harvest of 179 million fish, up from 127 million last year – thanks mainly to a projected pink salmon harvest of 118 million pinks, which is 73 percent higher than a year ago.